15 Tips for Prioritizing Exercise

Releaving Stress With Exercise

The benefits of moving are well documented, but despite that, people are more sedentary than ever. Lacking the natural outlets of old such as taking care of a farm, walking everywhere or doing laundry with scrub board, we now have to work at getting in enough movement to stay healthy.

When people say, “I don’t have time to exercise,” I get it. We’re stretched thin and time is maxed out with work, church, family, friends and responsibilities. But what is also true is that some people continue to exercise throughout all their seasons of life when competing demands would make it nearly impossible. So, why do some feel like they can’t fit it in and others make it fit in?

I have four kids (when did that happen?) five years old and under, and one is a newborn. I work part time out of the home and my husband works 50+ hour weeks plus volunteers as the worship leader at our church. We have a lot going on…but for both of us…exercise remains a priority. I know that I have more energy and am more cheerful and positive when I’m consistently working out. Most people I know are either routine exercisers OR they wish they were. You CAN do it if you’re intentional because exercise can happen in a whole bunch of ways.

Here are some ideas to make exercise happen….

1. Join a gym that meets your needs. (What are their hours? Do they offer childcare? What is the proximity to home? Do they have classes?) I know that I am a gym rat. I work out WAY better at a gym than at home because I like the atmosphere of people around. There are many low cost gym options these days, it’s just finding one that fits your needs. I was at a YMCA until recently because they offered childcare for ALL my kids for up to three hours for $1. Yep, just a buck. And that was awesome. But the 15 minute drive started getting to me and I decided I wanted to change to a closer gym. I gave up childcare and the pool, but am saving money and it’s just a three minute drive. Joining a gym that doesn’t suit your lifestyle will just mean you’ll be paying money and not using it.

2. Have a piece of exercise equipment and some hand weights at home. Winter happens. Bad nights happen. Excuses happen. Make it easy on yourself to exercise by having at least a few things at home to get moving. I have 2, 5, 8 and 10 pound hand weights at home. I also bought an elliptical machine from a neighbor that was moving for $50. Craig’s List is loaded with good deals on machines that people no longer want. Even a jump rope can offer some amazing cardio.

3. Negociate with your spouse. If you’re married, and especially with kids, there will be schedules to juggle to fit your work out in. It’s amazing to have a spouse that values healthy living as well, because they will be a great advocate for you getting time to sweat. We work it out between us how to both fit it in during the week knowing that often it’ll put some temporary stress on one another. For instance, he’ll leave at night after the kids go to bed and I’ll be left cleaning the kitchen alone or I’ll be gone on a Saturday for an hour and he’ll put off yardwork while I’m gone.

4. Schedule your workout times. No one has to work out every day. That’s daunting. I try for every other or 4-5 times a week and I make a plan at the beginning of the week about tentatively when I’m going to do it. With the flexibility of not doing everyday, I feel less stressed about it.

5. Have an accountability person to meet. It will get you out of bed or out the door like nothing else will.

6. If you want to work out in the morning, wear your gym clothes to bed. It’s a lot easier to roll out of bed in the darkness when you are in your sports bra, gym shorts and t-shirt all ready. I put my watch, water bottle and socks by the door and I’m from my bed to my car in 5 minutes.

7. Home workout DVD. Not my favorite option, but this works well for a lot of people. The Beach Body series or The Firm Total Body Workouts are good ones I’ve done.

8. Break up your routine. You don’t have to exercise for an hour at a time. In fact, several smaller intervals of time may be even more beneficial! For example, you could speed walk for 10 minutes around your neighborhood in the morning, at lunch and after dinner.

On days where you absolutely can not go to a gym, go on a walk or commit to a formal exercise routine, use small chunks of time to fit in activities that can be done while you’re doing something else! Take the stairs on your way to a meeting. Do squats while cooking dinner (peel, peel, squat, squat has kind of a nice rhythm). Squeeze your gluts at your desk.

9. Family walk time. Take everyone with you and go on a walk. We’ve gone in rain and frigid temps, you just have to dress for it…and everyone usually comes back in better spirits.

10. Use your kids as props or partners. Small children make really nice weights. Leg presses and playing “airplane” are nearly identical. Simon says could be really physical if you wanted it to be.

11. Don’t let imperfection keep you from considering yourself “a person who exercises.” Many people who don’t exercise are paralyzed by their own perfectionist ideals.  Usually the perfectionism approach will make anything less than the ideal a failure and people will just avoid the thing all together. “If I can’t do it the way I should…I won’t do it at all.” Talk yourself into small goals instead of your ideal; e.g. try to take a short walk twice in one week instead of jogging/going to the gym every day.

12. Hire a sitter or trade childcare with another mom to make it happen. If childcare is a deterrent, maybe another friend is in the same boat and would happily work out a schedule with you.

13. Figure out the reasons WHY you want to exercise. Behavioral change science says you have to know why you want to change, make a plan, tell people around you that you’re going to do and then do it! If you skip the step of knowing why you want to exercise, you won’t do it.

14. Join a group with the same goal. Ever wanted to do a 5K? There are Couch to 5K groups. A marathon? A triathalon? Groups for everything. Motivated by good causes? There are plenty of groups/events with proceeds that will go towards everything from drilling wells in Africa to supporting local schools.

15. Imagine yourself healthier, with more energy and strength and looser clothes. Don’t let your version of how you are now define what you can become.

Exercise can easily go the other way, too. I know that I tend to idolize it at times as something I “need” to be kind to my family or I’d pick it over quiet time every time. As awesome as exercise is, it’s never going to give you or me the fulfillment that a relationship with Christ does.

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8

Here’s to a year of consistent exercise that doesn’t consume us…





  1. Nicole Douglass says:

    Perfect post for the start of the new year, Heidi! I know I am a nicer momma and wife when I exercise. And I figure taking that time away from my family helps me put more quality time in with them later. I DO love exercise videos because my daughters see me working out and I hope it instills in them a good habit. and I LOVE running with a friend. Nothing better than socializing, exercising, praying, and enjoying God’s creation together!!

    • I think we should make use of the friend accountability tip and get ourselves on a run. How hardcore would we be to go in the snow and cold? 🙂