If you’re busy it’s always tempting to skip a workout because you’ve got too much on your plate, but exercise can help you cope with pressure and solve problems.

When you are busy and you don’t think you’ve got any spare time to stop what you’re doing and exercise, you may be surprised to hear that this is probably the best time to stop and take a break. When you get stressed, your ability to think clearly can be impaired and it’s easy to work yourself into a frenzy about what needs to be done and ponder on how you’re going to get everything finished. This is the time when you need to be able to think clearly, and find yourself some time and space to work out a plan to get everything done

Rather than taking a break that involves eating an unhealthy treat because you’re stressed, or wasting time watching mindless TV, now is the perfect time to do some exercise. If you work from home, get out of the house and go for a run or a brisk walk. Or if it’s easier, you can do some of the 15-minute workouts in this guide to give your mind a break.

Switch off and zone out

Some people use exercise as a chance to switch off and zone out. For others, it’s a chance to solve problems and work something out in their mind. It’s not uncommon for those who exercise to report being able to think more clearly afterwards. In some cases, people have reported feeling more creative. When you exercise, blood flow to the brain increase and your brain receives more oxygen. Better blood flow to the brain also means more nutrition for the brain which means you will be able to think more clearly and work more efficiently. In addition, the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is critical for learning and memory, is active during exercise. When this happens, our brain function improves. Aerobic exercise can also reduce shrinkage of the hippocampus, which naturally occurs with age.

Scientists also believe that regular exercise can change your brain, causing more blood vessels to be formed, which leads to better brain function.

So when stress strikes, and you need a clear head to be able to solve your problems, stop and work out for 15-20 minutes. Choose something you enjoy, so that you’re more likely to stick to it, and remind yourself of all the health benefits that come with being active. Those who are successful are keen exercisers.

Positive approach

TV talk show host Trisha Goddard relied on regular running to help her keep a positive outlook when she was having radiotherapy for breast cancer. She credits it with helping her get better, and is now cancer-free. But she also used her beloved trail runs to help her stay positive and take back control. She would even turn up for radiotherapy sessions treading mud from her trail run into the hospital ward, and would get told off by the nurses. She had no fear. ‘I think they thought I was a bit mad, but then as my treatment went on they could see that my blood oxygenation was coming up to 100 per cent,’ she recalls.

Former Dragons’ Den star Kelly Hoppen says she always starts her day with an hour of exercise, and lifts weights, as well as doing boxing and Pilates.

To get yourself motivated to exercise when time is tight, here are some things you can do:

Make a plan and stick to it

Decide when you are going to exercise and put your laptop down or whatever else you’re doing when the time comes. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder and don’t put it off – you won’t ‘do it later’!

Do it early

Not everyone likes the idea of exercising in the morning, but if your schedule for the day has the potential to be unpredictable or you think there’s a chance you may have to work late, then get it done early and it’s out of the way for the rest of the day. That means you have the right to feel good about yourself all day, instead of feeling guilty!

Prepare your kit in advance

Plan ahead and get your kit ready. If you’re going out for a run, have your running gear laid out on the bed, along with a water bottle and MP3 player, and anything else you need. Make it as easy as possible to get out of the front door rather than skipping a session.

If you don’t feel like doing it, do it anyway. Follow the 15-minute rule. Tell yourself you’re just going to exercise for 15 minutes. If you get into it and want to do more, there’s no reason to stop, but if not, you’ve done what you set out to do.

Think about how you will feel afterwards

Remind yourself how guilty you’ll feel if you don’t do it, and how great you’ll feel afterwards. It’s also worth reminding yourself of your fitness or weight loss – you need to do this workout to bring you a step closer to your goal of getting fitter, leaner or more toned.