What's Your Exercise Excuse?
Forget excuses! Start a list of reasons why you want to exercise
By Jean Lawrence
Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
When you see the phrase "excuses not to exercise," does a half-dozen of them jump into your head?
For some people, running away from the idea, leaping to conclusions about exercise, and diving into a chocolate sundae are the most activity they get in a day.
"Tsk, tsk," say doctors, editorial writers, and national nannies. They claim that being fat kills 822 Americans a day. That could equal the entire population of a small town in the Midwest. And obesity (everyone's favorite word) is just behind smoking as a cause of death.
Exercise also prevents or lowers the severity of diabetes and other serious ailments. Surprisingly, though, Jay Kimiecik, PhD, associate professor of exercise science at Miami University in Miami, Ohio, says trying to lose weight or prevent diseases should not be the reason you exercise.
You should exercise because it feels good!
"People don't exercise," Kimiecik maintains, "not because of the reasons they give, but because they haven't found a way to enjoy exercising. Most people have not taken the time to find out what makes them feel good. You like something if you become successful at it on your own terms."
Instead, what do we say to ourselves and others?
'I Don't Have Time'
According to Joan Price, MA, a fitness motivator, public speaker, and author of The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book, the most common excuse not to exercise is, "I don't have time."
Well, she asks, do you have time to be sick or disabled? Probably not. "Exercise gives you energy. It doesn't take it away. You gain time -- you can do everything else you need to do more quickly and with a clearer head."
Price points out that you don't need a big expedition to the gym or an all-day bike ride. "You can accumulate exercise minutes," she says, "not do it in one big chunk."
For example, if you are waiting at the copy machine, on hold, or at the car wash, you can do calf raises, desk pushups, or thigh presses. If you don't have to sit in your job, stand. If you don't have to stand still, pace back and forth.
"You can do squats anywhere," she says. "Other people don't have time, either, and won't take time to stare at you." Be sure not to throw stress onto the knees with these, she adds. Don't let your knees go forward and keep your weight on your heels.
Price also recommends parking your car near your last errand. Walk in between and when you are loaded with packages -- there's your car!
Of course, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk up moving escalators, and in the store, take two hand-baskets instead of a cart.
'I Hate Exercise'
"You just hate what you think exercise has to be," Price says. "It doesn't have to be gyms, cardio machines, and that stuff." Think of exercise as activity. "Think back to what you loved doing as a child," she says. "Children never think of activity as exercise." How about skating, cycling, dancing? "Do it for fun!" she says. "Who has ever said, 'I hate walking on the beach'?"
"You don't have to wear Lycra and sweat," she promises.
"If you don't exercise now," Kimiecik agrees, "you need a physical and mental transformation to start." Instead of hating exercise or the idea of it, spend time thinking about what you want your body to do for you.
Ask yourself these three questions:
"This is simple, but not easy," Kimiecik says. "You have to take time to think about it and feel it, rather than just saying, 'I hate exercise.'"
'I Am Too Tired'
"There is some research that shows that aerobic exercise melts away tiredness quickly and strength training (weights) gives you a more energetic feeling later," Price says. "I think anything that increases your circulation makes you feel more energetic."
The key is not to overdo. "Start small," Price says. Write down your goals and break them into steps and then break down one step into a manageable first step. Say your goal is to do aerobics four times a week. If you run out and do that, you may be too tired to keep it up. Instead -- first step -- decide whether you want to go on a treadmill, walk the dog three miles, or workout at home with a video. Or maybe you want to take tap dancing.