As a working mom to a 7-year-old boy, I think it’s safe to say no one is busier than a parent. When you already lack time alone, the idea of getting regular exercise can seem like a relic from the distant past – especially as the days get shorter during fall.
Yet, as an exercise motivation researcher and coach, I know this for a fact: Any kind of physical movement you can fit into your day, and any amount of time you can find for it, counts big time toward replenishing your energy, lifting your mood, supporting good health and restoring your sense of yourself.
Use these seven strategies to discover how you can find time for physical activity on even the most crazy busy, overscheduled day:
1. Toss out exercise “shoulds.” 

 Expand your definition of what a workout is so you can actually make it work. Toss out old ideas about duration and intensity that claim you should work out hard for 40 minutes for your workout to “count.” Not true! Exercise of any kind – including yoga and strolling around town – adds up over the course of a day. If you actively dislike intense exercise, I’ve found that many people share your feelings.

2. Think of physical movement as a way to nurture yourself.
In order for movement to be sustainable, you have to want to do it. Forget about “exercise” and understand that this is your time. Give yourself permission to take a five-minute walk to renew yourself. If you want to go slow and smell the roses, that’s great. If you feel like running around the block, that’s great too.
3. Shrink – don’t cancel  your plans when life throws you a curveball.
If you planned to work out for 20 minutes, but life suddenly gives you only 10 minutes, do it anyway. The point isn’t to hit a specific time target, it’s to add physical movement to your life on a consistent basis. Even one minute of exercise in an otherwise crammed day reminds you of your intentions and builds consistency.
4. Look for the natural spaces in your life. 
Literally hundreds of natural spaces – one minute, three minutes, five minutes, ten minutes – exist in everyone’s days. If you’re sitting at the computer, get up every 50 minutes and do something. Take the stairs, walk around your office, stretch. Waiting in line at the store? Toe lifts are discreet! Park farther away from an appointment and count the extra time it takes to walk there as exercise. Take your dog for a walk and count that too.
5. Practice active waiting.
When you accompany your child to a lesson or sports practice, you’ll want to watch his or her activity – but why just sit there the whole time? Take some of your wait time for yourself – a short walk alone or with another waiting parent ensures that we all get what we need. Be sure to tell your child beforehand that you are going to go out for a short time. This strategy serves double duty as expectation management and role modeling that taking time to be active is important for parents too.
6. Bring the whole family on board. 
Make physical movement a family affair, a way for your family to spend quality time together. When my husband and I walk, my son rides his bike and his friend rides his scooter. Everyone can choose the way they want to enjoy the walk – on foot, on wheels, going fast or going slow. Make it a rule that you can’t bring devices on the walk.
7. Make it playful.
Family movement is a world of infinite possibility. Try backyard or park games like croquet, badminton, basketball, pickleball, catch or just turn up the music and dance together!

© Copyright Michelle Segar, 2015.
This content was originally posted as a blog on US News & World Report’s Eat + Run blog.