The Exercise Excuses


When I start mentioning to patients that weight loss and exercise might help their knee osteoarthritis, diabetes or blood pressure control I get hit with “but…” very quickly. The excuses come thick and fast.


I thought I would share the 5 common excuses I hear as a GP and why they usually aren’t valid. If you’ve ever uttered these words when it comes to exercise (even to yourself) then let me very gently rebut you and perhaps even change your mind!


“I can’t run because my joints hurt”


My joints don’t stop me from running- instead it’s my over active brain that has no idea what to do whilst my legs are moving. I find running utterly boring and have never been able to go past 10 minutes. If you can’t run because of your joints or because you’re brain cannot accept this mundane form of exercise then fine – but don’t let that be your ticket to “well I don’t need to exercise.” I don’t expect you to run through ankle instability or plantar fasciitis – but I do expect us to find an alternative way you can get moving and shaking that your joints will accept.


Sore joints, wobbly knees and whining feet can all cope with low impact exercises like cycling or swimming. Strength training like yoga or pilates may be just what your joints are craving. For patients who have a tough time finding exercise that suits them we involve exercise physiologists who can develop a program that suits the patient.


Running isn’t the ONLY form of exercise remember?


“I don’t have the time to attend gym classes”


I understand this – being a time poor mother and GP I can identify with this one. But it’s all a matter of compromise– do you sacrifice 30 minutes of extra sleep in the morning to get to the 6am class? It means a little bit of preparation before bed– packing a bag of work clothes and going to bed a touch earlier – but it can be done. Or do you say no to 1 or 2 evening social engagements this week and attend a class instead? That’s how I made it work prior to being a mother.


I remind my patients constantly that the gym isn’t the only place they can attend group physical activity. There are groups who meet in the park, personal trainers who run group sessions and if you have friends they might be keen to join you for an interval sprint session.


“I don’t have time to exercise… FULL STOP”


Nope – don’t believe you. When patients say this to me I get an average day timetable from them. 99% of the time I can find a pocket where they have picked couch time or social events over exercise. This is my forte – sneaking exercise in when I can – so I don’t buy the excuse of lack of time.


I bet anything that you spend SOME time in front of the TV. Most of my patients admit they watch a favourite program either once or twice a week. Boom – there’s the window. Pop a treadmill, exercise bike or cross country trainer in front of the TV and promise yourself that you will not watch your show without being on that machine (The Bachelorette is even more enjoyable if you burn calories at the same time!!). Or if you have pockets of time here and there grab a skipping rope – 3 x 10 minute sessions are perfect! If you have someone at home with you, try what my husband and I do and have a quick boxing session – excellent for fitness and any venting!


So time poor isn’t going to cut it with me. As a new mother who is working and trying to maintain a half decent home I don’t let that excuse enter my mind, so you shouldn’t either.


“I don’t feel confident swimming”


As a water challenged being I hear you but swimming is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise for people with joint issues (because it’s low impact) and asthma (indoor heated pools can be very lung friendly for those whose asthma is worse with cold air). You don’t need to Ian Thorpe it down the fast lane for swimming to count as exercise – a doggy paddle or breast stroke (and yes I’m talking head remains ABOVE the water!!!) counts too (as does briskly walking up and down the pool or attending an aqua aerobics class). If you don’t feel comfortable in bathers – a big t-shirt will save your dignity – as will going at non-peak times (something I tell my body conscious patients).


Despite all the reluctance to get into bathers – swimming is a fantastic form of exercise!


“I can’t afford a gym membership or personal trainer”


I hear this one a lot. And quite frankly it’s the weakest excuse of them all. You don’t NEED a gym or a personal trainer to exercise. You need motivation – you need to chuck your sneakers on, chuck out the excuses and go for a walk, run or cycle. Grab your partner, a friend, a group of friends and use them to help motivate you. You don’t need to pay someone to yell at you to run – tell your motivated friend that you REALLY want to join them for their weekend hike or cycle for the next month – they will end up pushing you a bit without you (or your wallet) knowing about it.


I remember telling a newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic patient of mine that weight loss would greatly help her diabetes control (if not reverse the diabetes completely). She recruited 3 girlfriends, all in their late 60s, and they would walk around the local lake 4 days a week – rail, hail or shine. Not only did she significantly improve her diabetes control, but another member of her walking group (who was also my patient) lost enough weight to come off 1 of her blood pressure mediations! Now these ladies proved you don’t need a gym or a PT behind you – just a good group of friends who are willing to chuck their sneakers on!



So ditch the excuses. I’ve heard them all before – and my response usually involves the line “I’m busy too BUT I manage to do at least 30 – 60 minutes of something active 6 days of the week” – and that’s the truth. So before you put your pajamas on tonight or sit down to watch some TV – is there anyway you can sneak in something active? And is that voice in your head that was very free with the excuses finally silent?