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3 Real Reasons You Aren't Exercising

By , Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer
Do you ever get tired of hearing people say that no excuse is a good excuse? If you aren’t exercising as consistently as you'd like to, it could be because you have some real obstacles—not just excuses—holding you back.
So what should you do when you really can’t exercise?
Here are three, get-started-now action steps to help you overcome some serious fitness obstacles.

Exercise Obstacle #1: You literally don’t have a second to spare.

Yes, some people are too busy to exercise. But is there any hope? Of course there is.

Action Step #1: Reframe Your Definition of ‘Exercise’

We’re guessing you may have a second or two (you are reading this post, aren’t you?), but there are some days when squeezing in a real workout is truly impossible. On those totally time-crunched days, you may need to redefine what exercise really means. Remember, you don’t have to be in workout clothes to be active! Back in the day, when people worked the land and had active lifestyles, there was no need for separate "exercise." It was just all in a day’s work.

Can you make exercise part of your day’s work? Look for ways to work your body as much as possible during your day (carrying children, loading the car, cleaning) -- anything that involves you moving your body counts.

Action Step #2: Be Extra Diligent With Your Diet

Exercise is important for a healthy body and extra calorie burning (for weight management), but on days when you know you don’t have time for a workout, being extra diligent with your diet is key to staying on track with your weight-loss goals. On average, a 30-minute workout burns only about 250-300 calories (depending on your weight), so on non-exercise days, focus on simple ways to eat healthier and cut back your calorie intake to keep maintaining or losing weight.

Action Step #3: Stand As Often As You Can

What’s one of the easiest ways to burn more calories all day long without having to break a sweat? Stand up! You’ll engage more muscles and burn almost twice as many calories as sitting. Some studies show that we are sitting as much as 56 hours a week (typical for many office workers!) can seriously hurt your health. In fact, a study from Northwestern University found that even women who exercise regularly sit just as much as those who don’t, making them just as prone to prolonged sitting-related diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and even obesity. Just can’t stand up as often as you need to at the office? Try chair marching instead! No one will know you are moving but you, and you can keep typing away at your computer.

Exercise Obstacle #2: You are absolutely exhausted.

They say exercise boosts your energy levels, but what if you are too tired to even begin moving?

Action Step #1: Get To The Root Of Your Exhaustion

The truth is, exercise can only offer very limited benefits if you are stressed and tired, which is why it’s important to pinpoint exactly why you are so tired before you even think of trying to work out. Are you trying to fit in too much? Eating too many processed foods? Not sleeping enough? All of the above? Create a plan to permanently remedy the cause of your fatigue by making a conscious effort to get enough quality sleep, improve the quality of your diet (by eating as much fresh stuff as possible) and pare down unnecessary activities (don’t be afraid to ask for help!) to conserve your energy.

Action Step #2: Take a Power Nap 

If you are just too tired to even begin to think about working out, take a power nap instead. Exercising when you are drained can be a fruitless endeavor and could even put you at risk for injury. Instead, take a brief, 15-20 minute power nap to recharge. But avoid the urge to sleep longer; most experts recommend sleeping no more than 20 minutes during the day to avoid waking up feeling groggier or interrupting your evening sleep schedule, so set your alarm!

Action Step #3: Do Some Gentle Movement

After your power nap, try up to 30 minutes of some soothing, gentle movement such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong or gentle yoga to help replenish your body and restore your energy levels.

Obstacle #3: You are injured or working with physical limitations.

When you physically cannot exercise—or move much without limitations or pain—it can be tough to know where to start or whether exercise is even good for you.
Action Strategy #1: Talk with Your Health Care Specialist

First things first: Determine exactly what is (and is not) safe for you to do based on your current situation. Never attempt to exercise with an injury unless you’ve received your doctor’s clearance first. You may find that you aren’t as limited in what you can do, and your doctor or physical therapist may have some great suggestions on how to stay active with your specific injury.

Action Strategy #2: Get Creative

Once you’ve gotten your doc’s OK to move safely, brainstorm some creative ways to work out with your personal limitations. In some cases, Pilates or aquatic exercise may be appropriate, and actually very beneficial to your recovery. Or, if you are more limited with your lower body mobility, for example, it may be the perfect time to focus on building your upper body strength training, chair yoga or other seated workouts.

Action Strategy #3: Focus on What You Can Do for Someone Else

Sure, it can be a big bummer when you aren’t able to stick to your typical workout routine because of an injury. But don’t let that discourage you, and try not to feel sorry for yourself! The best way to stay active and feel better about your current situation is to lend a hand to someone else. Think about ways you can offer your time to others. Could you spend some time visiting with patients at a nursing home? Help out at a soup kitchen? Maybe even simply teach a neighbor how to knit or sew? Sharing the gift of your time and presence with someone else can help you stay in good spirits (and even moving) when sidelined with an injury.

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Obstacle numbers 4 and 5: you're in pain and/or depressed. I think it's time to see the doctor. Report
Obstacle numbers 4 and 5: you're in pain and/or depressed. I think it's time to see the doctor. Report
Shoot...not a one of those work for me as an excuse. Thanks for holding up the mirror in front of me! Report
Sometimes I just really don't want to do it. However, I strive to get in at least 10,000 steps/day and one of my favorite tricks (especially if I know I'm going to by-pass the gym after work) is to take a couple of "non-smoking breaks" - 10 minute walks through the parking garage or on the outdoor trail outside my office. Report
HAHAHA! Some of the most saving graces for most of us is: A GREAT sense of humor. I'm 76 with almost bone-on-bone knees, broken tail-bone, fibro, arthritis, Diabetes, etc. That said, I can still walk; so, that's what I do. It helps to get together with friends!!!! We usually walk in grocery stores or the mall. Even my grandsons (7 & 9) like to go with me--especially if I bribe them. Make it fun! And don't forget to :D often. Smile at everyone you see--even if they don't smile back. It's for U! Report
Okay... None of those apply to me... so I'd better just stop making excuses. Report
my major problem is that I lost my motivation. I know everyone keeps saying find a friend but I don't have a friend and I don't know how to find a good friend. I have suffered a lot from bad friends who end up stabbing me in the back for no reason other than they can. So I am not sure I want to go through this experience again. I always looked for friends and went the extra mile to try and make my friends happy and or stick around or pay attention to me or love me but I always failed because only people who want something from you be-friend you. At least this is what I lived through.
So no friends, only a good husband who wants me to lose weight but doesn't really care much if I don't. I don't have anyone who can help me find my spark. Maybe I am wrong in that too. But it is so hard to do things alone. that is first reason. Second reason is I lost my momentum and I stopped believing in myself. I now find any excuse as simple as it can be to not go to the gym and to not workout. Report
This was a great article! My problem was lack of energy. I slept all night and half the day, and the other half I just sat or laid around. And I was always tired. I finally managed to talk myself into going out for just "a 10 minute walk". Once I got out there I ended up doing the full lap around my apartment complex, which gave me a 22 minute walk. The fringe benefit was that I had a little more energy the rest of the day. I slept well that night, and woke up ready to get up and do something the next morning, rather than sleep until 3 pm. All it took was getting myself out there one time to get the train moving. Report
I really liked this article. After reading it I don' feel quite so guilty for not finding the time to exercise. I live with my son and daughter-in-law and their two teenage boys. I take care of most of the household duties. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, doctors appointments, sports activities, two very active dogs. I also take care of my husband who is much older than me and quite ill most of the time. By the end of the day I'm totally exhausted ( I'm not as young as I used to be.) I am very diligent about tracking my food even though it is quite late by the time I get to it. I try to track my exercise but since most of my activity is not considered formal exercise, I can't really tell how many calories are being burned. At least now I know that all the running around and work I have to do counts for something. Thanks for the great article. Report
My right knee is injured. Tomorrow night I will have an MRI & x-ray to see what's wrong with it. I discovered today I could "dance" sitting down. I do have some strength exercises given to me by my PT. Thanks for the encouraging article. Report
My obstacles include fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. I'm doing well right now so getting lots more exercise. But, I can crash at any time and not able to even move at times. I know that if I do what I can when I can I am more able to bounce back from the crashes. Report
Great post! I was doing great and consistent for about 6 months, but then I caught a cold, weather changed, it's now dark when I get home, I was out of town and I'm totally exhausted. I have only been off track about a week and I WILL be back at it no later than this weekend. :)

What it really is, is a disruption to my routine. I'm focusing on getting enough sleep and getting back on track. Report
Number 3 is my reason for not exercising regularly. Thank you so much for this article. I have severe arthritis in both knees, a bad back, and chronic daily migraine. The arthritis and back don't slow me down so much as my head. Last night I did some toning exercises, but doing aerobics is difficult. The extra blood flow to my brain leaves me on the couch for two hours after exercising. I just try to do a little every day. I'm not losing weight, but I am maintaining. :(
My Pilates or jog time after a stressful day as an assistant principal is my "treat" for a hard day's work! When I'm working out, I release the stressors of the day and relax into an evening that leads to a sweet night's sleep.....until....."rRRRRIIIINNNGG
GGGG!!", the alarm wakes me to do it all over again. :0) Report
I just had back issues after losing 15 lbs and almost 15 inches put a huge damper on my workout routine, became a bit depressed-- this also was the time my grandson was born and going through problems. As of yesterday, about 3 weeks since I have exercised I got back on the treadmill for 12 minutes.......... today did 15 of walking. So, my plan after discussing with my doctor my back issues is to walk slowly, and do Pilates everyday.....slow and steady. So I have had to overcome being injured after I finally was on a roll losing weight. I have watched what I have eaten over the past few weeks also. Report
I don't exercise because I'm just too depressed to even start. Even though my brain knows that I have to exercise to lose weight, and I know I can't get to my goal of being in shape (even if I don't lose a lot of weight) without strength training, etc., the place I am now and the place I want to go seem so far apart that it's disheartening. I manage to be consistent for a week or so, but don't maintain it. I have VERY limited space at home, and to even get to an "open" space is a challenge the way the house is laid out. I don't have the money to join a gym (when I did, I went 3-4 times a week). I DO walk my dogs and ride my bike with them, but that's hard this time of year. SO, this article makes a lot of sense, but I don't know if I can manage one more thing in space, time, organization, etc. Report
lot of interesting information.... thanks for sharing Report
This article is great. What excellent, positive, can do options for everyone. I personally get up at 3 or 4AM so that I can work out before my daughter gets up and before I have to leave for work. I won't lie and say that it's a great time to wake up, but I always feel great after I work out, and feel very lucky to have a husband at home to stay with my daughter so I can fit it in! I never regret it and I never miss a day! Report
great article. I might not be able to control my sleep/wake cycle because of external damands, but because of this article at least I am not beating myself up for not being the all-time, super workout goddess! I DO try to make my errands at home inconvenient, such as having to make multiple trips up and down stairs to get things instead of carrying everything up at once. Standing for long periods of time? Oh yeah... my back and legs feel it, especially when wearing the sketchers rounded sole sneakers all day. Report
Interesting. Report
I just enjoy doing other things better than working out. Also, I am recently back in the work force after having been a stay at home mom for twelve years and I do my job and then start my after-job job trying to cook, clean, and shuttle kids to after school activities. But before even reading this article I did attend a picnic today at a park and took time while the food was cooking (my dh was in charge) to take a walk. So it can be fit in here and there, I just need to figure it all out. Report
BRAVO! This is the first article I have read about reasons for not exercising that hit home. Report
Great post! Thank you! Report
I cannot (and won't) comment on other's reasons. Generally for me its been because I WASTED time on other things and am too darn cotton picking LAZY. THAT HAS TO CHANGE!!!! Great article, by the way, - I too liked the fact that solutions were OFFERED rather than simple criticism.I do know I feel better physically and mentally for exercising - for those of you with physical limitations - try doing something- anything is BETTER than nothing- you WILL get better in the long run!! Report
I can't straight my hands and mu feet. I can't lift 5 pounds. I'm in bed almost 24 hour a day. Report
Love this article because it resolves the issue of excuses not to exercise by providing solutions. The star of one of my favorite shows coined the phrase "I don't embrace excuses I embrace solutions" and this article does just that. Thanks for giving people who claim that they can't find time to exercise something to work with. Report
I have chronic pain (back, hips, butt, front of thighs, groin) from arthritis of the spine. I used to avoid exercise and the pounds piled on.

I joined Spark a few years ago and realized I had to do some kind of exercise to get those pounds off, and decided that anything was better than nothing. I started with 5 minutes and increased slowly. My limit now is 20 minutes a session. It's not much but it did help me lose most of the weight I wanted.

My approach now is to do some kind of exercise every day. I try not to let the pain be an excuse to sit around. If the pain is too much and I feel I can't exercise then I take a day off. Otherwise I tell myself to try 5 minutes then I can stop. Most of the time I keep going and complete my 20 minutes. Report
My issues right now are in my head. I exercised religiously for a year and lost 93 pounds. I've gained 20 and just can't get back into the game. Stress is the culprit, due to really big job worries. But I'm trying to get back into in gradually. I don't have to run for an hour 3 days a week and spend two hours at the gym two days a week. I can take baby steps. So that's what I'm trying. Sure wish I could flip that switch and get back into my old habits. Report
I needed this article as well. I am lacking motivation right now. Report
Found out my Ferratin levels were WAY low. Been on supplements for months and now able to take care of my body better. :) Report
Great article. I work two jobs, and overtime, averaging around eighty to one hundred hours a week. I find the time to exercise because it's a priority for me. I know I can't get in shape and lose weight without it, and honestly, my energy levels are so much better when I do exercise -- it's amazing! Thanks for the encouragement. Now, off to work I go until 8pm tonight. Then I'm hitting the gym. :-) Report
I need this article and a kick in the butt. Report
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