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 on 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 ready 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. And, if all else fails, try squeezing in at least one of these 10-minute exercise ideas.
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 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 recently released 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 that 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.
I’d love to hear from you! Please, tell me, if you aren’t yet exercising regularly, what is your biggest obstacle? And if you are exercising, how did you find a way to overcome your obstacles to get started?

About the Author
As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, and now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit jessicasmithtv.com/shop to learn more about her fun, results driven programs for all levels of exercisers.

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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
KHALIA2 11/27/2018
Thank you! Report
KHALIA2 11/18/2018
I go to the gym on M, W, and F. Report
WALKIN4JEANIE 11/13/2018
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
TCANNO 10/5/2018
yes very interesting Report
1GR8FULGAL 9/23/2018
I have some chronic medical issues that keep cropping up and I do get frustrated, but this helps me. Thanks! Report
KHALIA2 8/13/2018
Great tips! Thanks! Report
KATHYJO56 8/9/2018
great article Report
LOSER05 8/7/2018
Thanks. Report
MSROZZIE 7/28/2018
Excellent article. Good need-to-know information. Report
RO2BENT 7/21/2018
Got to do the hard work Report
DWROBERGE 6/21/2018
Thanks, great article Report
LANISHA22 5/21/2018
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
KHALIA2 4/8/2018
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
I used to work out all the time, now I get tired just walking up stairs, and had to lighten my weights at the gym. Don't even have the energy to get thru the day and been living off caffeine. Found out I have a chronic vitamin D deficiency, anemia, and some other health issues. Going for a sleep study soon, so hopefully that will help. Report
Obstacle numbers 4 and 5: you're in pain and/or depressed. I think it's time to see the doctor. Report
Obstacle numbers 4 and 5: you're in pain and/or depressed. I think it's time to see the doctor. Report
Shoot...not a one of those work for me as an excuse. Thanks for holding up the mirror in front of me! Report
Sometimes I just really don't want to do it. However, I strive to get in at least 10,000 steps/day and one of my favorite tricks (especially if I know I'm going to by-pass the gym after work) is to take a couple of "non-smoking breaks" - 10 minute walks through the parking garage or on the outdoor trail outside my office. Report
HAHAHA! Some of the most saving graces for most of us is: A GREAT sense of humor. I'm 76 with almost bone-on-bone knees, broken tail-bone, fibro, arthritis, Diabetes, etc. That said, I can still walk; so, that's what I do. It helps to get together with friends!!!! We usually walk in grocery stores or the mall. Even my grandsons (7 & 9) like to go with me--especially if I bribe them. Make it fun! And don't forget to :D often. Smile at everyone you see--even if they don't smile back. It's for U! Report
Okay... None of those apply to me... so I'd better just stop making excuses. Report
my major problem is that I lost my motivation. I know everyone keeps saying find a friend but I don't have a friend and I don't know how to find a good friend. I have suffered a lot from bad friends who end up stabbing me in the back for no reason other than they can. So I am not sure I want to go through this experience again. I always looked for friends and went the extra mile to try and make my friends happy and or stick around or pay attention to me or love me but I always failed because only people who want something from you be-friend you. At least this is what I lived through.
So no friends, only a good husband who wants me to lose weight but doesn't really care much if I don't. I don't have anyone who can help me find my spark. Maybe I am wrong in that too. But it is so hard to do things alone. that is first reason. Second reason is I lost my momentum and I stopped believing in myself. I now find any excuse as simple as it can be to not go to the gym and to not workout. Report
This was a great article! My problem was lack of energy. I slept all night and half the day, and the other half I just sat or laid around. And I was always tired. I finally managed to talk myself into going out for just "a 10 minute walk". Once I got out there I ended up doing the full lap around my apartment complex, which gave me a 22 minute walk. The fringe benefit was that I had a little more energy the rest of the day. I slept well that night, and woke up ready to get up and do something the next morning, rather than sleep until 3 pm. All it took was getting myself out there one time to get the train moving. Report
I really liked this article. After reading it I don' feel quite so guilty for not finding the time to exercise. I live with my son and daughter-in-law and their two teenage boys. I take care of most of the household duties. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, doctors appointments, sports activities, two very active dogs. I also take care of my husband who is much older than me and quite ill most of the time. By the end of the day I'm totally exhausted ( I'm not as young as I used to be.) I am very diligent about tracking my food even though it is quite late by the time I get to it. I try to track my exercise but since most of my activity is not considered formal exercise, I can't really tell how many calories are being burned. At least now I know that all the running around and work I have to do counts for something. Thanks for the great article. Report
My right knee is injured. Tomorrow night I will have an MRI & x-ray to see what's wrong with it. I discovered today I could "dance" sitting down. I do have some strength exercises given to me by my PT. Thanks for the encouraging article. Report
My obstacles include fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. I'm doing well right now so getting lots more exercise. But, I can crash at any time and not able to even move at times. I know that if I do what I can when I can I am more able to bounce back from the crashes. Report
Great post! I was doing great and consistent for about 6 months, but then I caught a cold, weather changed, it's now dark when I get home, I was out of town and I'm totally exhausted. I have only been off track about a week and I WILL be back at it no later than this weekend. :)

What it really is, is a disruption to my routine. I'm focusing on getting enough sleep and getting back on track. Report
Number 3 is my reason for not exercising regularly. Thank you so much for this article. I have severe arthritis in both knees, a bad back, and chronic daily migraine. The arthritis and back don't slow me down so much as my head. Last night I did some toning exercises, but doing aerobics is difficult. The extra blood flow to my brain leaves me on the couch for two hours after exercising. I just try to do a little every day. I'm not losing weight, but I am maintaining. :(