In spite of the well documented benefits of exercising, only 5% of adults in the U.S. exercise the prescribed 30 minutes a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is easy to come up with many reasons/excuses for not exercising – I’m too tired. I’m too overweight. I don’t have time. Below are 10 of the most common excuses for NOT exercising and clever solutions to overcome those excuses.
EXCUSE #1: I’m too tired to exercise.
Exercise is a paradox – it can make your muscles physically tired, but you’ll actually feel more energized from it. Exercise increases your blood flow which means that your heart is pumping oxygen to your brain, muscles, and tissues faster. It also promotes the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and natural endorphins that will make you feel better and more energized. Even moderate exercise can improve your energy levels!
- Solution #1: When you feel too tired to work out, the solution is to actually exercise. Begin with low to moderate intensity exercise. Try walking, biking or yoga. Over time, move into more moderate or high-intensity exercise.
- Solution #2: Exercising with a friend can motivate you to keep your commitment to exercise even when you are tired.
- Solution #3: Exercise during your most energetic time of the day. It may help to work out first thing in the morning before your day gets away from you. Can you wake up 30 minutes earlier or go into work 30 minutes later? Can you extend your lunch break in the middle of the day to allow for a brisk walk? Exercising after work might sound exhausting, but it will actually calm and invigorate you.
- NOTE: Exercise cannot make up for either not enough or poor quality sleep. Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders can disrupt your sleep cycles, leaving you tired all day. Talk with your doctor if you or your spouse feels your sleep is compromised. Click here to learn more about sleep apnea.
EXCUSE #2: I can’t afford a gym.
The cost of gym memberships can vary widely — from $10 to over $200 a month. In 2015 nearly 55 million Americans were members of a fitness center. However, 67% of those 55 million people never used their memberships.
- Solution: Instead of spending money on a gym membership, look for more affordable solutions like creating a simple home gym or taking a brisk 30 minute walk in your neighborhood. Also, there are many free or very affordable exercise videos online and on YouTube, Netflix, etc. Exercising doesn’t need to cost money.
EXCUSE #3: I don’t have time. Or I am a full time parent.
Between kids, commuting, work and other responsibilities of life, our modern 24/7 lifestyle often leaves us feeling like there is just not enough time in the day to fit in a workout. Exercise becomes a low priority in our already crammed schedules.
- Solution #1: Instead of trying to find time to work out, think about how you can make time. Some activity is better than none. The trick is to find a block of time in your daily schedule that’s consistently free of commitments. That might be before or after work, during your lunch hour, or after dropping the kids off at school. The time commitment can be minimal. Start with 10 minutes in your day. The next week, go for 11 minutes and the following week, 12 minutes. Soon that found time will become part of your schedule. Walk every time you are on the phone so that you can knock out some more steps.
- Solution #2: How much television do you watch? Don’t allow yourself to watch TV unless you are exercising, or have already exercised that day. While watching TV, use resistance bands for strength training, walk in place or pedal away on an exercise bicycle.
- Solution #3: If your kids are young, pop them in a stroller and take a few laps around the neighborhood. As they get older, exercise while your child is at their after-school practice. Walk briskly around the ball field, or run up and down the school stairs during music class. For extra motivation, team up with another parent so you have an exercise buddy.
- Solution #4: Exercise with your kids. Go bike riding, swimming, or walk around the block and explore the neighborhood with your children.
EXCUSE #4: I need to be motivated to exercise.
If losing weight or your general health isn’t enough of reason to exercise and you need extra incentives, look for ways to find what will work to motivate you to get moving.
- Solution #1: Make a chart or keep a log (Google “Exercise Chart” for examples) or track your workouts using a tracking app like Strava or HabitBull.
- Solution #2: Give yourself a reward for meeting your fitness goals – a reward that you really want. If you love massages, book a massage at the end of every month you complete your target number of work outs.
EXCUSE #5: I don’t like to exercise alone.
It is sometimes hard to get motivated to exercise on your own. Having an exercise buddy can help. Exercising with a friend can make your workout time fly by and give you an extra incentive to push a little harder. It is also easier to make an excuse to not exercise when no one holds you accountable.
- Solution #1: Ask a friend to meet you for a weekend walk, or see if some colleagues want to join you for a class after work. Exercising with a partner or a group increases motivation and consistency.
- Solution #2: If your friends aren’t into exercise, there are several fitness-focused get-togethers on Meetup.com or Zogsports.com. You can also check out the Bvddy app which works like Tinder and helps you find fellow squash players, jog buddies, or tennis partners.
EXCUSE #6: I get bored easily. Exercise is no fun.
The key to beating boredom is to find an exercise program that both caters to your fitness level and that you actually look forward to. It is also important to switch things up every few weeks or months so that you don’t fall into a routine.
- Solution #1: Find fun exercises that you enjoy. Try inline skating, biking, or gardening. Join a mommy walking group. Sign up for Zumba or a cycling class. Join a sports league. Or go dancing. There’s an exercise for everyone!
- Solution #2: Exercising with a friend can be fun and great entertainment! Join a group (see EXCUSE #5, Solution #2) or round up friends to join you on a hike, take a bike ride, go dancing, or take a class at the gym. Every once in a while, try something totally new. Mix it up so you don’t get bored.
- Solution #3: If it makes exercise more enjoyable for you, it’s OK to watch TV, listen to a podcast or read while you’re on the exercise bike or treadmill, as long as your workout is still challenging.
- Solution #4: Make a list of exercises you don’t like and then a list of activities you might be willing to try. Work your way down the list until you find one or several that you enjoy. If you enjoy what you are doing, you will be more apt to continue.
Excuse #7: I’m too old/fat/uncoordinated/embarrassed to exercise.
When something is foreign or uncomfortable, it’s a natural response to avoid it. Whether you feel too old, too overweight, or ridiculous in workout clothes, there is a simple solution. Start small, but start with something.
- Solution #1: If exercise is hard on your joints, try swimming or take a water fitness class. Exercising in water is easier on your joints and the stronger your muscles get, the more they can support your joints and the less you’ll hurt. If your physical limitations are more serious, check with your doctor, or find an athletic trainer who can help you figure out exercises that are still safe and easy to do.
- Solution #2: Bicycling is great exercise for people of all ages and physical types. Once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget that skill because it becomes part of your unconscious memory. You can bike with friends or on your own. Check out Bikemunk for the many benefits of bike riding.
- Solution #3: If you’re self-conscious about your weight, you could start by walking with friends, working out in the privacy of your home, or exercising with a trainer who’s supportive. Wear clothes that feel comfortable.
- Solution #4: Are you unfamiliar with the equipment at the gym? No one wants to look like a newbie when trying to figure out a weight training machine. BUT, remember that everyone was new at one time. Many gyms offer FREE services to members so that they understand how to use equipment and set up a routine to get results and do it safely. Join a class that can show you how to strength train and how to use different pieces of equipment. Bring a friend that has a bit more knowledge than you! Ask the front desk attendant about days and times when there are fewer members around.
EXCUSE # 8: I’ve tried before. Or I can’t stick with a program.
If you set goals that are small and realistic, you will more likely to feel like a success, not a failure.
- Solution #1: Keep a log and post it in a public space – your refrigerator, or even on Facebook. Your friends and family can offer words of encouragement. A log also helps you see if you’re starting to slack off (see EXCUSE #4, Solution #1).
- Solution #2: Having an exercise buddy keeps you accountable. You are more likely to show up to exercise if you know someone is expecting you to be there.
EXCUSE #9: I don’t like to work out around the opposite sex.
Exercising around the opposite sex can often make you feel uncomfortable, or inadequate.
- Solution: See if your gym offers gender-specific classes or workout areas. Of course, working out in the privacy of your own home also solves this problem.
EXCUSE #10: I don’t like to sweat. Or I don’t want to take another shower and reapply makeup.
Sweat is your body’s way of cooling and detoxifying itself. The amount of sweat you produce depends on several factors including your gender, age, fitness level, genetics and how hard you are working. However, exercise doesn’t have to mean you end up dripping in sweat. There are many exercises that burn calories and build muscle while not leaving you sweaty. If you are avoiding exercise because you hate to sweat or don’t have time to freshen up, here are a few ideas…
- Solution #1: Work out first thing in the morning, before you shower and get ready for your day.
- Solution #2: Try wearing sweat-wicking workout apparel.
- Solution #3: Break up exercise into shorter chunks during the day. Take a 15-minute walk during your lunch break and 15-minutes after work.
- Solution #4: If you don’t like getting sweaty, you can work out indoors where it’s air conditioned. You can swim. Or try a slower-paced workout such as yoga that that focuses less on cardio and more on stretching, balance, flexibility, and strengthening your muscles.
There will always be a “good excuse.” But research has consistently shown in over 70 different studies, nearly every group studied – healthy individuals, those with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease and even cancer patients – benefited from consistent exercise. No more excuses!!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: