Common excuses to not exercise and how to beat them

We've got expert strategies to overcome seven common obstacles.
Published July 26, 2020

7 exercise obstacles and how to beat them

Challenge #1: I'm always too tired

How to beat it

If you’ve planned to go for a walk or to the gym after work but feel tired, remember that physical activity could actually be the best way to feel refreshed, says exercise physiologist Andrew Schwartz. “Many studies suggest exercising gives you more energy. Also, the fatigue we feel at the end of the day can be mental or simply due to dehydration.” So, pop on your workout gear before you leave the office, have a glass of water, and remind yourself you’ll feel more energized within the hour. If that doesn’t work, commit to a workout buddy. “You’re more likely to exercise if it’s with a friend,” says Schwartz. “It’ll be more fun and you won’t want to let someone else down.”

Challenge #2: I'm too embarrassed

How to beat it

​Many of us let fear of what others might think get in the way of our health. But we shouldn’t! If you’re thinking of joining a gym, book a gym orientation session and talk to a trainer about your fears before you sign up. “Training in off-peak hours may help you feel less overwhelmed,” says Schwartz. Not into the gym? Walking and golf are great outdoor options. Don’t fancy exercising in the open air? Get fit indoors. As Schwartz says, “Being healthy is a choice, and there are lots of ways to get there.”

Challenge #3: I don't have time

How to beat it

“Exercise doesn’t have to be an hour of training,” says exercise physiologist Luke Michael. Every bit of movement you do counts. Commit to standing up for 5 minutes every hour when you’re at work or try fitting in three 10-minute blocks of activity each day. If you’re relatively fit, try squeezing a whole high-intensity workout into 15 minutes with interval training: run or cycle for two minutes at your regular rate, then go all-out for 30 seconds – repeat six times and you’re done. “You can also do great training sessions that take just four minutes,” says Michael. “Tabata training is 20 seconds on – at maximum effort – and 10 seconds off,” he explains.

Challenge #4: I'm bored

How to beat it

Sick of the same old repetitive movements in what was once your favourite gym class? Battling exercise boredom is easy these days – it’s simply time to try something new. If you’re a gym member, try a different class or ask a trainer to devise a fresh workout for you. If you’re a walker or a runner, invite a friend along with you for a chat, or embrace your inner child – roller skating, hula hooping or even hopscotch are all good ways to boost fitness. “Try creating a reward system to motivate yourself, too,” suggests Schwartz. “Something like ‘If I achieve X or Y I can buy myself that new top or go to that movie.”

Challenge #5: I hate the gym

How to beat it

​Easy – don’t go! If you prefer to be social, join a sporting team or local walking group. If you don’t like to sweat, try yoga or aqua aerobics. Want to be outdoors? Try doing tricep dips and push-ups on a bench during your walk in the park. There are upsides to taking your workout into the great outdoors, too. Research by the UK’s University of Essex found it boosts your mood and self-esteem to exercise in a green environment.

Challenge #6: It's too hard!

How to beat it

Feeling like you want to vomit – or at the very least stop – when you’re out for a run tends to fade when you’re expending a similar amount of effort in a football game. That’s because your focus is elsewhere. “Find an activity you enjoy rather than just going to the gym or heading out for a walk – tennis or dancing are both good options,” says Schwartz. And something as simple as putting on some tunes makes exercise seem easier. Research by Brunel University in the UK found that having music playing in the background reduces your rate of perceived effort by up to 15 per cent.

Challenge #7: I'm not losing weight

How to beat it

It’s common to hit a plateau, but when you do, don’t give up – embrace it as a good sign. “Effective weight loss can be quite slow, and people may even put on a little bit of weight when they start exercising as the body tries to find an equilibrium,” says Schwartz. “Focus on the health benefits of exercise. Even if you’re not losing weight, your body is benefiting in other ways.” It could be that you’re becoming fitter and stronger, or enjoying a better night’s sleep. Try shaking your body out of a weight-loss plateau by changing your workout. If you do weights, lift heavier ones for fewer reps; if you do cardio, try high-intensity intervals; or simply do a different exercise class.

Three reasons to workout

The secret to ageing better, sleeping better and fighting off disease? Yep, you guessed it – it’s exercise! Here’s why:

1. Moving makes you age better

Being active doesn’t just give you a healthy glow. German research says it can slow the ageing process at a cellular level.

2. Activity benefits your sleep

Regular exercise is known to help improve sleep patterns, and US research shows that menopausal women with higher levels of daily activity wake up less during the night and have better sleep overall.

3. Working out can prevent disease

Research published in the British Medical Journal found that exercise programs have been found to be as effective at helping prevent coronary heart disease and diabetes as drug interventions – and more so in the case of stroke patients.