Why I don’t exercise

Great excuses not to work out


My kids will tell you that when they were in college I would often call to see how they were doing.  Did I ask about classes and studies?  Nope.  How about friends and dates?  Heaven forbid.  School sports? You are kidding, right? No, if you polled my children, they will tell you I said, “Are you getting enough exercise?”

Why this odd question?  Because I firmly believe that if you do not take care of your body, than you cannot take care of your mind.  Success in life springs from physical wellness and while that has a lot to do with what you eat and drink, it has everything to do with regular exercise.  Now, I hope, my patients will tell you that I ask them the same question, because physical activity is vital for them.  Exercise prevents or delays almost every medical problem and being in shape, along with ongoing physical activity, is vital for recovery.  I must ask this question at least occasionally, because it occurs to me that in response I have heard every excuse in a very thick book.

The basic retort is that “I am too tired.”  This one burns my buns. Of course, you’re too tired, you don’t exercise! This is like a man who complains that the car doesn’t run because he hasn’t filled the tank.  Exercise takes away fatigue, and if you do not exercise, you will be tired.  With exercise, the quality of life is stronger and brighter.  You sleep better and deeper, you are calmer, and you are more focused, you eat better.  In addition, I do not believe that short of absolute exhaustion, your body cannot move through a simple routine such as walking, jogging or biking. It is never too late or early in the day to exercise.

“The weather is too cold.”  “The weather is too hot.” “Too wet.”  “ Too dry.”  Sand storms and petulance.  These reasons not to exercise pretty much cover every occasion because everyday has some sort of weather.  The problem is that your body does not care.  Your gut does not check the weather and say, “gee, it’s raining, I guess I won’t get fat today.”  Every day you do not exercise, you lose opportunity, you lose strength, you lose endurance; in short you lose.  As an average husband who hates to shop, I have found a great use for Shopping Malls on terrible weather days ... Walk!   Weather forced you inside? You can buy a treadmill or stationary bike cheap, but I am of the belief they do not work unless actually used.

“I get bored when I exercise. “ Well, I have to admit, some days that is true. Like brushing our teeth, washing our cloths or cleaning house, tasks we have to repeat everyday can sometimes lack excitement.  On those days I ask myself,  “this is boring, but would I rather be bored for 40 minutes exercising or bored for years sitting in a wheelchair after a stroke.”  We fool ourselves when we think we have a choice.  We do not.  Exercise or become decrepit, frail and die.

“I am too busy." To which I answer, “No, you are not.”  To be too busy means that you have made the choice to fill your days with non exercise activities.  Now, sometimes it is true that overwhelming demands of life suck up all of your time, but that is not true all the time.  In almost everyone’s life, there are 30-45 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week (that is as little as 0.9% of each week) that you can take to exercise. When we say we are too busy we are making a decision and it is a decision that our bodies will never forgive.

Recently this whole issue was made clear by the honest and accurate excuse of a 58-year-old woman, being treated for heart disease, diabetes, and degenerative arthritis and is now seeing me for early stage breast cancer.  She explained convincingly that she could not possibly exercise because, and I quote,  “I have so many doctor visits, I don’t have time to exercise.”   Enough said.  Turn off that computer and go for a jog.


As published in Sunrise Rounds.


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James Salwitz November 19, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I too take advantage of stairs, trying to avoid elevators on hospital rounds. I get a certain perverse joy requiring med students to discuss cases while climbing up 9 flights. Clearly stairs are of benefit for strength and bone health. The problem is that stairs produce bursts of exertion, not continuous elevations in heart rate, nor the aerobic stimulation which seem to be critical in maintaining wellness. Keep using the stairs, but try to add at least a couple days of real walking a week (not easy to combine with a full schedule, but vital). jcs
Lisa Frankenfeld November 20, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Beautiful! Bravo! At 49 years old, I have no health problems whatsoever. I don't drink or smoke and keep my weight down, but I believe the biggest reason is because I exercise vigorously. A couch potato until the age of 19, I was one of the few people I knew to get a C in PE. I couldn't figure out why we even HAD PE. I thought it was stupid. Nowadays, I don't think schools concentrate enough on PE. I wish my kids had more of it. Yes, exercise gets boring at times, and I've gone through periods of getting burned out. But I always return. I am not athletic by nature, but I can't say enough about the benefits of exercise. It's nice to see a doctor tout the benefits, too.
Sandra McCormick November 20, 2012 at 03:00 AM
I do not believe in exercising! You have all the reasons listed why exercise is not good. The weather is hot,rainy or cold and as you stated the list goes on. I believe in a hobby or sport that provides "exercise". I am in the best shape of my life at 47 and I haven't excersied in 3 yrs. What I have been doing the past 3 yrs is enjoying my hobby of mauy thai kick boxing and brazilian jiu jitsu. When you find a hobby that has a side effect of producing physical activity you are more likly to look forward to that time and not make excuses. I do understand that not everyone likes a sport but there are many hobbies that get the blood flowing. Trail walking, hunting for treaures along the beach and bike riding just to name a few.
James Salwitz November 20, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Truely superb advice. With my lack of coordination I would probably kick myself. Thanks very much. jcs
Lisa Frankenfeld November 20, 2012 at 12:41 PM
I was never good at sports but was good at dance. High impact aerobics, with its dance-like movements, back in the 80's, is what got me interested in exercise. So yes, Sandra is right with regard to finding something active that you like to do, but in my case, the aerobics was a lead-in to exercising for its own sake.


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