Most of us have found an excuse not to exercise at some point, despite knowing how good physical activity is for our health.
But now there’s even more reason to knock those excuses on the head, as new research has found regular exercise cuts the risk of dying from infectious diseases – including Covid – by more than a third. And that’s on top of a wealth of past research that’s found exercise reduces the risk of numerous health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and depression, and improves wellbeing.
In the latest study, an international team of scientists led by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) found 150 minutes a week of physical activity can have a massive impact on immunity, reducing fatalities by 37%, the danger of catching infectious diseases by 31% and even boosting the effectiveness of vaccines by up to 40%.
Professor Sebastien Chastin of GCU, who led the study, says: “You don’t need to go to a gym, as dancing around the living room, going for a run or walk is just as effective. The clear message is ‘stay active’.” And Alastair Crew, head trainer at David Lloyd Clubs, adds: “We all make excuses not to exercise. If we can focus more on creating good habits, the more likely we are to make it happen. It’s important to be realistic – don’t set yourself up to fail, by aiming to go from zero to four Hiit sessions a week. Start small and have a plan, and try to remember how good you feel after a workout.
“Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout. Get back on track and keep taking those small steps towards your goals.” But while most people know they should be exercising and will enthusiastically embark on an exercise programme, many will quickly lose that enthusiasm, coming up with all manner of excuses to justify their lack of activity. Here are some of the most common excuses – and how to overcome them.
Feeling too tired to do any exercise has to be the most common reason for not exercising. We all feel tired after a day at work, and putting on your exercise gear and getting sweaty can seem like way too big an ask – even though numerous studies show regular exercise increases energy and can reduce fatigue by as much as 65%.
If simply knowing that exercising will release endorphins that make you feel good doesn’t do the trick, then look at the times you’re exercising and see if you can change them to a time when you’re less tired – can you get up earlier and fit in a short home exercise routine before work, or perhaps go for a run in your lunch hour?
Another way to get over the tiredness hurdle is by exercising with a friend – it makes it more fun, and you’re less likely to use the tiredness excuse if it means you’re letting your mate down.
We’re all busy, but it’s about priorities. Yes you’ve got to work, feed the kids and do the chores, but if someone told you they’d give you £1,000 if you found a spare half hour, you’d probably manage it somehow, wouldn’t you?
Something is always better than nothing, and if you just manage 10 minutes of running up and down stairs or round the garden, be proud of yourself. Do it again the next day, and see if you can keep increasing the time a little.
If you feel you can’t exercise because you’re always looking after your young kids, then kill two birds with one stone by exercising with them – run when you’re pushing the buggy round the park, or get toddlers to do a home workout with you. You might not get as much exercise as you would if you were on your own, but it’s much better than nothing, and the kids will love it.
It’s true, exercise can be monotonous and boring – but it doesn’t have to be.
How to beat it
If you don’t like running, or swimming, or other relentless pursuits, then do something different and varied. As lockdown eases, try an exercise class with friends, or even go on your own, because you’ll make friends there anyway.
And if you can’t bear the thought of classes, then simply incorporate exercise into your day, by taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking the kids to school or cycling to work – there are all sorts of ways to make life more active.
You may not be able to afford a gym membership, but keeping active is so much more than going to the gym.
There are plenty of free home exercise classes online which you can do whenever you can fit them in – for example, the free David Lloyd Clubs @ home app has a variety of classes, with some sessions under 15 minutes. Running is free, of course, and entrance to swimming pools is pretty cheap.
Crew says: “Don’t feel you have to head to the gym to exercise – find something you can complete at home. Keep it exciting – look at how you can mix things up, so exercise is part of your daily routine – maybe a walk during a work call to get some steps and fresh air at the same time.”
Granted, this is one that could halt exercise temporarily, but the truth is there are very few injuries that will stop you from exercising every part of your body.
So you’ve got a bad knee, or have pulled a leg muscle. There’s nothing wrong with your arms though, is there? Look up exercises online that you can do with the parts of your body that don’t hurt – you may be surprised how many there are.
Do some research on whether your injury could benefit from some form of exercise. Always check with your doctor, but you may find that it’ll get quicker better with some careful movement.
This is the excuse that lies behind any or all of the others. It all hinges on how much you want to get fitter and healthier.
Good health, fitness and weight loss don’t happen quickly. Even so, make a chart of when you exercise, or your weight and measurements, and stick it up so your family can see how you’re doing – knowing you’re being watched can really spur you on. But probably the best motivation is finding a friend, neighbour or colleague to exercise with. And focus on how brilliant you feel after moving your body to keep booking in the next activity.