Michelle L. Segar, PhD, MPH
Time is precious, especially in the life of a busy midlife woman. So, do women who exercise regularly actually have more time than those who don’t? Probably not.
Physically active women create time for exercise. What tends to distinguish the “I don’t have time” women is that they don’t prioritize being physically active. The real question is why some women consider exercise a priority in their day and others do not.
One reason is that exercise constitutes an important aspect of their self-care. Physical activity reduces stress and enhances their sense of well-being. Their daily quality of life is enhanced when they are physically active and diminished when they are not—so they are very motivated to fit it in. These women do what I call “want-based” physical activity.
In contrast, most of us consider being physically active as a “should”—something we are supposed to do rather than something we want to do. In fact, “should-based” physical activity can feel draining. And, who really has time in their day for another “should”?
The deeper differentiation between women who practice “want-based” versus “should-based” physical activity is not how much free time they have but how they time they choose to devote to exercise.
The “want-based” women personalize and tailor physical activity to their needs and desires. They don’t follow prescriptions. They do what makes them feel good, what reduces their stress, and what gives them energy. Exercise is like a gift that they give themselves. In contrast, women who practice should-based exercise consider it a chore. They tend to follow fads and “experts”—the right way to be fit. The should-based approach is not sustainable for most women because it is not their choice; it does not enhance their sense of well-being.
Women can adopt a want-based relationship with exercise by taking the following steps:
If you are squeezed for time, shrink your goal to 5 or 10 minutes of movement. You’ll be able to fit in a mini-workout and feel better after moving your body. Now you’ve made time for exercise.