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The Excuses You Use to Not Stick to Your Exercise Program

The Excuses You Use to Not Stick to Your Exercise ProgramI’ve discovered that the key to my happiness project is my determination to make and keep my innumerable resolutions. I follow — or try to follow — dozens of resolutions, and they’ve made a real difference in the happiness of my everyday life.

One resolution that many people make and break is the resolution to exercise. Exercise is a key to good health, and for me, has always been essential to feeling cheerful. In fact, when I’m feeling blue, one of the best ways to shake the mood is to exercise. Also, exercising has a strange double effect: it makes me feel both calmer and more energetic.

My husband is the same way. On Sunday, he was feeling low, and a trip to the gym chirked him up considerably.

And even if I don’t feel better, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I exercised.

I’m fascinated by the question of why sometimes people are able to stick to resolutions, and some people aren’t — and what steps people can take to help themselves stick to their resolutions. There are a lot of factors, of course, in each individual’s case.

Take me. As I just detailed above, I know that exercise is an essential element of a happy life for me, and yet I’ve been very bad, lately, about getting exercise. Often, when I have a lot of work, I skip the gym as a way of proving my diligence to myself. “Look, I’m working so hard, I can’t even find time to exercise.” Sometimes, it’s inevitable, but I’ve been using that excuse too readily for the last month.

So, how to do better? I have a friend who is a yoga instructor and a friend who is a strength training trainer. I asked them if they recognized any warning signs in people who are likely not to stick to a resolution to keep exercising.

They both agreed that there are warning signs. Read on, and if you recognize yourself in the statements below, beware. You may need to make a special effort to stick to a program. Check off any statement that sounds like it could have come out of your mouth:

  • “This time, I’m really going to stick to it! I mean it, I’m totally, 100% committed!”

    This person sounds like he’s trying to convince himself but not really succeeding.

  • “I’m potentially thinking that maybe I might join this class.”

    This person hasn’t really made up his mind. He’s not committed. Although he sounds very different, he’s actually an awful lot like the person who says…

  • “I have to start tomorrow. No delay!”

    This person is afraid that she’s going to lose her resolve. It’s probably happened to her before.

  • “Well, afternoons don’t work. And I can’t do mornings. I can come Tuesdays at noon, but not this Tuesday. Or next Tuesday…”

    If people really want to exercise, they find the time.

  • “I’ll squeeze it in at lunchtime. I can just run out between meetings.”

    This person hasn’t acknowledged to herself that exercise must be its own priority, and if she doesn’t make it a priority, it’ll always get shoved to the bottom of the to-do list. Which means it won’t happen.

  • “As soon as I’ve done this task for Pat, and this other task for Blake, I’ll exercise.”

    Again, exercise needs to be on the official to-list.

  • “I can’t wait to start. But first, I need to buy some new clothes. And some new shoes. And a mat. And I want to read up on it, too.”

    I had a roommate like this. She loved shopping and everything involved in the preparation stage. But once she had all the stuff she needed for yoga or roller-blading or whatever, she lost interest.

If any of these statements remind you of yourself, use it as a warning sign to re-commit yourself to sticking to your exercise plan.

If you’re embarking on a new routine, sometimes it helps to tell yourself that you’re just going to do it for six months. That doesn’t sound too onerous. Both instructors agreed that once people have kept up a program for six months, the exercise has become part of their routine, and it becomes much less likely that they’ll drop out. Also, if you really just can’t fit it in, or make yourself do it, try to go for a twenty-minute walk each day. Or two ten-minute walks. Even that much exercise is so much better than nothing. I’m fortunate, because every school-day morning, I get a twenty-minute walk in, just taking my daughter to school.

If you’d like to get a copy of my Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at

The Excuses You Use to Not Stick to Your Exercise Program

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the award-winning author of The Happiness Project, a #1 New York Times bestseller. You can also watch the one-minute book video. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central.

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APA Reference
Rubin, G. (2018). The Excuses You Use to Not Stick to Your Exercise Program. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 6 Nov 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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