How to overcome your exercise excuses

How to overcome your exercise excuses

By Jean Harvey, Ph.D., R.D., & Joyce Hendley

It’s easy to come up with reasons why you can’t exercise — but sometimes you spend more time arguing with yourself than it takes to fit in an exercise session. The easiest way to overcome your exercise excuses is to be prepared for them. Identify the reasons you most often give (yourself) for not being able to exercise — and think of a few ways to work around them. Here are our top tips for overcoming exercise excuses.

The excuse: “I don’t have enough time.”

Try these solutions:

–Break exercise into smaller segments. Try for three 10-minute segments a day, and you might find it’s easier to fit into your schedule than one 30-minute session.

–Multitask. Do stretches while watching TV, or crunches during the commercial breaks.

–Adjust your schedule. Say, get up a half-hour earlier to walk, or take a shorter lunch break so you can fit in a quick walk before going back to work.

–Make it a nonnegotiable routine. Block off a time each day for exercise, so you (and friends and family) can plan around it. If you need to write it in your planner to make it happen, do it!

The excuse: “I’m too embarrassed to exercise.”

Try these solutions:

–Bring a friend along for moral support. Walk in a neighborhood where you’re not likely to run into anyone you know.

–Work out at home with an exercise DVD.

–Try a gym that feels comfortable and friendly. Most welcome all sizes and fitness levels.

The excuse: “Exercise is too hard.”

Try these solutions:

–Take it slow and steady. Start with a comfortable amount of activity and add a little more each day.

–Try walking as exercise. It’s already part of your day, so just try to add a few extra steps when you can. Park farther from the store entrance, or do your errands around town on foot, rather than driving.

–Listen to your body. Don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion, and make sure you alternate harder efforts with rest days and workouts during which you can easily talk with a workout partner without gasping for breath.

–Keep going. If you’ve got minor aches, take it easier the next day but don’t stop altogether. Gentle movement helps sore muscles recover.

The excuse: “I just don’t like to exercise — at all.”

Try these solutions:

–Try joining a walking group, exercising with a friend or listening to music while you move. Maybe you just haven’t found the right kind of exercise yet. And if you still haven’t found the activity you enjoy, keep looking! There are countless different types of exercise out there, and not all of them require going to a gym. Hiking, dancing, yoga and riding a bike all count — and will help you burn calories and get in better shape.

–Focus on adding more lifestyle exercise to your day. Vacuuming or gardening counts as exercise.

–Use your journal to record your thoughts and feelings about exercise — they can help you find a way around your exercise demons. Maybe you’re simply trying to exercise at a time of day that just doesn’t work for you, or maybe your workout partner is driving you nuts. Feel free to change things up!

EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at