While you may think that becoming an adult means taking on adult responsibilities and avoiding the obviously fake "dog ate my homework" excuses of childhood, you'd be badly mistaken. Especially when it comes to staying in shape.
No one knows better than personal trainers and doctors how many idiotic excuses people come up with to avoid the pain of exercise. Take, for instance, Joe Pepe, the owner of Supreme Fit, who recalls a client who told him, "My horoscope says that today I need to relax because of the alignment of the moon. Can we reschedule?"
Or Chris Jakubiak, a personal trainer for Hustle Fitness, who was once told by a client that she needed to stop training because her brother (who lived in a different state) got detention.
But most people aren't that creative when it comes to avoiding exercise, and fitness instructors might actually be rich if they earned a dollar every time they heard one the most common excuses for avoiding the gym. If you find yourself leaning on these crutches a little too hard, it may be time to take a hard look in the mirror. Or at least spend some time developing a new excuse.
"I don't have time"
Sure, you're busy. And of course you have to decide what to prioritize each day, but when you say, "I don't have time to exercise," what you mean is, "Exercise isn't a priority." Let's just call a spade a spade.
Dr. Pamela Abramson-Levine, a family practice chiropractor in Santa Monica, California, doesn't hesitate to call her patients on this one, "When that excuse is given to me, I look at their intake form where they wrote that they watch two hours of TV per day. Then I show them how they can fit in some exercise while watching TV. Or sometimes I'll ask the patients if they have five minutes. They almost always say, 'Yes, but that's not enough time.' Then I show them exercises that take five minutes or less to perform."
As Abramson-Levine points out, "Something is better than nothing," and if you have five minutes here and there, that's better than skipping exercise altogether. It's about priorities, not time.
Welcome to the club. The human condition is a tired one. Maybe it shouldn't be, but it is. And yet, some people still manage to get their workouts in, and feel more energized because of it.
Dr. Alex Foxman, the medical director for the Beverly Hills Institute and the founder of the app Prive MD, doesn't mince words: "The human body doesn't know or care if you have too much work, stayed up too late, or just feel 'tired and rundown.' Countless medical studies have shown that any type of physical activity, including simply walking for a total of 30 minutes daily, significantly reduces cardiovascular disease, which leads to heart attacks and strokes." If you think you feel tired now, just wait until your heart can't pump blood as effectively. Then you'll feel really tired.
The good news is that exercise, even at low to moderate intensities, does wonders for feelings of fatigue. A 2008 study found that sedentary individuals with persistent fatigue who walked for 20 minutes a day, three days a week for six weeks enjoyed an increase in energy and decrease in levels of fatigue that was independent of changes in aerobic fitness. Essentially, the very act of low- to moderate-intensity exercise can make you feel less tired.
"I ate healthy today"
Proper nutrition is a major factor in long-term health, and you definitely shouldn't ignore it… but you also shouldn't use it as an excuse not to exercise. Eating healthfully won't do a damn thing to improve your lung capacity or enhance muscular strength. Martin Hinton, the head of fitness for TruFusion, puts it bluntly, saying, "You can't trade one for the other. You need a balanced approach."
Think of it like this: You wouldn't say, "I put gas in my car, so my car doesn't need its regular maintenance. All that good gas makes up for the fact that I haven't rotated the tires or gotten the oil changed recently." Your car needs gasoline and proper maintenance to stay in peak condition, just like your body needs proper nutrition and exercise to help ward off chronic disease.
"I'm not in good enough shape to exercise"
(Insert blank stare and prolonged silence here.)
Look, starting a new exercise program is hard. No one's arguing with you there. And sometimes it can feel like an exercise in futility. But as TruFusion's director of education Jennifer Miyakubo is quick to point out, "You will never be in good shape if you never start."
Unless you've been told by a doctor that your health is, in fact, too compromised to start an exercise program, then the time to start hitting the gym is now, before your health gets worse. Take baby steps. Start easy. Work with a trainer. You don't have to head to a hardcore boot camp your first week out. Just commit to taking a walk. You'll feel better for your effort.
"I don't like to exercise"
Guess what, being an adult means you sometimes do things you don't like doing because they're good for you. Take, for instance, the dishes. I don't like doing dishes, but I do them anyway because the alternative is to live in a smelly, moldy, bug-infested home.
And guess what? If you don't figure out a way to tolerate the act of exercising, that body of yours could turn into the equivalent of a smelly, moldy, bug-infested home. Jeff Miller, a certified trainer, puts it into slightly less putrid terms, "How do you feel about heart disease? Diabetes? Joint pain? They all suck way worse than exercise, and you can prevent them all by doing a fairly small amount of exercise each day."
"I'm in pain"
Sometimes this really is a legitimate excuse not to exercise. Acute pain -- like if you stepped off a curb and twisted your ankle -- is certainly a reason to skip a turn on the treadmill until you can see a doctor for treatment. That said, if you keep skipping the gym because your back aches or your knee feels sore, it's time to pull your big-kid pants on and suck it up.
Alex VanHouten, Life Time Fitness master trainer & education specialist, puts it this way: "Unfortunately nearly 50% of the adult population experience chronic pain daily. I want to challenge you to make your pain a motivator rather than a buzzkill. All recent research suggests that being sedentary makes chronic pain worse over time, whereas exercise can diminish it."
Yes, exercise can actually help you manage your pain. It does this in several ways: by strengthening your muscles and soft tissue, correcting postural imbalances, and improving pain tolerance.
There are also lots of ways to exercise that won't exacerbate your pain. If you have an upper-body injury, focus on lower-body workouts like cycling or walking. If you have a lower-body injury, try a low-impact workout like water jogging. If you have back pain, opt for something like yoga or core work that helps strengthen the muscles surrounding your spine while enhancing flexibility. There's almost always a way to exercise that won't make your pain worse, so stop using your pain as an excuse. It's certainly not going to get better just sitting on the couch.
"It's too expensive"
Sure, Barry's Boot Camp and SoulCycle may be too expensive, but Gretchen Kubacky, a health psychologist in Los Angeles, rebuts that lame excuse with the perfect answer, "The most effective exercise is free, easy, and can be done anywhere. It's called walking."
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