Why Don’t You Come To Fitness Center, Right Now?

When exercise is going great, you feel strong, powerful, and on top of the world. But when you’re tired, overworked, or just plain unmotivated, it’s time to get reenergized. Here we take on six common excuses for slacking on fitness–and bust them!

Problem: “I’m Too Busy.”

  • Solution: Build activity into your schedule

Write it on a calendar or to-do list if you have to. That’s what works for 19-year-old Kelsey Buttimer, a student at DePaul University in Chicago. “Usually I have a list of things to do, and I make sure exercise is on there–then I almost always do it,” she says.

Making yourself accountable to someone else can help motivate you to fit things into your schedule. So tell a friend when you’re heading out to exercise. Apollo, a Rottweiler-boxer mix, keeps 18-year-old Melina Vasquez of Arizona moving every-day. “I start out walking, but he always wants to run, so I usually end up running with him,” she explains.

Problem: “I’m No Good At Sports.”

  • Solution: Let go of trying to be perfect.

Physical activity isn’t necessarily about sports–it’s about keeping you looking and feeling good for a lifetime. “Some people believe they won’t be good at an activity no matter how hard they try, or if they’re not good at something right away, there’s no point in continuing,” says Christy Greenleaf, a researcher at the University of North Texas who studies physical activity. “But if you enjoy an activity and stick with it, you’ll see improvement, and that in itself is valuable.”

Today, 17-year-old Bradley C. of New York plays on his school’s varsity basketball team. He wasn’t always skilled and comfortable on the court, though. “I started out pretty bad at basketball, but I really liked it, and that made me want to work and get better,” Bradley told Current Health Teens.

Problem: “I Don’t Have What I Need.”

  • Solution: Brainstorm ways to overcome obstacles such as logistics or cost.

Ask your parents for help: Can you carpool to the gym? save up to afford a class or equipment? work out together after work and school?

Maybe you can be more flexible about ways to stay active. Nana A., a 17-year-old from New York, doesn’t need pricey equipment. “I just use the weight room at school or go for a run at the park,” she says.

Problem: “My Friends Are Couch Potatoes.”

  • Solution: Become a role model.

Turn it around so your positive energy influences others, instead of vice versa. “Be the force for change by motivating your friends to go for a walk or shoot hoops occasionally, or wait to hang out with your couch potato friends until after you’ve gotten your workout in for the day,” suggests Greenleaf. “You are a powerful person, and you have influence over others.”

Problem: “I’m Bored.”

  • Solution: Change up your workout by doing different activities.

Both your morale and your body get a boost from keeping things fresh. “On days I don’t want to run, I make myself do something different, like going to the gym, rollerblading, or grabbing some friends to play volleyball,” says Buttimer.

You can also keep things fun by finding a workout buddy, suggests Bradley: “We go to the gym together and play basketball together. He motivates me when I’m having a lazy day, and I do the same for him.”

Problem: “Exercise Is A Waste Of Time.”

  • Solution: Be realistic about what physical activity can do.

If you want to lose more than a few pounds, exercise alone won’t be enough. “Physical activity is best for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing weight gain,” notes Thom McKenzie, a professor emeritus of exercise and nutrition at San Diego State University.

Just as important: Physical activity tones you, builds your muscles up, and is actually a great stress reliever. “Exercise is probably the single best way to de-stress from all the pressure with grades, activities, and family situations,” says Bart Peterson. He is an athletic trainer at Palo Verde High Magnet School in Tucson, Ariz. “After a couple weeks, many kids get hooked on feeling good from exercise.”

Think About It

How do you motivate yourself to study, to do homework, or to finish your chores? How might those methods help you psych yourself up for physical activity?

Crank Up the Tunes

If you think music can help you go longer, farther, and faster–and have more fun doing it–you’re right. Studies have shown that you can get a better workout if you listen to music while exercising. The right music can help prevent boredom and fatigue too.

Look for music with 120-140 beats per minute. A lot of dance, hip-hop, and rock music falls into that category. You’ll have your own favorites, but some researchers single out songs from Rihanna, LL Cool J, Green Day, and the Black Eyed Peas.

Or try “Gonna Fly Now” from the 1976 hit movie Rocky. The band from Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn has played it for New York City Marathon runners every year since 1979. “That song is unbelievably inspirational, and [it] has a strong beat and melody that take you places,” says band director Louis Maffei, who started the tradition. “We tried to play other songs, too, but the runners asked us to go back to Rocky.”

You’ve Got to Move It, Move It

The federal government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans advise people ages 6 and older to get at least 60 minutes of activity every day. Divide your activities among these three main types:

  • Make AEROBIC ACTIVITY–anything that gets your heart beating faster, such as bicycling, dancing, or playing basketball–your top fitness priority. (six to seven times per week)
  • STRENGTHEN MUSCLES by lifting weights, going climbing, or doing push-ups. (three times per week)
  • BUILD BONES by walking or running–they absorb more calcium when they bear weight. (three times per week)

Scientists used to think that only big blocks of activity counted. “Now we know any activity is beneficial,” says Thorn McKenzie, a professor emeritus of exercise and nutrition at San Diego State University. “So walk to school, do yoga, go dancing–it all adds up.”

Key Points

  • You may have different excuses for avoiding exercise, but they can be overcome.
  • Setting aside specific times to work out and letting others know of your plan can keep you accountable.
  • You are more likely to stick with an activity you find fun than one you are aiming to be perfect at.
  • Having realistic goals can keep you from becoming frustrated and giving up.

Think and Discuss

How do you motivate yourself to study, do homework, or finish your chores? How might those methods help you psych yourself up for physical activity?

Extension Activity

This article suggested some strategies for rebutting common reasons to avoid exercise. People in the fitness business often use different strategies. Have students analyze advertisements for gyms, workout equipment, and fitness videos. Ask them to note the way the ads use words, images, and other tactics to motivate consumers to buy. Then discuss as a class why those marketing methods work in separating people from their cash.

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