What To Do if You Don’t Like to Exercise

If you’re someone who hates to exercise, know it will improve your health but can’t seem to get yourself to do it, read on.

For the past 40 + years I’ve been counseling patients on the detrimental effects of being inactive. What is now known is that too much sitting, also called sedentariness, is an independent predictor of ill health.

Prolonged sitting is a top risk factor for developing diabetes, weight gain, obesity, increased blood fats, cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, depression and even premature death.

Sitting too much can also keep your energy level and mood low, cause joint pain and stiffness and make it hard to manage stress or stress eating.

If you’re someone who wants to be healthier and better manage weight but don’t enjoy exercising, here are some tips to guide you:

1-Know Your Daily Activity Patterns

I talk to patients a lot about the ‘a’ word (activity) instead of the ‘e’ word (exercise).

The ‘24-hour activity cycle’ is a new idea regarding how to think about motion over the course of a day.

We spend our time in four activities: sleep, sedentary behavior, light-intensity physical activity (like light household chores, shopping, cooking, light gardening, standing around) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (like brisk walking, heavy cleaning, dancing, biking).

To improve your health, think about how you spend your time and be sure to allocate as much time to moderate-to-vigorous physical activity as you can. Replacing sedentary time with light-intensity physical activity has health benefits as well.

2 -Find Activities you Hate the Least

If you have an aversion to exercise, you just need to find something you dislike the least in order to boost daily physical activity and get started.

It can be freeing to know you don’t have to love exercise to become a healthier person.

Some examples from my patients:

  • For those with a dog, begin a daily dog-walking program
  • Find a walking buddy and together start a brisk walking program outdoors or inside a fitness facility or shopping mall
  • Walk on a treadmill or use a stationary bike while watching (being distracted by) your favorite TV shows
  • Take dance lessons or dance at home
  • Gamify the activity and challenge yourself by tracking your daily steps with your smart phone or Apple watch
  • Work with a personal fitness trainer who can design a physical activity program that meets your needs

Also, remember that all activity counts toward better health; this can include taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, walking while talking on a conference call and parking your car farther away to get in more daily steps.

3- Embrace the Positives of a More Physically-Active Lifestyle

Once you are in motion, you will likely begin to enjoy the experience afterward and the positive emotions a more physically active lifestyle can bring.

Did you know that even short bouts of exercise have immediate health benefits, such as reduced anxiety, reduced blood pressure, better sleep and improvements in thinking and insulin sensitivity?

Also, keep in mind longer-term benefits (seen within a few weeks or months of participation), such as better quality of life, increased cardiorespiratory fitness, sustained reduction in blood pressure, decreased symptoms of depression and lower risk of dementia.

If you need more direction to help you start and progress an exercise program that fits your lifestyle, check out my self-help book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!

Know that many options exist to help you be a more physically active person and without ever having to join a health club!


Robert Kushner, MD

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