The Best Workout Gear If You’re Too Busy To Exercise
Finding the time to squeeze in a workout during a busy day is no small feat — and it’s made all the more difficult by the exhaustion that accompanies having small children, a packed work or travel schedule and myriad other life activities that can deplete our energy resources. But it is possible for even the most over-scheduled among us to squeeze in small bursts of meaningful physical activity throughout the day, and having the right fitness equipment close at hand can make all the difference in the world.
Even if you loathe exercising, there is something out there for you. The trick is to find ways to incorporate it into your schedule so that it doesn’t feel oppressive. I find that having simple, multifunctional workout gear at arm’s length makes it much easier to peel myself away from my desk for a bit and move my body. I spoke to three professional personal trainers via email to get a better sense of what kind of equipment and workouts are best for people with busy schedules who might also be lacking in motivation, and their advice was wildly helpful.
Thea Hughes, owner of Max Effort Training, explained that a combination of bodyweight exercises and simple items like bands and light weights are really all you need to get going. “I like a mix of mini bands, superbands and therabands to effectively create a decent amount of resistance,” she said. “They’re useful for a wide range of exercises, are super compact, travel friendly and not too expensive.”
Like Hughes, fitness trainer Jillian Goodtree is also a huge fan of exercise bands, a small weight set and bodyweight exercises, though she added that “you can also level up your routine by using gliders or hand and ankle weights.” All these items can be incredibly effective for short, maximum-efficiency workouts — think full-body compound dumbbell movements like squats, curls and presses.
Along with these ideas, Ariel Belgrave, a fitness coach and founder of Gym Hooky, also suggested jumping rope as a “fun and effective way to get your heart rate up… It’s also a great way to work on your coordination and footwork.”
Hughes noted that introducing any movement routine will have benefits. You can improve your fitness baseline with daily walks or easy bodyweight circuits to increase your strength and mobility and reduce pain or stiffness, moving on to bands when you are ready to add a bit of tension. “In the meantime, controlling your own body weight (think slowing down and increasing the time your muscles are under tension) can yield positive results!”
She also pointed out that the best way for a busy person to utilize their time is to try to always do a total-body workout. “Engaging more of your muscle groups, especially your larger muscle groups (legs, glutes) will require more energy and thus help to increase your heart rate.”
Both Hughes and Goodtree said that it’s okay to squeeze in mini workouts throughout the day if you can’t commit to a full workout. “Some movement is always better than no movement,” Goodtree advised, and encouraged reluctant, busy individuals and parents to check out the many great digital platforms and independent trainers who teach online. “I recommend starting with something that’s manageable (like a 20-minute workout) that you can do while supervising a child.”
Belgrave added that “studies have shown that short bursts of exercise can be just as effective as longer workouts when it comes to improving fitness and overall health. Walking to run errands, doing squats in between meetings, and doing burpees are all great ways to fit in a mini workout. The key is to make these mini workouts a habit and to find ways to incorporate them into your daily routine. Some additional ideas include taking take the stairs instead of the elevator, doing a few squats while waiting for your coffee to brew, or even doing a set of push-ups before getting into the shower.”
Below, I’ve rounded up some useful fitness equipment based on recommendations from Goodtree, Belgrave and Hughes. They come at a range of price points (the majority of which are quite affordable) and are all conveniently found on Amazon. Have these close at hand throughout the day and see if you can squeeze in a bit of movement. Once you get into a routine it’ll become easier and less burdensome, and the results will be well worth it.
Theraband resistance set
All of our experts recommended resistance bands, and Hughes pointed to Therabands as a great option for stretching, physical therapy exercises and toning. They’re easy to use, tuck away and feature color-coded resistance levels. Their wider band size makes them easier to use for exercises like squats and ab work.
Fit Simplify resistance loop bands
Hughes considers a basic set of resistance bands such as this one to be a great bare minimum baseline for the fitness averse. This set of five ranges from extra light to extra heavy resistance, so you can work your way up as your strength increases. You can even keep them in your purse so you can pop one on and start doing some squats while out and about. Stranger things have happened!
Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells
Goodtree has this variable set from Bowflex that replaces 15 sets of weights! They’re adjustable from five to 52 pounds each, so you can use this space-saving, versatile dumbbell for a range of exercises and strength levels. It even has motion-tracking technology that can count your reps and track your form when used in conjunction with a smart device’s camera.
Throw these on your ankles or wrists while doing chores around the house, chasing your kids around or running errands for a bit of increased resistance without having to carve out additional time for a workout. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference just one pound each can make. I love them, and Goodtree also finds they’re an easy way to add a bit of extra oomph.