I love to exercise. The way I choose to exercise isn’t a tedious chore – it’s a source of great joy! I know that you might find it hard to believe that exercise doesn’t have to be just one more thing health care professionals tell you to do; it can actually become something you want to do. But trust me, it can!
I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again how important exercise is. You’ve probably made many promises to yourself to find something that gets you moving regularly. But have you been dragging your feet? Is something holding you back, even if you know that you feel better when you get regular physical activity? If so, I think I know why. You simply haven’t found the ideal exercise for you.
Just because your best friend loves to run doesn’t mean you will. And the good news is, there are so many amazing options to get your body moving that you don’t have to! If you try to force yourself to do something you hate, it’s likely that you’ll come up with plenty of excuses to avoid it. That’s why it’s so essential to find an activity you’re passionate about — when you do, finding the time and motivation to participate will be so much easier!
No form of exercise is perfect for everyone. Lucky for us, there’s no shortage of options. But you might have to think outside the box a little. I adore ballroom dancing. It’s social, active and just plain fun! Dance gets me moving regularly and boosts my spirits at the same time. But dance won’t be what inspires everyone. Don’t get discouraged – be patient, and keep trying until you find a physical activity that also reaches your emotional center. That connection to your inner self is what can really motivate you to not only get started, but keep going!
Let’s take a quick look at why exercise is so important and what kinds of exercise can be most beneficial. Then I’ll talk about five common reasons people give for why they don’t exercise, and my thoughts on how to get past those excuses and get moving!
Why is Exercise Important?
There is an immense body of research spanning more than 50 years that clearly demonstrates the benefits of regular exercise. Ample evidence also exists connecting inactivity with many chronic health issues. In fact, an article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2009 called physical inactivity “the biggest health problem of the 21st century.” While that might seem extreme, when you think about all the health issues physical inactivity can lead to, it’s actually quite accurate.
A 2012 article stated that physical inactivity is pandemic, and the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. Does that startle you as much as it did me? I know that physical inactivity contributes to mental health issues, cardiovascular health, increased risk of type 2 diabetes and much more — but I had never thought about the way that all these issues combined contributed to risk of death from non-communicable diseases.
With so many documented benefits to getting enough exercise – including better sleep, weight loss or maintenance, improved mental health and cardiovascular health, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and an increased chance for a longer life, the real question is why wouldn’t you exercise? The key, as I said before, is to find the type that not only reaps the most benefits, but that makes you want to do it.
Which Type of Exercise is Best?
There’s a lot to be said for the camaraderie that can be found in an exercise class or at a gym, but if you’re just starting out, it can be tricky to discover the ideal exercise for you. And the terminology used to describe workouts can be more confusing than helpful if you aren’t a fitness professional.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has enjoyed a spike in popularity in the past few years, partly due to research that suggested that more intense workouts in shorter periods of time could provide the same results as longer workouts with less intensity. Let’s face it – everyone is pressed for time these days, and we all wish we could fit more into our busy days.
It’s certainly appealing to think about getting the same results in less time, but I encourage caution with HIIT. Injury is more likely when training at an intensity not well suited for your fitness level. If improved health is your intention, pushing yourself to the point of injury defeats the purpose.
Sometimes, fitness facilities are calling their workouts HIIT when in reality they are High Volume Interval Training (HVIT) where more work intervals are performed with shorter rest periods. This could mean even more risk of injury due to insufficient rest periods.
Variable Intensity Interval Training (VIIT), on the other hand, just might offer the best of both worlds. This type of workout rotates between high, medium and low intensity intervals, incorporating cardio, strength and mind/body activities into one workout. VIIT also allows for effort between 40 and 90 percent, and is easier for individuals to tailor the workout to meet their own needs.
These are just a few options, and organized group classes aren’t the only way to go. What’s most important is that you get a balance of both cardio workouts, where your heart rate increases, and strength training. To find the ideal exercise for your needs, you should reflect on a few questions: do you like indoor or outdoor activities more? What is your current fitness level? What level of intensity are you looking for? Do you prefer group exercise, or would you rather be alone?
5 Common Reasons People Don’t Exercise
Sometimes, the reason you’re making excuses for not exercising is because you haven’t taken the time to evaluate what you really enjoy. Let’s take a look at some common things people tell me when I ask why they don’t exercise, and I’ll give you some hints on how to push those excuses aside and take action.
1. I Don’t Have Time for Exercise
This is probably the excuse I hear most often. Listen, I get it. Life is crazy, and it’s hard enough to balance work obligations and family time. But here’s the thing — you deserve time for yourself too! And if you take steps to keep yourself healthy, your work and your family life will benefit. I also know that we find the time for things we love — that’s why you have to get creative about exercise. Taking your children to the park and playing tag for 10 minutes counts as exercise, as does a brisk walk at lunch time, dancing with your significant other, and even taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator.
2. I Am Too Out of Shape – I Don’t Know Where to Begin!
I understand that it’s intimidating to get started when you’ve been sedentary too long. That’s why I recommend starting small and working your way up. Do some research online, or ask a professional for help if needed. If walking into a class seems too intimidating, start at home with a video. Remember, the only way to change your fitness level is to start moving – and everyone has to start somewhere!
3. I Can Barely Get Through the Day – I Simply Don’t Have the Energy to Exercise
I know it seems odd, but one of the best ways to build the energy to exercise is to simply get up and move. Exercise gets your heart pumping oxygen to key places – your brain, muscles, and tissues – faster than usual. Not only that, but when you exercise, neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and other natural endorphins are released, boosting your energy levels and making you feel better. So even though it may be hard to get started, it’s worth the extra effort it takes!
4. Exercising is Too Expensive
This excuse makes me chuckle, because there are so many forms of exercise that cost little to nothing at all! If you already have a pair of good sneakers, you can start walking without any extra expenditure. If you don’t, you can find a decent pair at low cost – and you need shoes anyway, right?
There are plenty of videos available on streaming services like Netflix or YouTube, so if you already subscribe, check out the options there in the comfort of your own home. If you really want a gym or classes, don’t assume they’re all out of reach financially. A friend of mine has a membership to her local community center for $32 a month – and she can take as many classes as she wants (and they offer plenty)!
5. Exercise Just Isn’t Fun
This last one means you haven’t found the ideal exercise for you yet. There’s no reason at all that exercise can’t be fun – but you may have to reframe your thinking on what exercise is! Maybe aerobics classes aren’t your thing, but rock climbing gives you a thrill. Or the thought of running makes you cringe, but you’ve always loved to swim. Any form of activity counts – even cleaning the house is better than staying sedentary all day, if keeping things spotless is your idea of fun!
Your Ideal Exercise Can Bring You Joy and Good Health!
Have you started to rethink those tired old excuses you’ve been relying on? Are you looking at your leisure time choices differently? You just might find that the things you already love can double as your workout!
Take dancing, for instance. You might not have ever considered ballroom dancing as a workout, but let’s think about that. Dancing has built in rest periods while switching partners or waiting for the next song to begin. And there are varying levels of intensity, depending on whether you are doing a slow waltz or a vigorous cha cha. It may not fit the actual definition of a VIIT workout, but in my view, it’s perfect!
My point is, you don’t have to do anything you hate. Find what motivates you, and try to increase your activity level a little bit each day. I think you’ll love how you feel – mentally and physically!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD