Staying Active When Life Won’t Quit

Written on behalf of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ (NIDDK) Weight-control Information Network (WIN)

Lack of time may be one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to physical activity. But you don’t have to train for a marathon or go to the gym every day to stay active. With a little creativity, you can work physical activity into your daily schedule without having to sacrifice hours of extra time.

Household Chores

Knock off that list of chores and get moving at the same time. Involve family members so everyone can benefit from some activity:

  • Recruit a family work crew to pick up sticks and branches, rake leaves, carry and spread mulch, prune bushes, and plant bulbs and flowers. If you don’t have a yard, offer to help an older neighbor or family member who does—or see if there’s a community garden you could join in your area.
  • Clean out the attic, basement, or garage that has been overflowing with things you no longer need. Move items to the sidewalk or yard and have a sale. Load up what you don’t sell and donate the items to a local charity or shelter.
  • Invite friends or family members for a “painting party” and give that living room the facelift it’s been waiting for. Besides the painting, moving furniture and pictures in and out of the room will increase your activity.


  • Sign up for some active volunteering:
  • Join an outdoors club that clears walking and hiking trails at area parks.
  • Help load trucks with donated food to deliver to local food banks.
  • Help out at the car wash to raise money for a school trip.

Family Duties

Turn family time into “active” time:

  • Traveling for a family wedding or event? Lose the sugary coffee drink and magazine, and “hike” around the airport while you’re waiting to board your flight.
  • Walk or ride your bike to the post office, pharmacy, or other stops on your errands list. Carry a backpack or put a basket or rack on your bike to carry smaller packages. Remember to wear a helmet.
  • Take a walking tour or bike tour, instead of a bus tour, to see new sights when you’re on vacation. If available, take advantage of swimming and other activities that get you moving.

At Work

If your job involves sitting all day, get out of your chair:

  • Save the email and walk over to your coworker’s desk to deliver a message.
  • Use the stairs in your building, rather than the elevator.
  • Take a walk during lunch or short, 10-minute walks during breaks, if your job permits.
  • Park farther from your building and walk—or walk to and from the bus or train station.

Social Commitments

Make social time an active time as well:

  • Rather than dinner and a movie, try dinner and dancing. Or try something new and create your own obstacle course in your yard or living room.
  • Meeting a friend for lunch? Meet for a walk or hike instead. Pack some healthy food and stop for lunch to break up your activity.
  • Get friends together for a basketball game or golf outing.

Before you know it, you’ll be getting your recommended 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week!

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ (NIDDK) Weight-control Information Network (WIN) has science-based resources and information to help you live a healthier lifestyle.

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