Last we checked, there are 24 hours in every day, given to each of us to spend as we choose. Ideally, eight or so of those are earmarked for sleep. Tack on another eight or so for work, and you’re left with eight hours of freedom — and by freedom we mean time for eating three meals (and snacks), spending time with family, watching Netflix, catching up with friends and social media, extra work/homework/side hustles, running errands and general procrastination.
Yet, somehow, experts have the audacity to recommend you devote a whole 30 minutes each day (or 150 minutes a week) to exercise.
While that doesn’t sound like a lot, with our busy lives, online and off, it can be hard to set aside that time. In fact, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 5% of us actually do (and even that number may be optimistic).
So what gives? We’ve listed 10 typical excuses below, and we suspect you’ll be familiar with a few. (We know we are.) But rather than wallow in it, we’ve provided the antidote as motivation to keep you moving this year.
Like we said: Our days are full. It’s understandable if you’re exhausted or feel like you don’t have the energy. But here is something to consider the next time you’re feeling too fatigued to get after it.
The Antidote: Exercise doesn’t sap energy, it creates it. Your brain releases endorphins, which causes your body to feel pleasure, which in turn makes your body want more pleasure. You’ll also be strengthening your heart and muscles, which makes the rest of your day seem easier. Finally, you might be tired because you’re not getting enough high-quality sleep. Regular exercise helps your body rest more deeply.
Ask a friend how they’re doing, and you’ll quickly discover “busy” is the new “fine.” You’ve probably answered the question that way yourself. But again, we’re talking about 1/48th of your day here — so let’s figure out how to get you motivated.
The Antidote: Exercise helps you focus during the other 23 1/2 hours of your day. Exercise can also reduce incidences of depression, and that, in turn, might help you approach the rest of life’s tasks with greater enthusiasm.
Maybe you have been exercising, even regularly, but the idea of doing the same thing every day sounds not just exhausting but also tedious. We’ve been there. And we’re here to tell you there’s an obvious antidote.
The Antidote: Mixing it up. Try something different. Or do the same thing in a different way — run those same 3 miles at a different location, for example, or with a new playlist. Bring a friend. Keep in mind that getting half an hour of activity doesn’t mean you have to be in beast mode at the gym — it could be as simple as taking a walk, which you could accomplish by leaving the car at home and taking a stroll to your Saturday morning coffee shop.
It’s true: Everyone feels insecure about their body from time to time, even those gym rats.
The Antidote: Getting fit helps you feel better about it. More importantly, moving for 30 minutes a day doesn’t require you to don spandex and hit the treadmill in front of a bunch of pro athletes. If you go the gym route, know there are inclusive gyms to join.
Maybe you’re staying in a hotel where there’s a world-class weight room available, completely free of charge. You go in with the best intentions and then realize: You don’t know how to work any of these machines, and you can only lift the smallest of dumbbells. You feel a bit silly, go back to your room, and try to forget it ever happened.
The Antidote: Start with something you know. There’s a saying that those who don’t know how to do anything run or walk. Most of us know how to ride a bike. We’ve all jumped rope. You don’t have to be doing serious bench presses or advanced yoga moves from the get-go. Though if you want to do those things, start small and you’ll get there eventually.
This is somewhat surprising, but we have an answer …
The Antidote: Exercise alone or with friends. You saw this one coming, right? You can close the curtains in your home, fire up an exercise app, and sweat it out in your living room. Or go for a low-exertion walk. If being social helps you get moving, work out with someone you already know well who won’t let a little perspiration cloud their opinion of you.
This cuts two ways: Joining a gym, or even just getting workout gear, costs money. And for some of us, making a living means working multiple jobs, putting in long hours or some combination of the two. This might surprise you, but … we have an antidote for that.
The Antidote: Keep it simple. You probably have all the gear you need to get started — whether that’s walking, jogging or doing pushups in a park or just your living room. You don’t need fancy workout equipment to lift weights — all you need is something heavy. The point is, with a little time and resourcefulness, you can get a great workout on a budget.
So you gave it a shot, and you’re not seeing the results you want. You haven’t lost 10 pounds, you still can’t see your abs, and you still can’t dunk a basketball or lift a car. It’s possible your goals are unrealistic or you just need to stick with it. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The Antidote: Focus on the process, not the results. One of the main benefits of regular exercise is getting healthier and feeling better about your body. But what gets overlooked is enjoyment of the exercise itself. Find something you genuinely look forward to doing, whether it’s going jogging with a friend, hitting the gym with your Awesome Workout Mix #1 or just exploring your neighborhood on bike or on foot. If you find enjoyment in the exercise itself, you’re far more likely to stick with it.
This is an interesting one. We hear it all the time, and it always makes us wonder: Why do people think you can only exercise in the morning? It might be that it’s a matter of convenience — as in, it’s a very convenient excuse for not exercising.
The Antidote: Work out in the afternoon. Or at night. Or later in the morning. Or, train yourself to build the habit of working out in the early morning. No matter when you choose to work out, schedule time to exercise the same way you schedule, say, your weekly analytics meeting. That’s right, put it in your calendar. Essentially, find a way to hold yourself accountable, rather than leaning on a flimsy excuse about not being a morning person.
We all know intellectually that even small amounts of regular exercise brings outsized benefits. Yet, those numbers above don’t lie: Few of us are getting as much exercise as doctors recommend, and all of us have our genuine reasons why, as well as our excuses.
The Antidote: Something is always better than nothing, so even start with 5 minutes. Plus, remember regular exercise is a journey, not a destination. You will never, ever, reach some magical stage of fitness where you won’t need to keep exercising to maintain it. Taking time every day to exercise isn’t just a way of reaching your fitness goals, it should also be a source of enjoyment, a form of grown-up recess that helps you reconnect with the only body you will ever have. Be forgiving — genuine life emergencies happen — and if that means you miss a day or a week of exercise, well, that’s the way it is. But look past the excuses, and you will see that there is a better, healthier you out there for the taking.