“I can’t find my shoes”: it may not be the craziest excuse for not exercising, but it’s up there! Half the battle of exercise is getting out there and doing it, but it’s easier to make excuses for why you aren’t getting your recommended daily dose of activity. You know you need it, so why are you avoiding exercise? Here are some of the most common exercise excuses and how to avoid them.
Excuse Number One: I don’t have time
The average adult in the U.S. watches five hours of television a day. That’s 150 hours a month, 1,8000 hours a year. Put simply, the average U.S. adult spends two and a half months in front of the television. Imagine what you could accomplish if you cut your TV viewing by half! If you must have your screen time, there are different ways to incorporate exercise as you watch. This includes:
- Squats or crunches during commercial breaks
- Stretches with resistance bands
- Taking a break between shows for high intensity interval training
You can also decrease your viewing time by recording TV shows and fast-forwarding through commercials, or decrease your TV time altogether gradually, eliminating just 30 minutes weekly until you cut your screen time in half.
If TV time isn’t holding you back, but work and family make it difficult, there are other ways to exercise.
- Make exercise a family affair: Children should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, and walking, hiking, or bike riding together can benefit the whole family. If your children are too small to ride a bike, or walks with them are less exercise and more exploration, find a sturdy bicycle seat or jogging stroller and add some bodyweight resistance to your workout.
- Make work a workout: Investigate the possibility of getting a treadmill desk. They may take some getting used to at first, but after you get the hang of it, you can take multi-tasking to a whole new level. In writing his latest book, Drop Dead Healthy, A.J. Jacobs walked nearly a thousand miles at his treadmill desk. Pitch the new desk purchase to your boss as preventative medicine then get ready to walk while you work.
- Make exercise fun: If the idea of swimming laps or running around a track leaves you cold, look into the same activities as a competition. Color runs, zombie runs, mud runs, mini triathlons: all of these are fun and require some training to complete successfully. Alternately, find a sport that you enjoy and play in a community league. Even a magical sport works: Quidditch may have started as a lark at Middlebury College in Vermont, but you can now find Quidditch leagues all over the world. Physical activity needn’t be so serious.
Excuse Number Two: I am too tired
Between work and family obligations, you may arrive at the end of your day exhausted, but don’t climb into bed. Numerous studies have shown that exercising four to five hours before bed increases energy levels (better than artificial stimulants) and improves sleep. If you can squeeze a brisk walk into the middle of the day, that boost should keep you going until bedtime, when you will sleep well and wake more refreshed. Even people suffering from chronic fatigue report higher energy levels after instituting a regular program of exercise. If you can get started, you will find yourself with more energy when you’re done.
Excuse Number Three: I tried before, and it was boring
Maybe you tried an exercise you thought you should be doing rather than an exercise that suits your personality and interests. If you want to try yoga but don’t want to focus on the spiritual aspects of the practice, hot yoga might be better for you. If you like the idea of exercise but don’t want to go it alone, try a team sport like soccer or basketball. If you have never exercised in a gym before but want to use weight machines, see if your gym offers a consultation with a personal trainer.
As with other things in life, if you are interested and engaged, you are more likely to continue. Just because you don’t love running or rock climbing doesn’t mean you are ill-suited to exercise. There is physical activity for everybody (and every body!).
Excuse Number Four: I tried before, and it didn’t help
The main goal of exercise is to improve overall health, but if there is a specific goal you’d like to achieve, take some time to make it a SMART goal: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Instead of saying, “I want to exercise more,” reframe your goal like this: “I will walk the dog twice a day for 20 minutes each walk, six days a week,” or, “I will ride my bike 45 minutes a day, five days a week, and I will ride with the local cycling organization twice a month.”
To help you stay on track, you can also enlist the help of fitness apps that use social media to motivate you or track your progress, or you can do it the old-fashioned way and enlist an exercise buddy. Social connection improves mental health, which improves energy level, which improves motivation. All of these things work together to keep you exercising.
Excuse Number Five: I am in pain
There is no doubt about it: pain can make physical activity daunting. If you are suffering from a chronic pain condition like fibromyalgia, coming back from an injury or a surgery, or just facing the aches and pains that come with aging joints, it can be very difficult to motivate yourself to exercise. If you can just get started, just take that first step, you are already helping to relieve pain. Research has shown that regular, mild to moderate aerobic exercise actually helps relieve pain. It’s all a matter of choosing the right exercise for you.
- Go low impact: Running and other high-impact exercises can exacerbate pain. Stick with low-impact exercises to start.
- Incorporate exercise into your day: There are many different ways to turn your daily movement into exercise. Be creative! Brushing your teeth and grocery shopping offer many opportunities for quick doses of fitness. Call it “exercise without exercising.”
- Ease into it: Many chronic pain patients are worried that they will be injured or increase their pain with exercise. The key is to start slowly and build on success. Even five minutes of walking and stretching is a start. If you can discipline yourself to this amount of movement on your most painful days, then you may see a lessening of symptoms over time. Add slowly every day, working up to your recommended daily allowance of exercise (determined by you and your doctor).
- Exercise your mind: Just 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day has been proven to treat depression as well as antidepressants, and the link between pain and depression has been well established. If you can change your mind, you can change your life.
Instituting a program of regular exercise needn’t be a struggle. What are your top exercise excuses?
Image by torbakhopper via Flickr