Fitting exercise into a busy schedule

Hey Alice,

I really want to lose some weight, but I go to school and I don't have the time. Now that school is out, I have the time to exercise. But the summer will be over faster than a snap of the finger. So what is a good exercise to really work out my inner thighs, stomach, and my hips? What are some really good exercises that don't take too long (but are a really good work-out) that I can work into my busy schedule?


Dear A,

It's great that you're spending your free time this summer getting more physically fit by starting an exercise program. Indeed, physical activity is one component of a healthful routine. When it comes to a busy schedule, many people find that incorporating physical activity into their everyday activities to be of benefit if they want to keep moving. Depending on the types of activities you enjoy, try to get either 30 minutes of moderate exercise (increased heart rate, but still able to carry on a conversation) on at least five days per week, or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise (sweating, breathing heavily) on at least three days per week. There isn't one "quick" exercise that will help you shed pounds, but if you're routinely physically active and consume a balanced diet, you may find yourself losing some weight. As you've noted, finding time to be physically active can be a challenge, so finding sustainable solutions to incorporate it into your life can be a benefit for your long-term health. 

Beyond weight control, exercise yields some serious health benefits, including:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved sleep
  • Stress management
  • Increased level of high-density lipoprotein (the cholesterol that clears the artery-blocking cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein, from the blood)
  • Improved blood sugar levels (among numerous other positive effects)

You asked about activities specifically for your thighs, stomach, and hips. If you're looking for those activities to lose fat in those areas, it may be helpful to know that we can't pick and choose where on our bodies we lose fat. Although it's possible to tone and strengthen specific muscles, fat won't be diminished in a specific area by lifting weights or doing certain exercises focusing on that body part. Body fat is decreased when we expend more calories than we take in — but we can't control exactly where fat loss will take place. 

Since your schedule can be particularly tight, you can incorporate physical activity into your daily travels. Biking or in-line skating to your destinations is a possible option, perhaps as a way to keep active during the school year as well. Taking the stairs whenever possible, getting off the bus or subway one or two stops earlier, parking further away if you drive, or even walking to work or school all can contribute to your goal of being healthier by incorporating more movement into your life. Also, breaking up your workout throughout the day could help you maintain your exercise plan. For example, you could try taking a 20 minute walk before class and another 20 minute walk in the evening. That way you're able to get your workout in even if you have a tight schedule! 

If you're looking for a "total body workout" for the summer, consider swimming — which can also be a cooling activity if your summer is a hot one. Swimming engages many muscles and provides cardiovascular benefits, too. Varying strokes can help work other muscles (such as the breast stroke) or provide greater cardiovascular benefits (such as the butterfly).

Unfortunately, there's no secret easy answer, short-cut, or abbreviated workout that will yield magical results. Working each muscle group at least twice a week helps strengthen muscles. Although everyone responds to exercise at different rates, usually one or two sets of eight to twelve repetitions, working the muscle to fatigue, is usually sufficient for strength building.

To maintain a strong body, it's essential to carve some time into your schedule for physical activity and planning nourishing meals and snacks — however, it doesn't have to be a lot of time. Just 30 minutes a day is sufficient! Scheduling these kinds of activities in your calendar as you would with social activities may help. You can also make plans to exercise with a friend, and multi-tasking this way can give you plenty of time to socialize and be physically active. Best of luck getting started!

Last updated Sep 30, 2022
Originally published Jul 25, 2003

Submit a new comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

The answer you entered for the CAPTCHA was not correct.

Can’t find information on the site about your health concern or issue?