Why Is It So Hard to Exercise?

It might not be laziness.

Posted Dec 17, 2017

Edward Abramson, PhD
Source: Edward Abramson, PhD

You know you should do it but somehow there’s always something that gets in the way of being more active. You’ve read the articles extolling exercise for improved health and cognitive functioning but you’re busy and just don’t have the time. You know you hate to sweat and exercising is boring, besides you’d just eat more anyway so why bother? Does this sound familiar? Deep down, you know that these are just excuses so why is it so hard to get active?

Perhaps you think that you’re just lazy. When it’s a rainy Monday morning and the alarm goes off, do you just say, “I don’t feel like going to work today?” Do you turn the alarm off and go back to bed because you’re lazy and don’t feel like working? Or do you just get up and go to work anyway? Most likely, you’re not lazy about working so why are you lazy when it comes to exercise? One possible explanation is that you’re not lazy but you’ve had negative childhood experiences associated with physical activity that make exercising uncomfortable.

When you were a young child, no one had to tell you to move. You may have chased your siblings, danced, ran, skipped, played hide and seek, etc. What happened to decrease the natural joy you felt when you were moving your body? When you were a little older, were you embarrassed if you did poorly in a sport? Perhaps you were anxious when you were up at bat and everyone’s attention was focused on you. You didn’t want to let your teammates down, but you struck out and felt bad. Or perhaps a gym teacher or coach criticized you in front of your peers. Maybe you were self-conscious because the gym shorts, leotards or swimsuit drew attention to your body. If you were uncoordinated or just out of breath trying to keep up with your friends you felt foolish. Any of these experiences could cause you to retreat from physical activity.

To overcome exercise avoidance start by recalling activities that you enjoyed when you were younger. Did you enjoy riding a bike? Jumping rope? Dancing? Shooting hoops or tossing a ball? What’s keeping you from doing it now? Give yourself permission to start slowly. You don’t need to do it perfectly; it’s not a competition. Don’t worry about what other people think. If you’re self-conscious, find a setting where you won’t be observed. If you get tired, stop and come back to it another day. If necessary, you can start with a simple walk around the neighborhood. Don’t expect to see immediate results when you step on the scale and remember that increasing activity isn’t a reason to reward yourself by eating more!

The important point is that you’re reconnecting with your body, becoming less sedentary, and maybe having some fun. 


Abramson, E. (2016) Weight, diet and body image: What every therapist needs to know. Eau Claire, WI: PESI Publishing & Media.