Getting active with everyday tasks and saving time with meal prep and shopping smart

Cheryl looking at at item on a shelf
Cheryl holding an apple

When life gets busy, eating healthy and getting active might seem like a challenge — but even small steps can make a big difference. So start from where you are, and remember that there’s no one way to develop healthy habits — there’s only your way

Learn how Cheryl is taking small steps to make healthy changes despite a hectic schedule.

How I move my way

Getting physically active never seemed like a priority to me in the past. Sure, I’d go on a walk if a friend called and invited me along, but I did it for the social aspect. I never thought too much about being active as part of staying healthy. Plus I have a hectic schedule — I’m a manager at a big clothing store, and I work a lot of hours. I’m also a caregiver for my elderly parents, so I don’t get a lot of time to myself.

But last year my brother had a heart attack that put him in the hospital for weeks. That was a wake-up call for me. I went to see my doctor for a checkup, and we made a plan to help me build healthier habits, starting with moving more.

Finding time in my busy schedule hasn’t been easy, but I’ve learned that there’s lots of ways I can build activity into my regular routine. For example, I take the stairs to my third-floor apartment instead of the elevator, and I try to take walks during my lunch break a few days a week. Sometimes a couple of colleagues come along, which I enjoy! We keep each other motivated, and walking together is more fun.

Cheryl talking with a friend

Adults need a mix of physical activity to stay healthy

5 circles, each containing a stick figure doing an aerobic activity: doing household chores, performing bodyweight exercises, walking briskly, practicing yoga, and biking.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity

Adults need at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity — anything that gets the heart beating faster. You don’t have to do it all at once, and when time is tight, you can look for ways to work activity into your day. For example, park farther away at the grocery store, do squats while brushing your teeth, or walk in place during your favorite TV show — it all adds up!


Muscle-strengthening activity

It’s also important to do muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week to help your body stay strong. But you don’t have to go to the gym — your usual tasks that make your muscles work harder count, too. Think gardening or carrying heavy grocery bags. 

3 circles, each containing a stick figure doing a muscle-strengthening activity: lifting weights, gardening and weeding, and doing resistance exercises with elastic bands or tubes.

How I make every bite count

My doctor and I also talked about making healthy changes to my diet. He suggested adding more fruits and vegetables — I knew those are good for you, but I had no idea they’re supposed to fill up half my plate! I also learned there’s more to protein than just meat and eggs. Now I try to switch it up with seafood, tofu, or beans a few times a week.

At first, I worried I wasn’t going to be able to make all those changes with everything that’s going on in my life. It definitely was an adjustment — and some days it’s still not easy! But I’ve found some simple tricks that help me save time and still eat healthier. A big one is that I stock up on frozen fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish when they’re on sale. Then I have them on hand whenever I don’t have time to get to the store. I also fill the pantry with canned proteins like beans and chickpeas — I look for “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.

I try to plan meals differently, too. Whenever I have time to cook at home, I make a healthy recipe in the slow cooker and freeze it in portions. Veggie chili and chicken noodle soup are my favorites! Plus, I can make extra and share with my parents.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to take a big chunk of time out of your day. When time is tight, keep it simple! Try following these tips:

Prep ahead. When you have some time, slice up fruits and veggies and put them in the fridge to use later in recipes — or to enjoy them as is.

Munch on raw vegetables. Not cooking saves time, too! Enjoy baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, or sugar snap peas as a healthy snack or appetizer — or a side dish at lunch or dinner.

Plan for leftovers. Make larger portions of your favorite healthy meals so you can freeze leftovers or warm them up during the week.

Shop smart. Make a shopping list and organize it by store sections, like “produce” and “frozen foods” — this helps you go faster at the store.

Read more stories about eating healthy along with being active

Want to learn more about making healthy changes? Check out these resources: has everything you need to know about healthy eating —including an option to create your personalized MyPlate Plan, tips for shopping smart, and kitchen time-saver ideas.

Move Your Way is your go-to resource for tips to help you get moving. Try the interactive tool to build your activity plan, and check out this video with tips for getting active on busy days.