How To Stay Healthy With A Busy Schedule
Whether you’re managing a busy university schedule, or are juggling jobs and work, it can be really difficult to stay healthy. It’s always tempting to go straight for the quick, unhealthy options when you’ve just finished a day of lectures or a 12 hour shift – and who can even find enough time to exercise your recommended half hour, 3 times a week?! Put that on top of socializing and sleep, and you really aren’t left with enough hours in the day. However, with enough planning, a little hindsight, and routine, it’s easy enough to adjust your lifestyle to keep yourself healthy and active.
Planning is key here. Below, are a few tips on how to plan your resources and time better in order to eat healthier and keep active.
1. Plan your Meals
The first key thing is to buy smart. Half the time, it’s easier to grab the take out menu because you don’t have anything simple or healthy in your cupboards. When you find you have a little downtime on a Sunday evening, plan out your meals for the week. Take note of when you’ll be back late or have a long day – you’ll be less likely to want to put in a lot of effort for those days. Make use of leftovers especially; if you have nothing on Tuesday evening, that’s the perfect time to spend a little longer making a big portion that can then be recycled the day after. If you follow this tactic, you actually only have to cook and put in effort 3 or 4 times a week – and you get to lazily just heat up for the other days!
If you find yourself skipping breakfast a lot because you are in a hurry, change what you have so it’s easy to grab and go in the morning; no-cook breakfast such as yogurt, granola and fruit is usually good because it minimizes preparation and clear up time as well. As for lunch, you’ll find that making your lunch the evening before may be annoying at the time, but you will thank yourself and feel super accomplished the next day – provided you haven’t made something that’s gone off overnight. And don’t forget to bring your lunch in the next day, because nothing will deflate your feeling of accomplishment faster.
2. Always have snacks
This subtitle is tragically misleading – how I wish to be endorsing snacks all the time for everyone. Let’s face it though – for a lot of people, it’s less what they eat for meals that are the problem, but the parts in between. Even if you’ve had a big healthy meal for lunch, it’s easy to be tempted out for ice cream or to grab a chocolate bar from a vending machine. Not to say something sweet every once in a while isn’t okay, but like with most of life, moderation is key.
This is particularly important if you are busy enough to be missing meals occasionally – it’s easy to substitute with a few snacks that then seem okay because you’ve skipped your meal. (Nothing like justifying the 4 packets of crisps and 2 chocolate bars you’ve just had with “That counts as my lunch,” huh?) Snacks, however, are a poor substitute for a properly balanced meal – most will be highly processed and, if you are anything like me, will contain devastating amounts of sugar. Instead, if you have to snack, snack smart. Fruit is the go to here – there are so many health benefits to eating fruit, and each fruit is essentially a cocktail of different vitamins in itself (AND – depending on where you live – are usually super cheap!)
Preparation is just as important with snacks. Because unhealthy options are usually far more easily available than healthy ones (although this is changing), it tends to be easier to get something unhealthy when you are on the go. By planning ahead and keeping snacks with you, you’ll find yourself eating better and saving money in the long run. By packing fruit that is easy to transport without getting tragically squashed such as apples or oranges, healthy (read the labels!) energy bars or healthier snacks such as rice cakes, you’ll be able to curb your cravings and hunger and you probably won’t hit that dreaded sugar crash that leaves you with your head on the desk at 3 in the afternoon.
3. Staying Active
So you’ve got your meals sorted and your snacks prepared in your bag for when you reach a low point in your busy day – but that still doesn’t give you any time to exercise! The problem here is that most people always assume that exercise takes a lot more time than it does. You don’t need to be running for an hour on the treadmill for an effective workout at all, instead, you just need to find what is quick and effective and that suits your schedule.
Luckily, people are beginning to target people just like you with not enough time. High intensity workouts and circuits are gaining popularity for precisely this reason – you get a great workout in, in a very short amount of time. The high intensity of the exercises keep your heart rate right up and because of this, you’ll only have to be moving for about 20-30 minutes. 20-30 minutes- that’s like 8% of your waking day! (Seems so much better when you put it like that, doesn’t it?) Youtube is a great resource, and there are countless exercise DVDs that cater specifically to this – do a little research and find one that you like.
Now all you have to do is find out when to fit these into your day. Look at the week ahead of you and see when you have time. You don’t need to be exercising every day, so pick days when you have less on because you’ll have more energy and be more motivated. If you have to adjust and move things around, so be it. And if you have a surprisingly long day and are beat, don’t push yourself if you don’t think you’ll have an effective workout – try slotting it in last minute for tomorrow instead. Factoring in a shower and getting ready time – that’s only an hour of your day you need! Plan, but also be flexible with your schedule, and you’ll find everything a lot easier to manage!