7 Things to Remember When You Don’t Feel Like Exercising

Sometimes it isn’t easy to convince yourself to exercise. Grueling hours and hectic days can leave you feeling so exhausted that working out is the last thing you want to do. Sound familiar? Please know you’re not alone. According to the CDC, less than half of American adults are getting enough exercise. If you don’t feel like exercising, these seven things might motivate you to get off the couch.

Exercise isn’t reserved for athletes and bodybuilders.

There is no rule that you must be ripped to enter a gym. Exercise is for people of all shapes, sizes, and athletic abilities. Your starting point is irrelevant. The important thing is where you’re going.

Here’s a personal fact that might make you feel better. I couldn’t even do one push-up the first time I walked into a gym (now I can do over twenty in a row!). It took a lot of practice to get to that point, but I’m glad I did it. You’ll feel the same way when you become stronger than you ever thought possible.

Exercise shouldn’t exhaust you (it should recharge you).

Stop looking at exercise like it’s a stressful thing that’s going to make you feel tired. Exercise should be viewed as an invigorating activity that will make you feel energized. That sounds a lot better, right?

Science validates this perspective. Exercise can reduce fatigue and increase energy levels, according to a study by the University of Georgia. Start with something simple like a morning walk. You could even buy a jump rope, begin with a set of 50 hops, and give yourself the goal of doing 10 more per day.

Exercise doesn’t have to be inconvenient and time-consuming.

An hour of exercise might be ideal in theory, but it could also be incompatible with your lifestyle. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Remember this mantra: do the best you can with what you have.

The good thing about starting with a small dose of exercise is that you can gradually increase the intensity as time goes on (hint: this is exactly how you get fit according to the principle of progressive overload).

You could begin by performing a 10 minute workout at the top of every morning. After you successfully follow that routine for a month, add 10 more minutes. Repeat this process consistently and you will certainly see results.

Exercise isn’t just for your body (it improves your mental health, too).

It’s unfortunate that most fitness marketing focuses on vain goals like sculpting a six-pack. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive, but that’s only half of the story.

Exercise treats depression just as well as antidepressants, according to a study by the Archives of Internal Medicine. This could be due to the fact that exercise releases endorphins, which improve your mood and reduce your perception of pain.

Exercise also gives you a sense of control. Most people have felt powerless at one time or another. That could be due to a divorce, job loss, death in the family, or whatever the case may be. Staying committed to an exercise plan during a hardship can give you the confidence you need to improve other aspects of your life.

Exercise can be used as a healthy emotional outlet or positive coping mechanism.

Recovering addicts know how important it is to have a hobby, interest, or passion of some kind. Poor habits thrive when a person doesn’t have a healthy outlet to use when they are upset or stressed out.

It’s really hard to quit any habit, because doing so can open up a nasty void. If a smoker always lights up at a certain time, they will need to find another way to occupy themselves. Otherwise, they might get so stressed out that they cave to temptation.

Thus, it might be smart to walk outside and do a few stretches every time that urge occurs. Quitting gets a lot easier when you start to associate healthy habits with the triggers that used to provoke poor habits. In short, exercise is a great addition to the recovery process.

Exercise comes in so many forms that one of them will definitely grab your interest. 

Are you convinced that you hate exercise and that’s just how it is? If that’s the case, expand your definition of “exercise” to include any activity that raises your heart-rate.

Think outside of the box. Dancing, gardening, hula-hooping, house cleaning, and even window shopping could be considered “exercise” as long as you perform these activities with enough vigor.

It might be helpful to think about the games and activities that you enjoyed as a child. Look through some old photo-albums to jog your memory. Ask yourself, “How could I recreate this activity in some way as an adult?” Be creative.

Exercise might not provide instant gratification, but that doesn’t make you happy anyway.

Let go of your need for instant gratification. It is deceptive for any diet book author or personal trainer to promise they can deliver “fast” or “easy” weight-loss.

Your rate of weight-loss is influenced by so many variables that it’s impossible to estimate how many pounds you would lose per month on any given program. Those variables include your age, weight, gender, metabolism, activity level, eating decisions, medical conditions, and quality of sleep.

The point? Don’t jump to conclusions. If you don’t get results after a month of a training plan, don’t automatically blame the program. Your problem could just as easily be caused by a poor diet or lack of sleep. See yourself as a detective searching for clues that will help you solve a puzzle. As long as you can be patient, you’ll eventually crack the case. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Have you noticed any benefits of exercise that I didn’t include here?

If so, please tell us in the comments. You might give someone the inspiration they need to get moving. If you found this article helpful, please pass it along in a thoughtful email or Facebook share.

About the Author

Daniel Wallen is the CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of the Wallen Way. He is a personal trainer, Lifehack contributor, and author of, “The Busy Woman’s Guide to Getting Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous

26 thoughts on “7 Things to Remember When You Don’t Feel Like Exercising”

  1. This article was very interesting, I do a lot of phyical activities outside from push mowing the lawn to moving cut wood into the house for the fireplace. So with this being winter I’m very busy moving this wood. This includes walking up 5 steps, pushing a wheel barrow, then taking the wood inside the house. I usually from 4-6 loads of wood, this is done 4-5 times a week. So this is one form of winter exercise for me. I do work out at the Y. Water aerobics and kettlebell classes but there are many times I cannot make these class, but the wood moving exercise continues, along with my other duties in the evening. This is something that I enjoy because I do feel good when I challenge myself–increasing the amount of wood or how many times I can move this wood. Also I’m outside the weather has a lot to do with –how fast, how many loads, how hard I have to work to acheive this task. I do feel better and my legs are getting stronger and I’m able to do more, I’m not as stressed out from work when I’m doing my evening outside activities.

  2. I’m just getting started. I had a heart by pass in 2007 and I am tired of being so weak. I thought this would be a new start and give me some idea on how to change my life now before it is too late. I am sure someone has good ideas!

    1. Linda, did you figure out a plan? Sorry for responding so late (gotta admit I’m bad at checking comments and emails — working on that now!). Anyway, remember that it’s totally okay to start slow. When I began to practice yoga at home, I started with one set of the sun salutation, which only took two minutes. I added a little more at a time and now my routine is closer to an hour… but I did it in baby steps. It makes the whole process less scary and intimidating. Hopefully that helps.

  3. First thing in the morning while listening to the news I ride my stationary cycle for 10 to 20 minutes and in the evening while watching Wheel of Fortune for another 20 minutes to half hour.

    1. That’s a smart way to multitask, Blanche. I’ve been doing something very similar (listening to business and self-help podcasts while riding a stationary bike at the gym). Cardio isn’t my favorite thing in the world (I prefer weight lifting), so that helps me stay interested in it.

  4. great suggestion to take focus off the task of exercising will try soon with my exercise routine

  5. I agree with the starting small. I find it has been easier to incorporate exercise into my crazy schedule when I plan on doing it in small increments. I already feel better and have more energy.

    1. I’m so glad, Crystal! Those small changes will pile on top of each other and start compounding before you know it.

  6. I thought this article really gave me an insight to my “goal” of daily exercise. Some days I’m so tired, I just forget about doing any of my regular exercises.
    Sometimes exercise is just a routine thing and looses it’s appeal. These suggestions really gave me a new outlook on my exercises.

    1. Here’s a neat way to look at it. Exercise doesn’t drain you. Exercise rejuvenates you. I know it might not seem that way when you’re exhausted, but it tends to make you feel better. Starting is the hard part. Do that and the rest will take care of itself.

  7. Perfect article = my first day at the gym I couldn’t stay on the treadmill for 20 minutes without being exhausted – FROM WALKING!! I am now up to running for 60 minutes. I set my own goals as far as speed and distance – it’s about me pushing myself not worrying about others. It always helps me when a friend goes along too. I try and work out FIRST THING IN THE MORNING – that way nothing gets in my way the rest of the day.

    1. Wow. That’s a huge improvement. Congrats! And I agree, it’s best to exercise early. Motivating yourself can be a lot harder when you’re tired after a stressful day.

  8. Great article! It really broadened my perspective of exercise and now I wanna do it instead of questing whether to do so or not. Anything that raises your heart rate really helps understand that what you enjoy is exercise as well.

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