Exercise Excuse-itis: Finding A Cure

We all know that there are many excuses why people don’t exercise or don’t exercise enough. Are they valid? I polled colleagues to come up with a top ten list of excuses. Let’s explore them David Letterman-countdown style:

#10 You’re Too Embarrassed to Start

Really… it’s surprising how often we’ll hear “I’ll go to the gym after I lose some weight.” People can be very worried about what other club members are thinking about them. In fact, whatever shape you are in, by going to the club, you draw admiration because you chose to come in and change it. See Priscilla’s story on Fit at Five.

#9 You Have No Motivation

Change in behavior takes two beliefs: you must believe you can change and you must believe it’s worth it to change. There’s your motivation question: Is it worth it? Specifically, how would you feel differently if you reached your goals? How would your life be different? Your health? Now, is going to the club, working out, watching what you eat, worth it?

#8 You Don’t Know What to Do/How to Start

As with anything new, from ballroom dance, learning to play an instrument, to using a new computer program, get professional instruction. In this case, hire a Personal Trainer or take a group exercise class.

#7 Exercise is Boring/Don’t Like to Exercise

This is usually because people hold a stereotypical view of what exercise is. Yes, it can be the gym/club activities, but it is also all forms of dance, sports, yard work, and more importantly, physical play. If you’re bored or don’t like to exercise, you just haven’t found the right activity yet.

#6 You Have No Energy/Too Tired

As counterintuitive as it may seem, a well thought out fitness program will give you more energy. It raises your metabolism, helps with weight loss, improves strength and flexibility. All of which make it easier to move. It also improves self image and mood.

#5 You’re Too Old to Start

There’s a condition called sarcopenia which has been thought of as an age related decrease in muscle, and functional abilities, as well as gains in body fat. In reality, it’s our decreasing in physical activities and challenges that cause the losses. Elderly can see improvements in strength, muscle size, metabolism, balance, bone density, and even brain function with the proper fitness program. So, if you’re working out, keep it up. If you’re not, get started. The fact is, you’re too old not to.

#4 You’re Too Broken/Too Ill to Start

Back in “the old days”, the treatment for almost any injury or illness was bed rest. Later it was discovered that activity was really the best thing you could do for many of these conditions. I’ve worked in cardiac rehabilitation programs and continue to work with many post-rehab clients. If your doctor gives you the OK to increase your physical activity, than you will see big benefits in a properly created fitness program that’s geared to your individual needs.

#3 It Costs Too Much

Two points to make here. It doesn’t have to cost you anything. Many things can be done free of any expense other than time. Costing too much is also a value judgment. What is it worth to add years of independent living to your life or better brain function or quality of life? It could be as the commercial says, “priceless.”

#2 The Results Aren’t Fast Enough

There are a spectrum of results based on the commitment and effort put in. The contestants on The Biggest Loser show have dramatic results, but they are exercising 6-8 hours/day, eating a special diet, and have no real world distractions. On the other hand, if you start walking a quarter of a mile/day, while it’s a safe, great way to start, the results will be less than dramatic. Results will equal the commitment and effort level.

#1 You Have No Time to Exercise

This is the overwhelmingly most cited reason for not exercising. I get it. Life can be hectic between your job(s), appointments, family, and any chance of down time. How are you supposed to fit in exercise? Here are some thoughts on the time commitments to exercise. It doesn’t have to take that much time and it doesn’t have to all be done at once.

A Recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine states that “Every US adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.” Even if you did it seven days a week, that’s only 3.5 hours/week. Think about that. You could exercise for 10 minutes, 3 times per day and still get significant results.

Another example: I’m currently working with the 4 minute, high intensity Tabata protocol that can give tremendous results (not for new exercisers).

The point is it doesn’t have to take a big chunk out of your day. Now think about the things that you do daily that might not be as important or beneficial to your life. Could you drop a half hour of television, or video games, or procrastinating (about anything) to make room for exercise? Could you get up a half hour earlier? What things are worth trimming back on to live a longer, healthier life?

Side note: Care-givers are often very susceptible to illness and injury because they focus on others and don’t take care of themselves. If you don’t have your health, you may not be able to help others.

Has this helped you find a cure for Exercise Excuse-itis? I hope it has. I’ll leave you with this thought. There’s a great cartoon by John Sifferman in which a doctor, consulting with a patient says, “What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?”

Mark Nutting, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT-AR*D, National Strength and Conditioning Association’s 2009 Personal Trainer of the Year, holds 12 certifications in the field and has 30 years experience in personal training. A national presenter and an educator of Personal Trainers, Mark’s areas of expertise include weight loss, post-rehab conditioning, and brain fitness. Mark contributes regularly to the Guiding Stars Blog.