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EXERCISE? On my busy schedule?

Feb. 1, 2005
You are your No. 1 investment, so find the time.

You are your No. 1

Exercise can be overwhelming for people who consider themselves busy. Some people use “busy” as an excuse to avoid exercise, while others take on the challenging chore of finding time to exercise. Successful business executives and corporate business people often do not have much time, and when they do, they often don’t want to give up that precious time to exercise.

Time equals money, but it also equals health. Who wants to be rich and unable to enjoy it because of health issues? In spite of the many benefits of regular physical activity, nearly half of all Americans do not pursue any form of exercise. Are you in the group that “doesn’t have time” for fitness?

If so, consider this - By boosting your energy level and general sense of well-being, exercise actually can help you become more effective on the job. Even extremely busy people can find ways to incorporate exercise into their day.

Let’s face it; our health is a priceless commodity. No matter how much money we spend on gym memberships, supplements, and state-of-the-art equipment, our health will always be a long-term investment. We are our No. 1 investment. If we don’t invest in ourselves, why would we expect others to? The long-term investment requires a minimum amount of time and effort for life-long results.

The Voslers, before
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In my 10 years in a fitness career, I have worked with people from all types of backgrounds regarding their health, fitness, and weight-loss goals. Whether it is to lose weight, gain muscle, stick to a diet, improve cardiovascular health, or simply maintain a current fitness level, they all have the same common barrier - time.

The Voslers, after
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For most of us, the No. 1 challenge in the quest to stay in shape, lose weight, or both, is not exercising itself, but being able to actually fit an exercise program into a busy schedule. One of my clients, Dr. Paula Vosler of Vosler Dental in Miamisburg, Ohio, has lost more than 75 pounds through exercise and diet. Dr. Vosler, a mother of two, has a demanding schedule.

“Making time for me is important because it helps me to be a more productive dentist, wife, and mother,” she says.

Her husband and business partner, Dr. Brad Vosler, has lost more than 100 pounds.

“Exercise has become part of my lifestyle,” he says. “I had to make it a habit like waking up each morning and brushing my teeth. For my teeth to stay healthy I have to brush daily, and for my body to be healthy I have to exercise regularly.”

The doctors agree that investing in themselves is important, and seeing themselves as an investment has helped them put some things into perspective.

“If we invest in ourselves now - just like regular investments - it appreciates over time and eventually we are able to draw from and live off the investments,” says Dr. Paula Vosler. “It is the same with exercise and investing in ourselves. If we invest in our children, family, and friends, we’ll be able to draw from our investment. Do you see where we’re going with this?”

Dr. Paula Vosler has struggled with weight all her life. She was heaviest after the birth of her second child.

“I struggled,” she says. “I tried all the exercise and fad diets and some worked and some didn’t. With our new dental practice, two young babies, and all the other obligations we had, there seemed to be no time for exercise.”

It wasn’t until after their second child that Paula and her husband decided to make the commitment to exercise.

“We had to reach the point, as Darlene puts it, of ‘being sick and tired of being sick and tired,’” she says. “We reached that point a little more than two years ago, and we slowly lost the weight.”

The road has been a bumpy one for the Voslers with all the obligations they have. Nevertheless, they got serious and made the commitment to themselves and each other.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Dr. Paula Vosler says, “but over time and a lot of hard work and dedication, the weight came off.”

Exercise is not the total answer to the “lose-weight phenomenon.” It is a combination of exercise and healthy eating.

“You can exercise all day long, but if you don’t eat the right foods, you are taking two steps back to your one step forward with exercise,” she says. “It’s a lifestyle change; it’s not a quick fix. Changing how I eat had to be integrated into my lifestyle. To do this I had to really want it. We did, and it has paid off through our perseverance and ability to balance it with all the obligations in our lives. Exercise is one of our obligations now, and it is either do it or die.”

In addition to an exercise program, I suggested Dr. Paula Vosler incorporate a meal-replacement program called Medifast.

“I was at a plateau about eight months ago and asked Darlene what I should do,” she says. “I was exercising, but my eating habits weren’t great. So Darlene put me on a meal-replacement program and the weight came off. Brad started the meal-replacement program shortly after me. Now I have lost the last 25 pounds I wanted to lose, and Brad is still losing weight.”

Instituting the meal-replacement program helped the Voslers tackle their weight-loss goals head on. Nevertheless, it is not the Bible. The meal plan teaches them how to eat properly and how different foods affect their bodies.

“Now that I’ve learned how to eat right, it’s easier for me to make healthier choices,” Dr. Paula Vosler says. “The best part of all is that I’m maintaining my weight.”

Research suggests that exercise does not have to take up much of your day. Moderate activities done at different times throughout the day can be as beneficial as 30 to 40 minutes of continuous exercise. So how does one accomplish this balancing act? How to balance the demands of family, career, and exercise?

Five key things will help people fit exercise into their busy schedules. I have shared these with the Voslers, and these tips have helped them stick with an exercise program that fits their hectic lifestyle.

Get serious and create a schedule. Make a commitment to yourself. Fitness is important and you owe it to yourself, your family, and friends. One day you will retire and all of your career accomplishments will be forgotten, but your health will be part of your life. Make an appointment with yourself each day to exercise.

Set goals. As the saying goes, when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Goal setting is your map to success. Set short, intermediate, and long-term goals. Most important, make sure these goals are realistic and attainable. For example, a short-term goal may be to start exercising two to three times a week, whereas a long-term goal may be to lose a certain amount of weight or participate in a marathon. Goals can change, and that is OK, as long as you have goals and are committed to them.

Get organized. Many busy people get so caught up in meetings and deadlines that they forget to fit in exercise. Have your assistant remind you to take fitness breaks, and leave your workout clothes in your car so you don’t have to go home after work. Stopping at home may be too much of a temptation.

Don’t give up. It is easy to give up if you skipped a workout because you had an unexpected business meeting. Don’t box yourself into a certain schedule; you must be flexible. Instead of committing to working out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, tell yourself to workout three times a week. If you don’t make it Monday, you can exercise Tuesday. Also, don’t get overwhelmed with the recommended 30 minutes or more of continuous exercise. Again, you can break this up into small increments throughout the day. It all adds up.

Have fun. You’ve got to have fun at what you are doing or you won’t do it for long. Find something you enjoy and stick with it. Enjoyment is an important element to long-term exercise. Exercise does not have to be boring. Ask a friend or family member to exercise with you or change your routine often to avoid boredom.

Remember, you don’t have to get pumped up at a health club or take daily aerobics to realize the benefits of exercise. There are so many other options such as exercising at home, during your daily routine at the office, at your desk, or during your lunch hour. There is always a way to fit exercise into your schedule. Make the commitment to yourself and make the time. Think about a typical day and where you can fit in exercise. You will be amazed how much wasted time you have.

Time is valuable. Now that Dr. Paula Vosler has made exercise part of her daily lifestyle, she enjoys her family and friends more, has more energy, has started new hobbies, looks good, and feels confident in herself. If exercise has been on the back burner in your life - which it was at one time for the Voslers - re-evaluate your priorities.

Here are some good reasons to start and stick with exercise.

Exercise helps you think clearly and work more efficiently.

Physical activity helps prevent physical and mental fatigue.

Exercise improves cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and flexibility fitness.

Exercise helps you better manage stress.

For more information and help with fitting exercise into your schedule, you may reach me at

Darlene Reid, ACE-CPT
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Ms. Reid owns Reid Fitness. She is a certified American Council of Exercise trainer, a YMCA Fitness Specialist, and trainer for the YMCA GET REAL weight-management program. Her current trend speciality is fitness phone coaching. Reach her at or [email protected].