10 Reasons You Don't Exercise

From a busy schedule to not seeing results, there are many reasons why people don't exercise. In fact, studies show that more than 60% of American adults don't get the recommended amount of physical activity and more than 25% of adults are not active at all.

Because the benefits of getting and staying motivated to work out are far more numerous, it is important to pinpoint what is getting in the way of your success. If you don't regularly exercise and are hoping to change course, here are some potential reasons you may not be exercising. You also will find advice on how you can make these issues a thing of the past.

You Don't Enjoy Exercise

Any exercise may feel hard at first, especially if you're just getting started. But as you become more consistent, your body gets stronger. And while enjoying exercise may seem impossible, once you've found a routine that fits your personality and lifestyle, you might find yourself looking forward to your workout.

There are many different forms of exercise, and you don't necessarily have to commit to the first one you try. Explore different options for getting fit instead.

For instance, if you like social exercise, most gyms offer a variety of options. From spinning and kickboxing to circuit and strength training, you are likely to find it all. At-home group fitness, such as Peloton cycling, is another option. It allows you to take group fitness classes from the comfort of your own home.

Fitness-based video games can make fitness fun and family-friendly and might be worth trying if you have kids. Try mixing up your workout with some virtual reality (VR) or video games instead. Studies have shown that exercise video games can help in maintaining physical activity and improving health.

Similarly, downloading a variety of fitness apps on your smartphone or tablet can be like having your own personal trainer. These apps offer ideas for workouts, ways to track your progress, and can help you stay motivated. In some cases, you can even connect and compete with others in the fitness community.

Finally, recognize that you don't have to hit the gym to get in a great workout. You can use your own equipment, like hand weights, right in your living room.

Even your regular chores—like gardening, raking leaves, shoveling snow, or sweeping—burn calories. Make them more challenging to up their benefit like raking small piles of leaves instead of large ones so you need to squat down to gather them more often.

You Keep Quitting

You might start out strong and with the best intentions, but before you know it, you've lost your motivation. People quit exercising for many reasons but there are common reasons why you may skip, postpone, or entirely cancel your workout plans.

For instance, you may be taking on too much, too soon. If you go from no exercise at all to hitting the gym 7 days a week, you may be overtraining and you're bound to feel burnt out. Instead, ease into a new routine.

Also, make sure you do your research and plan ahead. Find out more about the machines at the gym, so you can target your exercises to your goals. If you go in without a plan, you're more likely to choose random exercises or complete them sporadically. Most gyms offer how-to tours of their facilities as well.

Boredom is another reason people quit. While some people love treadmills or stationary bikes, others find walking or pedaling to nowhere gets old fast. If you're quickly getting bored with the exercises you've chosen, they may not be a good fit. Find something that holds your interest for the long haul or that offers enough variety to keep your workout from feeling stale.

Finally, when you're just starting out, soreness is to be expected. However, you should still be able to function. If you're so exhausted after your workout that you can't lift your head off the pillow or you get an injury while exercising, you're not likely to feel motivated to get back to it once you're feeling better.

Tips to Keep From Quitting

  • Work with a trainer: An experienced trainer can turn a lackluster workout into an effective and challenging routine.
  • Change your workouts: Try different types of training to keep things interesting, such as circuit training, high-intensity interval training, and kettlebells. Be sure to balance strength with cardio workouts. This also helps you avoid plateaus.
  • Avoid skipping: If you want to skip out on the gym, there's probably a reason. Really think about what it is and if it's something you really can overcome.

You Can't Afford a Gym Membership

There's no reason you have to join a gym to exercise, but if you're determined to leave the house to work out, there are more affordable options such as the YMCA or local community centers. You also can work out at home or purchase

How to Save Money on Workouts

  • Walk or run: All you need is a good pair of shoes for this simple, accessible workout.
  • Buy multi-use equipment: An exercise ball can be used for core work, weight training, and even cardio. Dumbbells are usually inexpensive and can be used for the entire body.
  • Work out at home: If you need ideas, look to videos for inspiration. You can also make up your own routines—just put on some music and get moving.
  • Find free resources: The Internet is a great source for workouts and weight-loss programs, and your library is an excellent resource for trying workout videos or finding books about exercise.
  • Try no equipment workouts: You can get a great workout without any equipment by using your own body weight.

You're Not Seeing Changes in Your Body

If you're achieving your fitness goals as fast as you would like, the frustration might make you want to throw in the towel. Remember, though, you didn't become de-conditioned overnight. Likewise, you can't rebuild your strength overnight either.

Getting started is the first step toward reaching your fitness goals. Give your body time to react. It could take up to 12 weeks of exercise before you start seeing major changes.

Also, make sure you've set realistic fitness goals. In the meantime, stay focused on the benefits of physical activity, such as reducing stress and improving posture.

You Don't Know How to Exercise

Being an exercise beginner can be overwhelming (and even intimidating). There are many different types of exercise you can try. Some will work for you and others might not. Figuring that out for yourself can be challenging. The good news is, there are plenty of resources out there to help.

If you're part of a gym or fitness center, consider working with a personal trainer. If you're working out at home or on a budget, try getting started with a free fitness program. Even online videos or apps can teach your want you need to know.

You Have Childcare Responsibilities

Between school, after-school activities and sports, kids can have schedules as busy as their parents. Just because you have carpool duty or need to make sure your tween gets to practice on time doesn't mean you have to neglect your own fitness goals.

In fact, exercise can be a great activity for the whole family. Making time for a workout doesn't just benefit your health, it also sets a good example for your kids.

How to Accommodate Kids & Workouts

Exercising with kids requires planning, but it's not impossible. If you look to your community, you'll likely find some good resources.

  • Utilize childcare: Join a health club or gym with a daycare center.
  • Find the right time: Use an online video or fitness app when the kids are napping or you're waiting for dinner to cook.
  • Include them: If they're old enough, invite your kids to be part of your routine. Show them how to lift small weights, have them count your repetitions, or take them along on your daily walk.
  • Choose family-friendly activities: If you'd enjoy coaching or mentoring, see if there are opportunities to be more involved with your child's sports team.
  • Rethink exercise: Challenging kids to a running race or playing an animated game of tag can burn calories too.

You're Too Stressed

Being stressed can make everything more difficult to face—workouts included. At the same time, waiting until you feel like exercising can backfire. Motivation is something you have to work at every day.

Start by setting reasonable goals and remind yourself of them every day. Each time you reach a goal, whether it's completing your workouts for the week or feeling more energized, reward yourself.

Go for a massage, put together a new workout playlist, buy new running shoes, or spend a quiet night at home curled up with a good book. Also talk with others about their goals and how they stay motivated. If you aren't part of a gym or class, join some message boards or social media groups.

Additionally, focus on how you feel rather than the numbers on the scale or what you see in the mirror. If you aren't seeing changes in your body as soon as you'd hoped, it can be discouraging. But there are other benefits to working out, such as better balance and more energy, that you might be overlooking.

You're Tired and Sore

Exercise can be uncomfortable, especially in the beginning when you're trying to find your stride. Once your body adapts, it starts to get easier. Still, even those who have been exercising for a while experience some soreness after a hard workout.

If your workout is truly painful, you may need to try something else to avoid injury. If the soreness is just the result of your body getting used to moving more, try starting slower.

Start with a few days of moderate cardio like walking and basic strength workouts to build endurance and strength. You should be able to carry on a conversation if you're working at a moderate intensity. Then, you can ease into strength training.

With weight training, an effort is needed to build lean body tissue. When you're just starting out, any weight you lift is going to require effort. In the early days, focus more on maintaining good form. Then increase your weight once you've mastered the exercise.

If you have been working out for a while and find that you are more sore or exhausted than usual, take it as a sign your body needs an extra rest day to repair and recover. It is important to listen to your body and allow for rest when it's needed. Pushing yourself beyond your limits could result in injury.

You Can't Commit

When you only think about exercise in the long term ("I have to do this forever!"), it can be overwhelming. Keep in mind that you don't have to change everything in your life all at once, and not all the changes you make have to happen overnight. If you're having trouble sticking to your workout routine try to switch up your perspective.

First, start with small, attainable goals. It's easier to stick with a workout when your goals start small. Try challenging yourself to walk an extra 10 minutes each day or get up early for a short yoga workout.

Also, ask yourself if a fitness routine is truly important to you or if you just want it to be. Making exercise a priority takes commitment, and commitment takes motivation. Figure out what your goals are, but keep them realistic.

And finally, don't focus strictly on weight management. If your only goal is weight loss, it can be hard to stick to a routine if you don't see results right away. While you don't want to lose sight of your long-term goals, try giving some of your attention and focus to the other benefits of exercise.

You Don't Have Time

When you're looking at your to-do list, it might feel like you just don't have time to exercise. But exercise doesn't need to take a lot of time to be effective. And, if you look more closely at how you spend your time, you might realize you've got more of it to carve out than you thought.

How to Prioritize Workouts

  • Put your workout on your schedule. Keep a calendar of your workouts so you can track your progress and stay motivated.
  • Break up your workouts. Just because you can't find a 30-minute slot of time during your day for a workout doesn't mean you can't work out at all. Try breaking your activity up into 10- or 15-minute segments. Research has shown that split workouts are just as effective as continuous workouts.
  • Add more movement to your day. Get up a few minutes early and take a brisk walk, use part of your lunch break for a stretch, or take the dog out for a romp after work. Even small changes, like parking at the far side of the lot or taking the stairs when possible, add up over time.
  • Focus on the positives of exercise. Aside from feeling better, improving your fitness level, and reducing the risk of certain illnesses, exercising regularly will give you more energy and help you sleep better. After all, exercise generates energy, and the more energy you have, the more you'll get done each day.

A Word From Verywell

A regular exercise program can deliver many physical and mental health benefits, but finding the motivation and time for a workout isn't always easy. Find the right strategy and routine that works for you and take time establishing an exercise calendar that's ideal for your schedule and lifestyle. Above all, be patient with the workouts and yourself as you figure out your fitness journey.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."