The 7 Most Common Exercise Excuses + How to Overcome Them

Breaking down barriers with easy-to-implement solutions!

By: Dominique Michelle Astorino

Excuses, excuses! We’ve all had mental and psychological barriers between us and our goals, and fitness may as well be the poster child of this phenomenon. It is *so* easy to make an excuse to get out of a workout (or two… or several…), but we have some mental (and logistical) tricks for breaking through so you can get back at it. 

Step One: Evaluate Your Goals

Before we get into the individual excuses, it’s important to take mental, emotional, and physical inventory. In order to be consistent with your fitness, you have to want to work out. 

If you’re not exercising regularly, and you either used to, or you think that you want to, ask yourself why. What are those barriers? Sometimes they’re not ‘excuses’ so much as legitimate obstacles. (Reminder: give yourself some slack if you’re overcoming an injury, surgery, illness, period of grief, etc.) 

At the end of it all, you have to want to work out more than you don’t want to; this will get you past almost any obstacle. And the *why* behind why you want to work out is going to vary from person to person. Maybe you have a physical goal in mind of getting stronger or changing your physique. Maybe you want more energy levels or are hoping to age healthfully. Maybe you’re fighting a chronic illness or aiming to improve your mental health and mood. And maybe it’s a combination of all of the above!

Tuning back into your WHY is tantamount to success here. Regardless of your obstacles, your barriers, your excuses, this “why” will be your north star. Keep coming back to it. What are your goals? What’s your why? 

The Most Common Exercise Roadblocks & How to Overcome Them

Barring the legitimate logistical obstacles, there are some common exercise excuses that so many of us (yes, ourselves included) come up against time and time again. Here’s the antidote to each.

#1 “I Don’t Have Time”

Solution: Keep it short!

This is one of the toughest and most common barriers to exercise. We have jobs, children, families, pets, responsibilities, and so much more. Life can be hectic. We barely have time to shower some days! Come back to your goals and your why. Why is exercise so important to you?

A lot of us feel like if we can’t get in a 30, 45, or 60+ minute workout, then it’s “not even worth it.Friend, this is a bad mental narrative and not at all the truth! A little bit of movement is better than no movement at all, and short workouts can be incredibly effective, too. They can fit into even the busiest of schedules. Consider if you’re spending 30 or so minutes scrolling through Instagram or social media. Sure, sometimes you need a mindless break from your daily chaos. But how much of that time could be reallocated toward even a five-minute workout…?

Figure out how you can prioritize your five-minute workouts throughout the week. From there, you might find you can try an approach called “exercise snacking,” where you can fit in a little burst of workouts throughout the day, which add up to 30 or more minutes. Imagine if you could do that five or six days a week, how much progress you could make. 

#2 The “I’ll Start Tomorrow or Next Week” Mentality

Solution: Hold Yourself To It.  

There’s a reason why “diet starts tomorrow” is a popular Instagram account. It’s a near-universal experience that we’re going to start [eating better, working out, insert goal here] tomorrow

If you really mean it, go back to step one (remember your WHY), and then schedule your tomorrow. Put it on your calendar. Write it down. Make a crystal clear action plan. Are you going to start your day by walking your dog for 15 minutes? What about a 20-minute yoga session or a 10-minute strength training workout? Write it down, and then do it. Tell someone else you’re going to start your workouts tomorrow, and have them check in on you, so you have an extra layer of accountability.

You’d be surprised how energized and motivated you feel after just one workout — even a short one — and it’ll help set you back in motion for even more in the following days and weeks.

#3 “I Don’t Have a Gym Membership” 

Solution: Forget The Membership. Think Outside The Box!

Don’t have a gym membership? You don’t have to! This is one of those common exercise excuses, but it doesn’t have to be! You don’t need a big box gym or fancy studio to start moving your body. It’s so much simpler than it’s been made out to be. You can work out literally anywhere you are — no equipment, no machine, no membership fees. You can download FitOn for free to guide you through different types of exercises, at different intensities, for different durations of time. The world is your exercising oyster. 

#4 “I’m Tired” 

Solution: Find Out Why.

Are you? No shade. A lot of us are tired. And that’s valid. AND, at the same time, a lot of us feel the sensation of fatigue when fear sets in. It’s our cute little mind-body coping mechanism that we think keeps us safe. Listen to your body, of course, but if you’re tired all the time, consider talking to a doctor. Now take inventory. Are you ACTUALLY tired, or are you getting tired right when you think about exercising? If so, this may be that coping mechanism kicking in… and it’s not actually serving you. 

So back to the solution: take a little fatigue inventory. Is it chronic fatigue? If so, time for a doctor’s visit. Is it only in the morning when you’re trying to work out early? Move your workout time to later in the day. Is it every single time you think about or plan to exercise? 

RELATED: 4 Daily Habits That May Be the Secret Cause of Low Energy

#5 “I’m Not a Morning Person”

Solution: Don’t Try To Be!

Work out later in the day! There’s a false narrative that in order to be healthy, you have to be part of the 4 am wake-up crowd. INCORRECT! (And annoying!)

Repeat after me: you do not have to work out in the morning. The best time of day to work out is when you have time for it, and there are benefits to working out morning, noon, and night!

That said, maybe you WANT to be a morning person but don’t know where to start. In that case, we got you!! Try these morning movement hacks to help kickstart your day. 

#6 “I’m Feeling Anxious”

Solution: Start Smaller.

Listen, we GET IT. This is a really hard barrier to overcome and something that affects millions of people. The irony is that mental health struggles can make it harder to get going and exercise, but the lack of exercise makes the mental health state worse. It’s a vicious cycle (sometimes called the exercise-stress paradox), and it can be hard to break. 

There is an overwhelming amount of research that links increased movement to improved mental health. Remember this on those tough days! It can be hard to get started, but try lowering your barrier to entry. Start small. Choose the mellowest form of movement, like a walk, a five-minute workout, or a combo of a low-key, short-duration workout. Whatever feels best for your mind and your body. 

RELATED: Why You Should Still Move Your Body When You’re Anxious

#7 “I’m Not Ready”

Solution: Lower the Bar.

It sounds counterintuitive — especially when it comes to improving your health and wellness — to lower the bar. In reality, you’re lowering your expectations for your start point. If you’re thinking that you’re not ready to go “all in,” or you feel you’re not strong enough for a certain type of exercise, or you don’t have the stamina for a particular workout… that’s why you’re here, friend!

Lower. The. Bar. Don’t hold yourself to the expectations or standards of an Olympic athlete, professional trainer, or even your neighbor or best friend. Don’t go in with expectations for performance, don’t try to break a PR (personal record), simply go in with the expectation of MOVING. If you have a checklist for the day, simply write “move.” That could be a short walk. It could be a few minutes of stretching. Maybe it’s a 10-minute workout. Did you move today? Tick the box. That’s all you need to get started. It sets things in motion so you can keep going (think: inertia). Small changes add up. Get yourself back in motion!

The Takeaway

We’ve all been there. Even the most successful, motivated individuals experience roadblocks. Be gentle with yourself — getting started and staying consistent with an exercise routine can be tough! There are many exercise excuses and roadblocks that come up. That said, there are simple solutions to help you stay consistent with your fitness routine and overcome those roadblocks when they arise. If you’re lacking motivation or losing steam, that’s totally normal! Rather than getting down on yourself, come back to this guide — try implementing some of these tips and tricks. And don’t forget to recognize all your effort. It’s a journey, not a destination! You got this.