Exclusive Content

6 Reasons You Don't Exercise and What to Do About Them

By Gay Falkowski

Excuses,excuses – we've all made them at some point in our lives, especially when exercise is what we're trying to avoid. But sometimes those excuses become beliefs that we need to challenge in order to do what's best for us. So, here are six common reasons for not exercising, along with solutions to overcoming those barriers:

"I don't have time."

Monitor your daily activities for one week. Identify at least three 30-minute time slots you could use for physical activity. If it's more convenient, find six 15-minute time slots. For example, instead of spending your 15-minute work break in the break room, go for a quick walk around the building or do some up and down laps on stairs. Make chores count. Mop the floor, scrub the bathtub or do other housework at a pace fast enough to get your heart pumping. Pretty soon you'll be able to add raking fall leaves to the rotation.

Don't want to give up your TV time? Use hand weights, ride a stationary bike or do a stretching routine during your favorite shows. And don't forget to get off the couch to change the channel if you are able.

"My friends and family don't exercise. I have no support."

When your friends and family are not active, you may not be as motivated to exercise. Get creative. Tell the family you need help to get moving and begin a family tradition of a before- or after-dinner stroll/wheel around the neighborhood. If you're lucky enough to have access to a pool, water games with the family are a great way to stay cool and get some exercise.

Get social. Make a date with a friend to hike or wheel in a local park, or take a trip to the zoo. You may have to take frequent rest breaks, but that's okay. Try joining a dance club, or a golf or bowling league to meet others who like to stay active. Encouragement from others can help you stay with a new activity.

"I'm too tired."

While it's true that expending energy to exercise creates even more energy in the long run, carving out that energy reservoir does take time. So start slowly. Physical therapist Herb Karpatkin, an MS specialist, recommends a very simple technique, which he calls intermittent exercise. It’s a very simple idea. Instead of exercising continuously, take breaks. For example, instead of walking for 20 minutes continuously, walk for five minutes, four times with rest breaks in between. This can be used for strengthening as well as endurance work.

MS is a disease of great variability, so the general rule that he tells people is: you need to take breaks at the onset of fatigue. Don’t exercise until you’re too pooped to continue and then rest. You need to take your breaks well before you’re fatigued.

"I just don't have the motivation."

For the person who doesn't like to let others down, one of the most powerful motivators is to make a commitment. Invite a friend to exercise with you on a regular basis and pledge to show up as planned. See what team sports are available at your local parks and recreation department and become a member. Remember, they're counting on you! Once you've had a great exercise experience, don't forget about it.

A new study found that a positive workout memory can actually boost your motivation. To help remind you, place mementos where you can see them, such as medals, photos, or participation certificates from good fitness experiences.

Another way to boost incentive is to set a goal and then reward yourself when you achieve it. Have dinner at your favorite restaurant, get a massage, or go see that movie you've been wanting to see. Then set another goal.

"I'm afraid I'll get hurt or my MS will get worse."

This is a very understandable concern for people with MS. That's why it's important to talk with your doctor before you begin any exercise program. Your strengths and weaknesses are going to be very different from those of others with MS. Ideally, you would work with a physical therapist that specializes in MS to determine your goals and create a plan tailored to your abilities.

Some fear may be rooted in the old and now disproved belief that people with MS should not exercise because it could cause a relapse and disease progression. While overexertion can cause a flare in symptoms, known as a pseudo-exacerbation, it will not cause permanent progression. Don't forget to wear your cooling accessories to prevent getting overheated, a major cause of symptom flare.

"It's too expensive."

While it's true that gym memberships can break the budget, it's also true that you can find low-cost or no-cost ways to get moving. After all, walking or wheeling is free. But if you want to try something different you can do at home, check out offerings from your cable company. Typically, there are dozens of exercise programs for free on demand, everything from yoga to bootcamp. Call your provider to find out about programs in your area.

Another resource to consider is your local senior center, where activity programs are done at a slower, less strenuous pace. Many senior centers allow individuals with disabilities to join these low-cost or no-cost classes.