To Your Health: I Think I Can… I Think I Can… I Think I Can…

A month into the year 2020, and how are you doing with your resolutions on exercise (assuming you had one)? Starting an exercise program, or cranking up a preexisting one, may be on almost everyone’s list of goals for each new year. This goal is a cousin to the reoccurring yearly goal of cleaning out the garage; it makes the list every year because it just never gets done. It is easy to understand why cleaning the garage is no fun (you can think of 100 better ways to spend your time), but why is exercise so difficult to start and commit to each year? You can survey numerous health blogs online and find the following reasons (or excuses, depending on how you view things):

  • Don’t have time
  • Don’t have the money to join a gym
  • Don’t have someone to exercise with
  • Not a priority for my family
  • Don’t know how to start or what kind of exercise to do
  • It is uncomfortable
  • Don’t want to hurt myself
  • Other people will judge my appearance
  • Don’t like being sweaty
  • Don’t like being the motor-moron in the back of the class
  • Don’t want my hair messed up

This list could probably be much longer, but this shorter list can be summarized into three main themes: 1. Lack of self-efficacy regarding exercise, 2. Feeling self-conscious about body image, and 3. Recognizing the need to prioritize your own health NOW. If you are being honest with yourself about reasons not to exercise, many of the supposed obstacles can be avoided. You can find time; you can find a buddy or family member to join you in exercise; you don’t really need money to exercise; very few women really look good during exercise (most folks sweat, make funny faces, pass gas, and grunt during exercise); you can find a time when your hair being messy doesn’t matter. But you are not alone. In both the United Kingdom and in the USA, 50-75 % of women do not get the recommended minimum 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity exercise (according to the CDC and the National Health Survey of 2018). This is a very sad and sobering statistic that can change with a change in perspective from “I just can’t exercise,” to “I think I can exercise.”

Self-efficacy is the belief and conviction that you can succeed at a task, and in this case, a belief that you can adopt an exercise program and stick to it, hopefully for a lifetime. Exercise self-efficacy is an important predictor for adopting and maintaining healthy exercise behaviors. So, if you only tackle one excuse to avoid exercise, let it be finding the confidence to get sweaty, move even if it is uncomfortable, and know that you are worthy of better health. If you have never exercised before, then seek advice from a primary health care provider or physical therapist who can guide you through a safe start and suggest exercise that is safe for you, while taking into consideration your current health conditions, strength, balance, and cardiovascular status.

For women who are self-conscious about their appearance during exercise, there are gyms just for women or classes geared to females, and exercise at home is totally judgment-free. Everyone needs to exercise, so switch your attention from assuming people will judge you based on your size and recognize and take pride in the fact that everyone, regardless of dress size, needs to move and exercise and that you are choosing to put your health first. Movement looks good on everyone! You are worthy of better health and you CAN achieve it by getting rid of the list of excuses that keep you from exercising. Lose the list and say, “I can.”


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