No Time, No Problem! 5 Tips to Getting Active with a College Schedule


I know exactly what you are thinking — it’s already Week 4 and you’ve been to the gym a total of, let’s just say, “a few” times. You’ve just been too busy joining new clubs, meeting new people, catching up on that monster load of homework, or contemplating what life even is. With so much on your to-do list, it’s easy for gym-time to be the last thing on your mind.

However, it’s incredibly important to stay active for your health: it helps you cope with stress, combat illnesses, and maintain your mental health; furthermore, it gives you more energy and helps you live a longer and stronger life! To reap all these benefits, the Department of Health and Human Services and the American Heart Association recommend 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.

Now you’re probably saying: “I know it’s good for me but I just don’t have enough time!”

What if I told you that you can get active in less than ten minutes a day and it will cost nothing and be done at your leisure? I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s possible, my fellow Bruins! You’ll be able to stay active, finish your homework, and avoid AECATG: awkward eye contact at the gym!

Here are 5 tips and tricks to get active in whatever time you have!

P.S. You can use some of these tips multiple times a day, so that you can reach that goal of 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week!

TIP #1: Use home goods lying about as weights!

A great alternative to dumbbells or barbells are ordinary objects you can find in your home! You can use soup cans or water bottles for some great 1-pound hand weights, but if you think you can handle bigger objects, try one of the following options:


Photo via Vimeo

  • For a great alternative for 3-pound weights, grab that sack of oranges and lift! Great for exercise and a boost of Vitamin C later for your diet!
  • For 5 pounders, you can grab a sack of potatoes or a gallon of whatever is in your fridge! Try to stick with two of the same objects though if you plan on taking one in each hand while exercising. Similarly, if you want to work with ten pounders, try using some large bottles of laundry detergent!

Some easy lifting workouts you can do with these alternative weights include the following:

  • The sumo squat! You take two soup cans or water bottles in you hands, ready to do bicep curls, and have your legs about two feet apart. While you do the squat, that’s when you do the bicep curl. Then, together, straighten your legs and arms. Repeat this for 10 times for 1 set.
  • The upright row! This is when you keep your feet about shoulder distance apart. Then keep your palms, closed around your weight, facing you. Then bring the weights up so that your elbows will bend to the sides. Then slowly bring it back down. Repeat this as well for 10 times for 1 set.

Also: remember to always be careful! Even though they are household items, you should still treat them as you would weights. Here’s some tips to keep in mind:

  • Remember to work at your own tempo when handling weights: meaning that you should never overestimate how much weight you can handle.
  • Start off small and then build up!
  • The weight should be a bit tiring by the last two repetitions in a set but you can still do in good form.
  • Try to also work out with another fitness pal so that they can spot you in case the weights are just too much.

TIP #2: Try some high intensity workouts!


Photo via Pixabay

Studies have shown that short high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are actually better than longer low intensity workouts. You know what that means? For all you people who hate distance running, you can switch to short high intensity intervals. Or if you just don’t have the time to run, this is a great alternative!

High intensity workouts are amazing because they can help you develop a stronger heart, while also burning fat! According to research associate in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Howard Knuttgen, interval training is an example of aerobic training, which is designed primarily to enhance your cardiovascular system. This means that you can develop a greater endurance, while devoting less time from your busy schedules to exercising.

A great example of these high intensity workouts is the New York Time’s Scientific 7 Minute Workout! All you have to do is jumping jacks, wall sits, push ups, ab crunches, step-ups with a chair, squats, tricep dips with a chair, planks, high knees running (in place: I promise, no endurance running), lunges, push-ups with rotation, and side-planks. You only have to do each of those for 30 seconds and you get a 10 second break in between each of them. Sounds great, doesn’t it? There are more great examples of these in 7-minute workout apps or online!

TIP #3: Why sit when you can stand?

SPOILER ALERT: sitting has been deemed to be the new smoking. Now what does that even mean? It means that we got to get up and start moving! I know it does not seem like sitting could have much of an effect on the way we live but it does! Researchers have been finding more evidence that it increases the chance of developing serious illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Because once the effects of long-term sitting begin, there will be no way to reverse them. So start now! Stand when you are watching television, seeing as you already sit doing homework (trust me guys: it’s called “taking a break.” I know, revolutionary). Or take a walk when you are talking to your best friend about your wonderful days! Just remember to reduce the amount of time your butt is attached to those chairs!

TIP #4: Start the week off great!



Photo via Flickr

Fact: Mondays are awful. But you could bump it up if you start working out early in the week!

By starting your workouts early on the first day of the week, you’ll be setting yourself up to continue working out for the rest of the week! In fact, research has even shown that most people will start their exercise routines on Mondays versus other days of the week. People will psychologically gear themselves up for working out if they start on Mondays! So start off your week right with some fun exercise, as it has many health benefits!

TIP #5: Do the exercising that you like!


Photo via Ellen Gerdes

Not all exercise is awful, I promise! If you don’t want to go to the gym or workout at home (because it all seems a bit boring), find an alternative! Join some fitness classes or do something with your friends! UCLA Rec offers loads of classes each quarter that are both fun and great in helping you get fit! (Pssttt!: they are also only $25 for UCLA students for the entire quarter!)

Part of getting fit is just enjoying it. Even if it is more than ten minutes a day, it would be well worth it if you enjoy it. If you don’t like your current fitness routine, you’ll be less inclined to do it. I know that sounds really obvious to most of you, but it’s true and you need to hear it! Running is not the only option! Weight lifting is not the only option! High intensity workouts are not the only option! Do what you love and you’ll see that it’ll go a long way! There are programs such as: competitive intramural programs, adaptive rec programs, FREE yoga (it’s so incredible it gets its own category!), and loads of other amazing programs to get you excited for living a healthy lifestyle! Just remember to have fun while you are getting fit!

Now that you all are loaded with these tips and tricks to slaying the fitness game, go out and do what you love while staying fit! I encourage all of you to at least try one of these tricks to see if it makes a difference (or just take my word for it and try them all)!

Good luck and know that we, the Healthy Campus Initiative, are with you on this amazing fitness journey!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Bioinformatics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.