As Family Physicians, we hear lots of excuses from people who avoid exercise. These are the top 7:
Excuse#1: “I am busy in kitchen and household work all day. I don’t need to exercise.”
No doubt busy homemakers are better off than people who are inactive for long periods during the day. But exercising for 30-40 minutes a day provides a big boost of energy for the rest of the day. It can also serve as ‘me time’, where one can disengage from day-to-day worries.
Also, whenever the body start doing any physical activity, for the first few minutes, the body is only burning the stored carbohydrates. To start burning fat (to lose weight or to reduce cholesterol), one needs continuous exercise for more than 20 minutes.
Excuse#2: “I have a very busy work schedule. I don’t have time to exercise.”
Long commutes and busy working hours do make it tough to plan any exercise routine. However, there are a lot of ways out:
- We can use every opportunity to build in exercise during the daily routine. Take stairs whenever possible, park at the farthest corner of the parking lot, walk while talking on phone, etc etc. If we can log 10,000 steps a day with these activities, that’s enough exercise for a day!
- Use the weekends to do more! A total of 200 minutes of strenuous exercise is recommended every week. You could pick up a sports or gymming activity and log those 200 minutes over Saturday and Sunday. (Incidentally, cricket does not count as exercise, except perhaps for the wicket-keeper!)
- Prolonged sitting is avoidable – research these days is showing that prolonged sitting is worse than smoking for our long-term health! We should take breaks from sitting every 40-60 minutes – to stretch, to get water from the water cooler, or just to chat with a coworker.
Interestingly, the more we exercise, the more productive our working hours will become, and we’ll get more done in less time!
Excuse#3: “I’m a lazy person.”
None of us were born lazy, we just started to believe we are lazy.
It takes 3 weeks to form a new habit – once we start exercising regularly, the body and the mind start getting addicted to it, and demanding it! And the exercise itself gives us the energy to do more and more!
Of course we need to make it easy on ourselves during these initial 3 weeks. Here are some tips:
- Start slow. If you do too much at start, the body will give up within 2-3 days. It will take time to build up your stamina to where you can do 30-40 min of strenuous exercise everyday! It may be enough to do just 10-15 min of walk to start with.
- Start something you like. Do you like walks? Watching TV from a treadmill? Cycling? Swimming? Sports? If you pick up something you like, you’re more likely to stick to it!
- Find an exercise partner. It helps to have someone else go through the same pain with you!
Becoming an active person is a journey. Let’s take the first step today!
Excuse#4: “I can’t get up early mornings” or “I’m too busy early mornings”
We have been conditioned into believing that only early morning walk or yoga can make us healthy! Of course with our crazy schedules and those of our family members, it’s almost impossible to find the time and energy to exercise in the mornings!
Interestingly, though, we do get the benefits of exercise, regardless of the time of day!
We can exercise in the late morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, at the night – all of these have almost equal benefit.
During winter months, if there is smog in the air, it’s better to avoid early morning exercise in the open air. We can exercise at other times of the day, or we can exercise indoors.
We can exercise before food, or after food. It’s good to have a light snack before exercise. Exercising empty stomach may make you dizzy or weak. After a heavy meal, strenuous exercise may not be appropriate, but you can take a light walk.
Tonight after dinner, let’s take our family members and guests with us for a walk together!
Excuse#5: “I was exercising, but then it became too cold/too hot to exercise, or I had to travel frequently out of town, and couldn’t exercise.”
In India, we have all kinds of extreme weather – but if we don’t exercise during extreme weather – then 2 months of extreme winter, 2 months of extreme summer, and 2 months of rain – all are gone, and we’re left with only 6 months of decent weather!
We need to find ways and means of continuing exercise in any weather conditions! We can do indoors exercise – within the house, in verandah, in gym.. We can exercise in the afternoons in winters!
While travelling, we can use the hotel gym, we can take walks, do yoga.. We can walk while talking on phone!
If we stop exercising altogether, we start losing stamina, muscles, and other benefits of regular exercise. But if we continue the exercise routine, even 15-20 min of walk, then the body stays in shape, and the benefits of previous exercise continue!
Even so, sometimes the circumstances are such that we’re not able to exercise, and we lose the rhythm. In such conditions, it’s tough to start again. It helps to remember the reason we started to exercise in the first place! Was it weight loss? Looking good? Having more energy? Taking care of BP or sugar or cholesterol or heart?
Whatever the reason, it helps to remind ourselves of the motivation, and to remember how good we felt in the days we were exercising! Then it becomes easy to get off the couch and get going!
Excuse#6: “I was exercising, but saw no difference in my weight, so I gave up!”
Weight loss is a complex process and depends on a lot of factors, not just exercise!
Are you giving up too early? For most people it takes 6 months to see any meaningful weight loss from exercise. The weight may actually increase in the first 3 months of starting exercise!
Are you exercising enough? 30-40 min of strenuous exercise is needed everyday for weight loss. Strenuous here means exercise that makes you out of breath and makes you sweat. Playing cricket is not exercise, except perhaps for the wicket-keeper!
Are you watching your diet? Exercise increases the appetite, so we have to watch what we eat! Fruits, vegetables, salads, low-fat milk and curd, daals, chana, beans, sprouts, oats, whole grains – these are all healthy foods which should be integral part of any effort to lose weight!
At the end of the day, even if you don’t lose weight with all the effort – you still get all the other benefits of exercise! You feel good, more energetic, more efficient, and the risk of long-term diseases is significantly reduced!
Excuse#7: “My knees hurt! How can I exercise?”
Knee pain actually improves with exercise!
Exercise stimulates the bones to deposit more calcium, making the bones stronger. Exercise makes the muscles stronger, so that there’s less strain on the joints! Start walking, take rest when the knees or legs or back start hurting, and start again!
If it’s too painful for you to walk at all, then you can pick up other forms of exercise. Swimming and Yoga are really good options.
At the same time, it’s important to know your Vitamin D levels, and take enough sunlight and supplements, and also to take enough calcium from diet. All these measures, along with exercise, will help reduce your joint pains!