Why Don't I Exercise?

You get all psyched to start a new exercise routine, but over time, your momentum grinds to a halt. It just seems like too much work! Find out how to stop the roller-coaster ride and stick with an exercise program.


Every day Maura Diner argues with herself about whether to exercise. For 45 minutes, she goes back and forth. "I usually lose the argument and head for the refrigerator," Maura says. "I want to exercise, but I constantly struggle with it."

Maura is not alone. Despite the well-documented health benefits of exercise, 60 percent of adults fail to exercise regularly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you find that you have difficulty sticking with some kind of physical activity, you may have developed an emotional resistance to exercise. Such barriers can develop at any time in your life.

All humans are designed to move. Exercise is vital to our physical and psychological well being. For people with diabetes, it's an important way to keep blood glucose under control. Being physically active is an innate drive, even if yours has gone dormant. Think back to your childhood, and remember what you liked to do. You didn't "exercise"; you played.

"I used to ride my bike, play in the park, splash in pools, build forts in trees, and didn't want to go home until I had to. But now the thought of doing any physical activity makes me tired," says Saral Burdette, a minister in Santa Barbara, California. Somewhere along the line, "playing" became "working out" for Saral, and she became inactive.

Experts call this pattern of making and quitting plans "exercise resistance." But what causes it? Many life changes -- limited time, demanding careers, family responsibilities, or illness -- create shifts in our drive to exercise. Barriers to exercise can also result from emotional blocks. "The root of most weight problems or any problems that relate to lack of motivation is buried deep within," says exercise physiologist and certified personal trainer Bob Greene, who has worked with Oprah Winfrey on eating and exercise issues.

Some common childhood events that change a person's perception of exercise include negative experiences with coaches, team sports, playground games (being picked last), or well-meaning family members who nagged about exercise. Sometimes people who were athletes as children or teens feel burned out or lost after their competitive years end. Often, puberty and body changes bring a change in exercise patterns.