“A one-hour workout is only 4% of your day”

That quote – powerful, right? I admit it, the first time I read that quote it got me. Only four percent? Of my entire day? That’s nothing! What am I wasting all my time on, I should be at the gym two even three hours every day.

While the root of it is technically true, one hour is four percent of 24, it’s not that simple. And it can create unfair feelings of failure and inadequacy for many.

As I often do, allow me to share a reference story to help illustrate the point I’d like to make.

The Corey Mason Meltdown
In her role as the overachieving, pill-popping, adorable Corey Mason in the movie, Empire Records, Liv Tyler famously – or not famously, depending on your familiarity with the movie – said, “My dad always said there are 24 usable hours in every day.”


Making time for this is hard.

We later find out Corey feels enormous pressure from her dad to achieve and do everything. So, usable hours? Sure, if you’re okay with being overscheduled, eating speed like it’s candy, and not sleeping like we discover is happening with Liv’s character.

p.s. eventually she loses her shit and has an epic meltdown from trying to do everything and be everything to everyone.

My point in sharing this little cinematic throwback is to showcase how incorrect the “four percent” quote is and why finding even one hour to work out every day is really tough. It’s also another great opportunity to remind how to prioritize wellness by saying no.

What Happens in 24 Hours
Let’s be real – there are not 24 usable hours in every day. As human beings, there are certain things we need to do – sleep and eat among them.

As citizens contributing to the greater good of this universe, there are other things we need to do – work being at the top of that list. While the rest of it varies from there, here’s a very general example of how quickly those 24 hours are eaten up every day. Everyone is going to need to adjust this to their own lifestyle but it’s a good place to start and illustrate my point.

Subtract 8 hours for sleep – 8 is the holy grail, we all know that. Yet, I know not everyone gets that. So let’s say this 8-hour block also includes time to wind down and get ready for bed, and time to hit the snooze and drag oneself out of bed.

We’re down to 16 hours

Subtract 1 hour for getting ready each day – for some, this is generous; for others, it’s laughably short. Still, seems like a good middle ground.

We’re down to 15 hours.

Subtract 9 hours for work – assuming an average 8-hour workday, plus a lunch hour.

Suddenly, we’re down to 6 hours.

I’ll never be the mom who makes amazing treats – and that’s okay

Subtract 1 hour for driving – to and from work, possibly daycare pickup or drop-off. Similar to the hour for getting ready each day, this hour commute time may be overestimated or hilariously underestimated.

That drops us down to 5 hours

Subtract 1 hour for breakfast and dinner – time to cook, time to eat, and time to clean up.

Now we’re at 4 hours

Finally, subtract one more hour for miscellaneous – if it takes you longer to drive to work, walking to and from places, using the bathroom, or, for many, putting in more than 8 hours per work day.

That puts us at 3 hours

Assuming those averages – and even with the added flex hour, I believe those are still pretty conservative estimates – we’re left with 3 truly usable hours every day.

A one-hour workout becomes 33% of your day, not 4%. Pretty big difference there.

And don’t think I’ve forgotten about kids. It takes plenty of time keeping other human beings alive and cared for every day. For many, that’s the remaining 3 hours right there.

And don’t think I’ve forgotten about the other things in life we need to do for our enjoyment and sanity. Errands, co-worker happy hours, TV time with your spouse, cleaning, reading, calling your dad, a few minutes of relaxation for yourself, and, of course, all the things we say yes to because we “should” do them, whether a committee, PTA event, or other obligation. With or without kids, those remaining 3 hours are easily eaten up, and quickly.


A girls’ trip to run a marathon – prioritizing two things in one!

So, what we’re ultimately left with, looking at those remaining 3 (or likely fewer) hours, is choice and sacrifice.

Say Yes to What Matters
Something’s gotta give to fit in that workout. Most of the time, it’s sleep that’s sacrificed to get up early and work out. Others are willing to sacrifice time to relax and watch TV in the evening, pursue a hobby, or attend an evening networking event. Or choosing to work out vs. spend time with your kids – bring on the #momguilt and #dadguilt.

My point in all this is to remind you that it can be really hard finding time to work out. That’s okay. All the motivational quotes, inspirational memes, and health and fitness “coach” cheerleader posts aren’t the solution and, in fact, may be the opposite of inspirational and leave us feeling like we just suck because we can’t seem to allocate a measly 4% of our day to exercise.

We can’t add more hours to the day, all we can do is try to prioritize and make the best of them. This is where it’s so important to say no and truly spend those precious hours doing what you want to do.

After all, they may not all be “usable” but we all have the same 24 hours in a day. Using them in the way that works best for you is the ultimate goal of wellness.

What do you think about the 4% concept? Where do find most of your time goes?

The comments are all yours so please share.

Connect with me @lindsayinreallife on Instagram or @LindsayIRL on Twitter. Subscribe to Wellness in Real Life so you get every new blog post straight to your inbox.


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