The first quarter of the year is one week towards completion and you are not sticking to the exercise routine you developed and planned so carefully at the start of the year. Only 19.3% of the American population exercise enough, and only 17,7% in South Africa.

We have argued about the benefits of exercising many times before. If we know and understand the importance of staying active, why do barely 18% of adults in South Africa take responsibility for their physical activity and overall wellbeing (as physical activity is also beneficial for our mental wellbeing)? 

The Heart Foundation researched the reasons why people do not exercise and published the ten most used excuses for not exercising. In today’s discussion, we will look at these excuses (maybe you will find yours as well) and provide possible solutions to them (other than ‘Nonsense, get up and go!’). So let’s have a look and analyse these – perhaps it provides you with the added push to make exercise part of your daily routine.

Excuse #1: I am too tired

This is such a no-excuse, excuse… exercise GIVES you energy – it increases blood flow which in turn allows more oxygen to the brain, muscle and tissue. It also releases dopamine, serotonin and natural endorphins that make you feel better. So how do we overcome this obstacle? Well, in more than one way: (1) find a friend who can support your activities by either working out together or who can motivate you to exercise, and (2) find a time of the day where you are most energetic and use that time to exercise.

Excuse #2: I cannot afford a gym

Gym membership costs money and not everybody can afford the deduction every month (not even to talk about the multiple ‘gym members’ paying the fees and NEVER entering the gym). The solution to this one – find a group of friends and agree to go for a walk every day OR find a free online app with exercise programmes. Another option – find free online exercise videos – there are multiple videos available for a variety of programmes out there, some even give you alternative daily objects to use for weight lifting alternatives!

Excuse #3: I don’t have time

This excuse is the most popular. With our busy lives, finding time every day to excise is a stretch. The solution to this excuse lies within our frame of mind – perhaps change the narrative: don’t focus on finding time, find ways to make time. Start making 10 minutes available every day then 12, then 15…

Another option: evaluate what you are spending your time on. Do you watch 1-2 hours of television a day? Maybe watch the fitness video for the first 30 mins. Or make exercise a family activity. Have the whole family meet outside for a game of soccer, volleyball or go for a walk together (I dare you to try and keep up with your toddlers and pre-teens!).

Excuse #4: I have no motivation to exercise

If working out to maintain your heart, muscles, bones and mental wellbeing is not enough reason, make a chart that tracks your workouts and display this somewhere publicly (like the fridge for example). Together with your chart, ‘plan’ the rewards you will give to yourself when you meet a fitness goal (like booking a massage when you reach your targets or enjoying your favourite treat).

Excuse #5: I don’t like exercise

Does anyone? Except maybe professional athletes and personal trainers. Remember the last time you exercised and how you felt afterwards? That dopamine release is unmatched… Cling to that feeling of accomplishment when you are done with your routine. Or, make exercise a joint experience with friends. 

Excuse #6: Exercise is not fun

Boredom will make you regret setting time aside to exercise. This one is very easy to overcome: do something you like – like dancing, biking, gardening. Spend this time with people you like who can join in the fun!

Excuse #7: I am to fat / old / uncoordinated

This one is a mindset to overcome. Feeling uncomfortable in a specific situation or place is not nice to anyone. This will be so for the first few sessions – until you see that the gym is for overweight/old/uncoordinated people, that’s why they are there. And always remember, the gym is like the beach – there is always someone who will look better than you and there will always be someone who will look worse than you. Start small, but start.

Excuse # 8: I’ve tried before and failed

Been there, done that, failed and don’t want to go through that again. This is unfortunate but a reality for many of us. Perhaps re-evaluate your programme or goals. Maybe you tried to bite off more than you could chew and gave up. Again, set goals that are more realistic (don’t make 1 hour available at first, start with 10 minutes this week and increase as you succeed). But do something.

Excuse #9: I don’t like to work out around the opposite sex

This also links to excuse number 7 – not feeling comfortable around people. Comfort is key, not just in the clothes you are wearing to the gym but also in being comfortable with the people you are sharing the space with (especially after COVID). You can overcome this by starting to work out in your own home – or with people that you are comfortable with. 

Excuse #10: I don’t like to sweat. Or, I don’t want to take another shower and reapply makeup

Not all exercise will make you drip in sweat. Many alternative routines burn calories without being focussed on cardio activities which will make you feel sweaty. Also, be mindful of the clothes you are wearing whilst exercising – some material is not conducive to training in and will make you sweat even more. Find your apparel and stick to what works for you.

No excuse is the only excuse that you should consider when it comes to your life – get active and spend time on yourself. You deserve it!

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