This couple has motivation to exercise

Most of us know that exercise is good for us! Why is it then, that it can be so hard to get our butts moving? According to the American Heart Association, “Only about one in five adults and teens get enough exercise to maintain good health.”

While not exercising seems to be a national trend, the reasons we have for not exercising are as varied as we are as individuals: I don’t have time, I always get hurt, I just hate it… But exercise brings so many health benefits, both mental and physical, that it is worth diving into what exactly is stopping you from making exercise a habit.

With a little introspection and some planning, you can overcome the obstacles in your way. Here are some solvable issues commonly at the root of exercise avoidance. See which ones resonate with you and find a way around them.

Type of exercise

“To overcome exercise avoidance start by recalling activities that you enjoyed when you were younger,” says clinical psychologist Edward Abramson PhD. “Did you enjoy riding a bike? Jumping rope? Dancing? Shooting hoops or tossing a ball?” Even if you can’t pinpoint any type of exercise that you ever enjoyed, you can pair exercise with something you do like. There are many examples of this. Here are a few:

  • Walking while window-shopping or chatting with a friend
  • Riding a stationary bike while watching TV or YouTube
  • Cleaning house while playing music or listening to a podcast

Exercise intensity

If you have a pattern of starting and stopping an exercise program because you get hurt, or just hate it too much, you may be exercising at an intensity level that is too high for you. When it comes to a sustainable fitness program, that old saying, “No pain, no gain,” is bad advice.

The 2nd edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity. That means your heart rate increases and breathing becomes more rapid, but you can still talk. This is very subjective; some people will get there by vacuuming their living room, others will need to take a brisk jog. Listen to your body in the moment, and don’t compare yourself to your super fit neighbor—or your younger self.

Exercise time

Yes, the Physical Activity Guidelines say 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, but they also say to work up to that, if you need to. You can try starting with a goal to meet half that number per week. Also, those 150 minutes (2.5 hours) don’t have to be done in big chunks. You can do 30 minutes, five days a week, but you can also break it down into ten minute sessions that spread the exercise out further.

If you feel up to increasing the intensity of your workouts, you can cut the time down even more. Health benefits have been reported in people exercising in very brief intervals, as short as four minutes. According to this study, short bursts of exercise may even be better than longer sessions in some cases.


Whatever your obstacles are, finding a regular exercise program you can stick to is worth pursuing. Remember some exercise really is better than none. Instead of comparing your workouts to the “longer or harder ones you should be doing,” compare them to the dangers of being completely sedentary.

If you are sedentary, have health issues, or concerns about exercising, make an appointment with one of our physicians today. We can help you knock down those obstacles and get moving!