How to Start Exercising When You Don’t Want To

By: Jackie Confalone | read her bio below

“Getting fit is all about mind over matter. I don’t mind, so it doesn’t matter.”
― Adam Hargreaves

“If by ‘crunches’ you mean the sound potato chips make when you chew them, then yes, I do crunches.” -Unknown

“Whenever I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.” (Paul Terry, cartoonist, animator). This is a favorite quote several of my friends use. They’d rather have their nose in a book than sneakers on their feet. Like eating broccoli, most people know that exercise is good for them; however, they just don’t want to exercise or they’re too busy to do it.

No doubt you value the outcome of exercise. You want to be healthy, fit, and at least able to move the living room furniture around until you find the right configuration. But, getting there can be overwhelming.

When you think of exercise or working out, what comes to mind? Do you cringe at the prospect of trying it or fear that you will fail to stick with a program? Maybe some of the programs require more time, energy, or resources than you have or are willing to give.

Studies have shown that activity can boost your mood, improve memory, increase cardiovascular endurance, and lower stress.[i] That’s probably a “duh” moment for you. Yet, even if you know those benefits, will you actually add more movement to your life?

A starting point is thinking about “why” you exercise. For example, if your goal is to finish an exercise program flawlessly, then exercising “only” on three of six scheduled days constitutes a failure. However, if your goal is to start exercising to have a stronger body, mind, and spirit, then three days (versus no days) would be incredible!

The same goes for weight loss. If your driving motivation to workout is to lose weight, there’s a good chance you’ll quit the gym when the scale doesn’t cooperate, even if you’ve had non-scale gains.

If you want to exercise and you want to do so consistently, it is important to unpack your greater purpose by asking yourself these questions: 

  • Why do you want to be stronger, faster, lighter?
  • If you had greater health and endurance, what things could you do?
  • How healthy and fit would you like to be in 6 months/1 year/5years?

Think about your answers to these questions, write them down, and don’t settle for so-so answers. Allow your motivation to be the possibility of what better health can feel like and do for you.[ii]

Negative thinking patterns also make moving our bodies for the sake of good health much harder than it needs to be. So, let’s think about intentional movements you genuinely enjoy or enjoyed as a child.

  • What exercise/workout have you enjoyed in the past?
  • What was your favorite way to play as a child?
  • Did you enjoy any sport or activity in school?
  • What types of activities do you encourage your children to do, or what activities do you enjoy doing with your grandchildren?
  • What’s your favorite Olympic sport to watch?[iii]

Hopefully, you feel a sense of relief after reading these questions. Many people have negative thoughts or experiences with exercise, including being entrenched in all-or-nothing thinking, tying our workouts to weight loss alone, and getting stuck on the “dreadmill.”[iv]

Now it’s time to determine how you would like to fit consistent (or more consistent) exercise into your life and work out when you don’t want to.

Your chosen exercise plan needs to:

  1. Support your goals.We’re not looking for a quick fix here. This is deeper level stuff which goes beyond finicky weight loss goals. Examine your why and make sure your plan points you toward your desired outcome.
  2. Fit your time and resources.How much time to exercise do you have available? What is your mental capacity for change? What memberships or classes will your budget allow? Be sure to choose and review each of these items before committing to a plan.
  3. Be something you like to do.You don’t have to “love” or even like to exercise but you will be more consistent if you pick an activity which suits your personality and preferences. We’re more likely to DO what we delight in.[v]

Getting started on fitness can be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Walking can do more to combat disease and health conditions than anything else.[vi] There are ways to kick it up a notch once you have incorporated walking into your routine and you are ready to build. Walking backward on a treadmill or elliptical may increase balance, walking pace, and cardiopulmonary fitness.[vii]

Whatever activity you choose to start exercising, realize that improvement might be small at first—an extra minute or five minutes on your walk, a few extra repetitions on a set of push-ups or abdominal exercises, or trying free weights. But make no mistake, consistency is important because it makes exercise “stick,” and you’ll see long-term gains.

Building habits works best when it’s manageable, so don’t push yourself right away and work up slowly.[viii] Think about why you want to exercise, what movement activities you enjoy, and get started!

[i] How to actually keep your fitness resolutions this year | CNN

[ii] How to Start Exercising (When You Don’t Want to) (

[iii] How to Start Exercising (When You Don’t Want to) (

[iv] How to Finally Start Working Out (Even If You Hate It) | Lifehacker

[v] How to Start Exercising (When You Don’t Want to) (

[vi] Walking can lower risk of early death, but there’s more to it than number of steps, study finds | CNN

[vii] Retro walking — or going backward — is good for you, experts say | CNN

[viii] How to actually keep your fitness resolutions this year | CNN


About Jackie Confalone:
Although retired from full-time work, Jackie is a freelance writer and has been a group fitness instructor for more than 35 years, the last 13 at Body Zone. She particularly loves working with seniors and people with chronic illnesses. She is nationally certified as a personal trainer and instructor for group fitness, Les Mills BODYFLOW, Pilates and SilverSneakers.

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