Hate to Exercise? 6 Fixes

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on June 09, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

You know you should work out, since it's good for you. So why is it so hard to stay active?

Turns out, the reasons might not be what you think. Here, a look at what’s really preventing you from sticking with an exercise routine -- and advice on how to keep at it.

1. You’re Working Out for Weight Loss

One of the top reasons for starting a fitness program is weight loss. It’s a surprisingly bad motivator when it comes to getting you to lace up those sneakers.

In one study, some women exercised to lose weight. Other women, who exercised to feel better and curb stress, worked out more.

The fix: “You should remind yourself often of all the ways exercise makes you feel good, like having more energy and getting better rest, that have nothing to do with weight loss,” Maryann Jacobsen, RD, says.

“For some people, exercising can dredge up feelings of being picked last in gym as a kid.” -- Rich Weil

2. You’re Going Overboard

There’s no doubt that exercise can be a big life change, but at the beginning the change shouldn’t be drastic.

“Too many people dive in, overdo it, and then quit because it is just too much,” Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD, says.

The fix: Ease into an exercise routine and start slowly, maybe with just 5 minutes of walking per day, if you're not active now, Becker-Phelps says.

3. You Feel Bad About Your Body

Maybe you’re self-conscious about your stomach when you do a sit-up, or you don’t like the way you look in yoga pants. Or it might be more than that.

"For some people, exercising can dredge up feelings of being picked last in gym as a kid,” says Rich Weil, director of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center Weight Loss Program.

The fix: Weil recommends searching online for supportive activity groups for adults of all sizes. “Many YMCAs and private gyms offer these types of safe spaces,” he says.

Working out in the privacy of your own home is another option. Find a workout that’s right for you on a DVD, YouTube channel, or podcast. “This is stuff you can do in your jammies,” Weil says.

4. You Chose the Wrong Workout

Sports psychologist Michelle Cleere, PhD, remembers working with a woman who really disliked exercise: “She told me, ‘I hate the treadmill and I hate lifting weights.’”

The woman tried to force herself to do these activities because she figured it was what you were supposed to do -- that is, until Cleere encouraged her to rethink her approach.

“I asked her to remember the last time she had fun exercising, and she said Rollerblading.”

Within a week, the woman ditched the treadmill in favor of something she liked better.

The fix: If you're stumped, think of trying something you've always wanted to do but never had the chance to do, or something you enjoyed in the past.

“Biking, shooting some baskets, dancing. These are the things we used to be passionate about doing but somewhere along the line just forgot,” Cleere says.

5. You’re in Pain

A bad back, sore knee, or arthritis can make getting fit a challenge. But if you've got a chronic condition, you probably need exercise even more.

The fix: “Ask your doctor for a prescription for physical therapy,” Weil says. “I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t take this simple step. It can help so much, and it’s often covered by insurance.” The physical therapist will teach you safe ways to get fitter and stronger.

6. You Think It Costs Too Much

It’s true that you can shell out a lot of cash on fitness. Sure, personal trainers, designer gear, and Pilates classes can add up.

The fix: Skip the expensive activities and stick to your budget. You probably already own a pair of walking shoes, and taking a brisk -- and free! -- walk around your neighborhood buys you most of the benefits of exercise. For instance, "research shows that walking 30 minutes a day cuts your risk of diabetes by 58%," Weil says.

Show Sources


Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD, nutritionist, Raise Healthy Eaters, San Diego.

Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD, licensed psychologist, Basking Ridge, NJ.

Richard Weil, MEd, CDE, director, New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center Weight Loss Program, St. Luke's Hospital, New York.

Michelle Cleere, PhD, performance coach; professor of sport psychology, John F. Kennedy University, San Francisco.

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