For every reason that exercising is good for you, there also seems to be an excuse to avoid it. Are you trying to start/get back into exercising regularly but find the excuses you make just too compelling? Have you set a goal that you’re having trouble with? You’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that 40%1 of us make a New Year’s resolution to eat better, drink less alcohol, or exercise more often, and sadly, a staggering 88% fail to keep those resolutions.1 If you are struggling to keep a goal to exercise more, I’ve got your back. After all, who couldn’t use a bit more encouragement?
Excuse #1: I don’t have time to exercise.
No one doubts that you’re busy. But breaking up exercise into smaller pockets of time can make scheduling a lot easier and keep in mind that being more active provides you with greater health benefits.
You can achieve health benefits from exercise by accumulating a few ten-minute exercise sessions several times a day.2 Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week.2 That works out to about 20 minutes each day, which can be further broken down into 10 minutes in both the morning and the evening.
Adding more activity to your day by parking the car a bit farther from the office and taking the stairs or getting off the elevator a few floors early and walking the rest of the way can add up fast. Or, try doing resistance exercises during the commercial breaks when watching TV, like push-ups, triceps dips and sit-ups (that’s about 10 minutes of activity right there!).
Excuse #2: My back/knees/hips hurt. I don’t want to make that worse.
Research suggests that the symptoms of joint pain and fatigue related to conditions such as arthritis are made better by exercise3,6,7 and those who participate in exercise programs experience improved quality of life.5,6,7 The key is to build up the intensity and duration of exercise over time. Those with hip and knee osteoarthritis may benefit from starting with pool-based exercises, which have been shown to improve function and quality of life in the short term, making it possible to progress to other types of exercise.6 Moving stiff or arthritic joints through their available range of movement helps to improve their flexibility13 and overall function.
Are you struggling with a new injury, instead of long term aches and pains? If so, you may need to modify your exercise intensity or choose a different activity, however continuing with a modified program has been shown to lead to better outcomes in the long term and helps you to maintain your exercise habit. For example, if your shoulder is too painful to consider lifting weights, go for a walk or consider leg and/or core exercises instead.
Still unsure? Your physiotherapist or health-care provider can help you create a routine that you can comfortably complete, and help you to avoid injury in the future.
Excuse #3: I have no energy.
Regularly participating in exercise gives you more energy! Much of the research that supports this statement studied groups with chronic health conditions, showing that routine participation in exercise has a positive impact on both perceived fatigue and quality of life.4,8,9,10 Adults without chronic health conditions also benefit from improved sleep and quality of life when they participate with exercise on a regular basis.11
It may be hard to get motivated when you’re feeling tired, but sticking it out could really pay off in the end!
Excuse #4: I hate running!
Who said anything about running? Fact is that if you try to force yourself to do an activity you hate, you won’t do it for long. Try out several different activities to identify the things you love and work from there, making them more physically challenging, or increasing the time you spend doing the activity to get an exercise benefit.
Excuse #5: I don’t have the money for a gym membership.
You don’t need to go to the gym to exercise. You can achieve health benefits simply from walking. All you need is a pair of shoes. If the weather prevents you from walking outside, check for indoor locations in your community that have a walking track, or large open space, such as a mall, the local arena or a senior’s center. Also, body weight exercises such as push-ups, planks, lunges, etc. don’t require any equipment. If you’re able, you could invest in some inexpensive home equipment such as a skipping rope, free weights or exercise DVDs.
Excuse #6: I’m a healthy weight, I don’t need to exercise.
There’s a difference between being physically fit and having a healthy weight. Results from long-term population studies have shown that a low fitness level, as measured through an exercise test, is a strong predictor of mortality and accounts for more deaths than other risk factors including smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes.12 In other words, it is possible to have a healthy weight and still be inactive and unfit. Participating in exercise not only reduces your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some types of cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis,12 it reduces your risk of death, whether you lose weight by exercising or not.
Excuse #7: I don’t like to sweat.
I know you think you’ve got me with that one, after all, if you want to experience a benefit from exercise you need to work a bit, and probably break a sweat… but wait! Why not try aqua fit or deep water jogging at your local pool? Or consider doing your exercise routine immediately before you plan on jumping into the shower, that way, you don’t have to be sweaty for long.
Excuse #8: I don’t know where to begin or how to exercise.
Many gym facilities offer personal training services or have complimentary orientation sessions so you can learn about the different pieces of equipment in the gym before trying them out. A good place to start is by simply finding ways to add more physical activity to your day and/or increasing your steps each day.
Click here to find a physiotherapist who can tailor an exercise program for your condition, current activity level and your preferences.
This article is not to be taken as medical advice. When starting a new exercise routine, inform your health-care provider.
Wikipedia. New Year’s Resolution. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Year%27s_resolution. Accessed on December 9, 2015.
Canadian Society of Exercise Professionals. Physical Activity Guidelines for adults 18-64 years. Available at: http://www.csep.ca/CMFIles/Guidelines/CSEP_PAGuidelines_adults_en.pdf. Accessed on December 10, 2015.
Callahan LF, Mielenz T, Freburger J, Shreffler J, Hootman J, Brady T, Buysse K, Schwartz T. A randomized controlled trial of the people with arthritis can exercise program: Symptoms, function, physical activity, and psychosocial outcomes. Arthritis & Rheumatism 2008; 59(1): 92-101.
Cramp F, Hewlett S, Almeida C, Kirwan JR, Choy EHS, Chalder T, Pollock J, Christensen R. Non-pharmacological interventions for fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013; Issue 8. Art. No.: CD008322. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008322.pub2.
Takken T, Van Brussel M, Engelbert RH, van der Net JJ, Kuis W, Helders PPJM. Exercise therapy in juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008; Issue 2. Art. No.: CD005954. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005954.pub2.
Bartels EM, Lund H, Hagen KB, Dagfinrud H, Christensen R, Danneskiold-Samsøe B. Aquatic exercise for the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007; Issue 4. Art. No.: CD005523. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005523.pub2.
Fransen M, McConnell S, Hernandez-Molina G, Reichenbach S. Exercise for osteoarthritis of the hip. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014; Issue 4. Art. No.: CD007912. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007912.pub2.
Mishra SI, Scherer RW, Snyder C, Geigle PM, Berlanstein DR, Topaloglu O. Exercise interventions on health-related quality of life for people with cancer during active treatment. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012; Issue 8. Art. No.: CD008465. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008465.pub2.
Larun L, Brurberg KG, Odgaard-Jensen J, Price JR. Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015; Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003200. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003200.pub3.
McCarthy B, Casey D, Devane D, Murphy K, Murphy E, Lacasse Y. Pulmonary rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015; Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003793. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003793.pub3.
Alberta Centre for Active Living. Benefits of physical activity. Available at: https://www.centre4activeliving.ca/media/filer_public/28/a4/28a4659b-1516-47e2-845d-d95bc8856213/e-benefits.pdf. Accessed on December 10, 2015.
Blair SN, Morris JN. Healthy hearts-and the universal benefits of being physically active: Physical activity and health. Annals of Epidemiology 2009; 19(4): 253-256.
The Arthritis Society. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Treatments-physical activity. Available at: http://arthritis.ca/understand-arthritis/types-of-arthritis/rheumatoid-arthritis#Treatments. Accessed December 10, 2015.