Don’t let excuses keep you inactive

Mary Ganzel

Mary Ganzel

Finding the time and interest to build physical activity into your daily life can sometimes be difficult. We can all come up with excuses to avoid exercise, and I’ve heard many over the years. Here are six common excuses individuals use to explain why they are not active:

— I don’t have enough time;

— Exercise is boring;

— I don’t know how to exercise;

— I’m too tired;

— It’s too hot/too cold/raining;

— I don’t feel like it.

Here are some suggestions to breaking down each of these barriers.

If you commonly say you don’t have time to exercise, keep a diary of your daily activities for a week. Use the diary to assess how much spare time you actually have — you may have more time than you think.

If finding a spare 30 minutes each day to exercise is too difficult, break up your exercise sessions into two 15-minute blocks, or even into three 10-minute blocks. You’ll still reap the fitness benefits.

Combine two priorities — family time and exercise. For example, instead of playing board games or watching television together as a family, get physical together. You could play backyard kickball, go to your local swimming pool or take a walk through the park. Rather than add another component to your already busy life, incorporate physical activity into your current daily activities. For example, get off the bus or train one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way to work. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a brisk 15-minute walk at lunchtime.

Sometimes lack of interest is the problem rather than lack of time. If you think exercise is boring, try exercising with a friend, join a local walking group or take up a team sport. Physical activity doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit.

Think back to physical activities you enjoyed as a child. Did you love to roller skate, ride your bike or jump on a trampoline? Did you play a team sport? Revisit these activities and you may find them just as enjoyable today.

Change the way you think about physical activity. Don’t think that exercise must be painful or dull in order to be ‘good’ for you. Physical activity is all about getting more movement into your day. The activities should also be fun. Find a physical hobby like dancing or gardening. Mix it up.

Plan to participate in a range of physical activities. If there are television programs you hate to miss, consider the purchase of home exercise equipment such as a stationary bike or treadmill, so you can work out while you watch.

If being physically active is not something you are familiar with and you feel you need some assistance, there are individuals who can help you get started. See your doctor for suggestions and support when embarking on a physical activity program.Visit your local gym or sports facility, and ask for help. Don’t go it alone — that’s a recipe for failure. Through your membership dues, you pay for assistance from staff members. Take advantage of their expertise. Try every fitness class in the gym until you find some that appeal to you. Ask some of your physically active friends if you can come along during their next exercise session. Learn about the variety of opportunities for physical activity in your area.

If you feel you are unfit, there is something you can do, even if you’re not in the best of health. Sometimes, activity can actually help you feel better. See your doctor for a full medical check-up before starting a physical activity program if you have a medical condition or are over age 40.

Your doctor can assist you in making changes to your lifestyle. Investigate your medical condition. Talk to your doctor or local support group, or browse through the internet to find physical activities that may be appropriate for you. Choose an activity that feels comfortable. For example, swimming may be suitable because the buoyancy of the water supports your body.

Start slowly. Begin by exercising for about 10 minutes every day. Gradually increase the time and intensity as your fitness improves. Don’t push yourself too hard. If an activity hurts, decrease the intensity or stop altogether. Pain is a sign that there is something wrong.

If you feel you are too tired, realize that there are many of us that feel this way. Life can be exhausting but, amazingly, the more active you are, the more energy you will have for everything else in your life. Try to be active on most days of the week and you’ll soon feel more energetic. The fitter you are, the more energy you have.

Rearrange your schedule if you can, so that you can be active in the morning rather than at night. Exercise during your lunch break or build activity into your commute to work by cycling or walking part or all of the way. Improve your diet. Healthy foods can boost your energy levels. Try to get more sleep.

Although it’s easy to say you can’t exercise because of the weather, there’s always something you can do, regardless of the weather. Find a variety of indoor and outdoor options so that weather can’t interfere with your exercise plans. Choose indoor activities, such as working out to an exercise video or stationary cycling, on days when you don’t want to exercise outdoors. Work out in a gym or swim at your local pool. Take a brisk walk through your local air-conditioned shopping mall.

Do you find yourself saying, “I don’t feel like it?” Changing our habits isn’t easy, but once you start to feel better you will see the benefits of the changes you’ve made. If you don’t feel like being active, try to identify your barriers to physical activity. Browse through the Internet and read up on the benefits of physical activity. For example, regular exercise eases depression and anxiety, aids in weight loss, improves sleep and helps to manage back pain. Find personal motivations to become more active.

Choose solitary pursuits, like working out to an exercise video, if you feel uncomfortable exercising in front of other people. Make sure your goals are reasonable. Avoid the “all-or-nothing” trap of thinking that physical activity is a waste of time if it can’t make you super-fit or super-slim.

Make appointments with yourself in your diary. Find yourself an exercise buddy. You are more likely to commit to regular physical activity if you have someone else relying on you.

To sum it up, the best sort of physical activity is the one you enjoy, because that is the one that you will maintain. Identify your personal barriers to exercise. Try to incorporate physical activity into your daily life. Find physical activities that appeal to you. Exercise doesn’t have to be dull.

Mary Ganzel is senior program director at the Albany Area YMCA. She has a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Kentucky and has worked in the fitness industry for more than 25 years. She’s been certified through multiple national organizations over the years as a personal trainer, exercise test technologist, health promotion director, group exercise instructor, Cycle Reebok instructor and Pilates instructor through Cooper Institute, American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, Aerobic Fitness Association of America and the Young Mens Christian Association.