Photo: Masterfile

We often think of fitness as one more thing to slot into our busy schedules—something to squeeze in between everything else going on. With so many competing priorities, it’s no wonder we feel we “don’t have time” for exercise.

Maybe the answer isn’t to lament your crowded calendar, but to look at fitness in a different way. As the inventor Buckminster Fuller observed, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

So let’s stop seeing fitness as one more entry on the to-do list. Instead, let’s make it a way of being that weaves through all the hours and days of  our lives. Here are some tips for cultivating that mind-set:

Be body-aware.  Get in the habit of noticing how your body is feeling and moving. Observing where you’re tight is a cue to stretch. Similarly, spotting weaknesses or movements you avoid tells you what you need to work on. And every now and then, check in on your posture while sitting, standing, or walking. Over time each of these body connections will reinforce the others, and your body’s need to move.

Think beyond the gym. There’s no end of ways to have active fun. If you don’t have a favorite, try something new.

Turn tasks into opportunities. Chores can double as exercise, especially if you’re conscious of movement form as you do them. Work those back muscles as you sweep or rake. Stretch as you put the groceries away.  Squat to trim the plants in your garden.

Take the stairs. (You knew I’d say that.) Park a few blocks away from your appointment or shopping, and walk. Do calf raises as you’re standing in line. Every little bit helps cement the fitness habit.

Use TV and phone time.  Commercial breaks are built-in chances to stretch and move. And if you invest in a wireless headset, you can move around or even go for a walk while talking on the phone.

Get in a groove.  Ask anyone who’s over 50 and in great shape. Odds are, they’ll say being physically active is as much a part of their day as brushing their teeth or checking email. To foster that mind-set, establish a workout schedule you can stick to; then stick to it. Those early weeks are the hardest. But after two or three months of success, exercising will be your standard operating procedure, too.