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.

Below are 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.

“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 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 body can tolerate.

 

Sore joints, wobbly ankles and knees can usually 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.

“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? When you have an hour away from the kids do you get your nails done or try and fit a walk in? Or do you say no to 1 or 2 evening social engagements this week and squeeze in some exercise instead?

Having said that, 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.Having said all that, a simple walk counts as exercise and all you need is a 30 minute gap in the day to squeeze it in- no equipment or extra people needed!

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

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 count or do a weights session with squats, sit ups and lunges on the bedroom floor. If you have someone at home with you, you can try a quick boxing session – excellent for fitness and any venting!

You may not have big chunks of time in the day to exercise (I can identify with that) but some small pockets might just be there for you to squeeze some physical activity into.

“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 counts as exercise too (as does briskly walking up and down the pool or attending 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 suggest to my body conscious patients).

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

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 years ago telling a newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic patient that 5-10% weight loss would greatly help her diabetes control. 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!

So ditch the excuses and before you put your pyjamas on tonight or sit down to watch some TV – is there anyway you can sneak in something active? Don’t listen to those excuses in your brain – you’ve got this!

 

Dr Alexander

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