I don’t always feel like exercising. In fact, there are days when I don’t… and not because I’m in any danger of overtraining. There are so many influences on whether or not we get up and work out. Thankfully, most of them are modifiable; we can choose whether or to let them influence our behavior — for better or worse.
Either way, recognizing these excuses is the first step in taking charge of them. Let’s take a look at some of the big ones:
Situational limitations. “I don’t have time” is an example of a situational limitation — a real or perceived circumstance that gets in the way of exercising. Lack of time is a common one; and certainly, for some, it’s valid. However, most people I work with, could free up their schedules by cutting back on TV, gaming, or outside commitments. It’s not that they don’t have time to exercise; they just haven’t made exercise a higher priority than the other things they do. When circumstances interfere with exercise, take an honest look at how your choices may be a factor.
Genetics. A recent study found dozens of genetic differences between rats who love to exercise and those who’d rather lie around. We don’t know if the same is true for humans; even if it is, genetic factors are no excuse for inactivity. To exercise or not is a choice; but genetic differences may help explain why getting it in gear is harder for some people than others. If you’re one of those people, try finding an exercise buddy – people achieve more success when they don’t go it alone.
Physical limitations. These can be real — like serious back problems; or perceived — like when a sedentary person experiences mild muscular discomfort during a walk and decides not to exercise at all. When physical activity becomes painful or otherwise difficult, it’s easy to get discouraged. With the help of a physical therapist, an exercise specialist, and other health professionals, most people can be more physically active than they ever thought possible. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability is a terrific resource for people with disabilities who want to become more active.
Brain chemistry. Even a single cardiovascular workout has been shown to boost mood for up to 12 hours, relieving stress, calming anxiety, and alleviating mild depression. Exercise optimizes levels of neurotransmitters and triggers the release of natural feel-good chemicals called endorphins and endocannabinoids, which block pain signals and elicit feelings of well-being. The desire to experience these profound brain benefits could easily influence your decision to go for a walk or a run — even during an extremely busy day.
Personal factors. Some people would like to exercise, but don’t — fear of looking foolish, not knowing what to do, and avoiding the discomfort that comes with beginning an exercise program are common issues. Maybe there are simply other things you’d rather do. These factors are understandable, but they don’t have to stop you from being active. A certified fitness professional or wellness coach can help you work around these issues to achieve your best level of well-being.
Even the most committed fitness enthusiasts have to deal with daily influences that can derail their exercise plans. The key to staying on track is to increase your awareness of what influences you — and remind yourself that no matter how strong the influence, the decision to put one foot in front of the other is yours.
What factors — positive or negative — influence your decision to exercise? How do you stay on track?
Photo Credit: Brice Canonne
Otto M, Smits J, Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2011
Ratey J, Hagerman E, Spark – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Little, Brown, and Co., 2008
Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports.