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“I don’t have time to exercise” is a plaint I often hear. I can almost guarantee that if you think this thought frequently, you will convince yourself that it’s true. “…According to a new study from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted by researchers at the non-profit Rand Corp. Americans, in fact, have plenty of free time: an average of five hours of it each day.” This conclusion is based on an analysis of the American Time Use Survey, which collects detailed time-use diaries from thousands of people each year. (“Making time for exercise in a busy day,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fitness Q&A,11/12/19, E17, accessed 11/12/19)
What is it we do with all this extra time? Hint: it’s not reading, getting out in nature, or meditation. “Instead of exercising, we’re giving over the bulk of our free time to mobile, PC and TV screens.” For the purpose of this study, “researchers considered ‘leisure time’ to be any time spent socializing with friends, watching television, browsing the internet, participating in sports or other recreational activities, volunteering, praying or going to church, and any time spent generally resting and relaxing.”
“When you add up all that leisure time, you end up with more than five hours a day, on average, for both men and women. Just a fraction of that time—an average of 24 minutes for men, or 14 minutes for women—is devoted to physical activity. By contrast, men and women both spent about three leisure hours a day in front of TV, computer and phone screens.”
So, please stop insisting you have no time to exercise. If you find time to do personal emailing, check out Instagram, Facebook. CNN.com or their ilk, play computer games, or watch TV, you have the time. Be honest and acknowledge that you’d rather spend it on your phone or computer than walking in nature, out for a run, or hitting the gym.
Here’s why. Exercise has become a should instead of a want. You associate it with displeasure rather than with health and well-being. It’s not fun and feels like one more chore. You don’t get the quick dopamine rush from activity (while doing it) that you get from the above-mentioned activities. It’s not time you lack but interest.
Rather than judge and guilt yourself for your inactivity, make a plan to shift how you use leisure time. What will you cut back on to find time to take a walk? What will you give up in order to take a yoga class? Make sure you understand that you’re doing this because you wish to be healthy, not because you feel you should. Seek out the joy, pride, and pleasure of physical activity and you’ll find you can’t do without it.
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