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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CKEYES1 1/7/2020
I never nap Report
GABY1948 11/26/2019
Thanks Report
KHALIA2 9/29/2019
Thanks! Report
KHALIA2 9/2/2019
Thank you! Report
KHALIA2 9/2/2019
Great Article! Thanks! Report
BANEWLAND 8/20/2019
Thanks! Report
KAYAHSLOANE1 8/14/2019
A decent article, its good to incorporate movement into your day but exercise is better. Report
EMGERBER 8/10/2019
It takes allot work and planning to make exercise a regular part of your life and in the beginning it is not easy but it is do able. Report
I have a back-ache , knee and leg problems, cancer, a bad cold or namoya. I feel sick all the time . Report
XREPHA 6/18/2019
Right now whats hindering my exercise program is time and limitation. Time because I'm taking care of my elderly parents which is such a privilege! Limitations due to a back injury. Seeing a doctor for the back. But I do have a standing desk at work so that helps. Report
MOKACHYNA 6/18/2019
Morning is the best time for me to workout. It’s over and done and I don’t have to find any extra time. Report
OBIESMOM2 5/16/2019
I'm a morning person anyway, so morning exercise works well for me. I have found over the years that if I plan a workout for after work, a dozen things will come up that keep me from exercising.
I started walking my friend's dog for him (he has a bad hip & cannot walk her). That helps because even when I don't feel like doing anything, I know she's waiting for me to come get her.

WONDERGALE 5/12/2019
Thanks! Report
KHALIA2 4/1/2019
Thank you for this great article! Report
ROBINVOTAW 3/23/2019
My reason is that I don't know how to manage workout clothes, meaning getting them clean between workouts. Do I just accept it means more dirty clothes? Do people re-wear sweaty clothes after they dry? Report
PLATINUM755 3/9/2019
I stopped thinking about it as exercise but FUNctional activities and started with activities I always thought was fun or wanted to do, i.e., dance, roller blades, hula hoop, skip it toy, swings. Report
SPINECCO 1/25/2019
Thanks for sharing. Report
Thank you! Report
I go to the gym on M, W, and F. Report
I am on restriction from my doctor until this weekend, but I can walk as long it is at a stroll type pace. I have done that on the days when I am well enough. However, I have been using my time to watch new exercise videos that I might want to try once I get my strength back. I am really looking forward to my first workout on Saturday. Report
yes very interesting Report
I have some chronic medical issues that keep cropping up and I do get frustrated, but this helps me. Thanks! Report
Great tips! Thanks! Report
great article Report
Thanks. Report
Excellent article. Good need-to-know information. Report
Got to do the hard work Report
Thanks, great article Report
Personal lessons learned: 1. Only you can decide that you want to get healthier; 2. Every little step in the right direction counts! 3. Do not wait until you FEEL like it, do it anyway. Then momentum takes over Report
Great advice! Thank you! Report
These are some really good tips. Thank you! Report
Thank You for a great article. Report
thank you Report
Good inspiration! Report
Good inspiration! Report
Pure laziness for me. Report
great article Report
Easily bored. Try to exercise while watching TV. Report
I get borde easily doing a work out or that that pain is unbearable when working out Report
It's uncomfortable, plain and simple. Report
I have a hard time staying still most of the time. Report
I like staying active. Keeping busy makes me feel accomplished. Report
I can't do anything for exercise but walk and Tai Chi since having cataract surgery. It's only for a month but I was surprised how much I miss my yoga classes and strength training. I can't wait to get back to them! That sure doesn't sound like me😀. Report
Obstacle- injured and depressed about iy Report
Obstacles 4 and 5 exhausted and depressed. Report
Aerobic Exercise HAS a DEFINITION: movement that raises your heart-rate to at least 70% of your maximum heart rate for at least 10 minutes straight. So go ahead, reframe your idea of exercise... as long as those kids you are carrying raise your heart rate enough and you carry them for at least 10 minutes at that elevated rate!
Exercise is NOT easy; that's why it is called a work-out, not an easy out!
That said, all movement is to the good, but all movement is NOT exercise! Report
There are plenty of chair workouts to do if you have limitations. Report
I do very well for quite awhile than I CRASH which is where I am at now. I had been able to walk 30 to 40 mins 2 (or 3) times a day plus yoga. Now my back is WAY OFF so that walk needs to go (I've cut down to even 10 mins one time a day,to much). There ARE though other things I can do to burn off the calories. Tomorrow I am going to go back to chair exercises. oh believe me, , there are some that a healthy person also breaks out a sweat !!! TY for this article for some on Sparks feel Sparks empathizes to much on walking, running. I do not agree since I can easily find video's on Spark TV as well as Youtube. TY ! Report
I have a friend whose arms and legs are crippled from birth. With a supportive mother who must have fought hard for everything for her girl, my friend went on to become a teacher in the special classroom that she herself attended;was awarded Teacher of the Year, learned to drive with special adjustments to her vehicle, and gets her exercise by getting in the local pool and 'walking' back and forth. The pool has a special lift for people with special circumstances, and a supportive family member is her regular 'swim' buddy.
If my friend can accomplish so much, with supportive friends and family, ANYbody can! There are always ways to solve our problems. Report
I don't exercise because I don't feel like it. I've never felt like it. Even decades ago in elementary school I would go out of my way to avoid having to participate in PE classes. This isn't something new--I just don't want to do it. Report