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Not Exercising? How to Overcome Exercise Resistance

By Michelle May, M.D.

Shaking, vomiting, muscle pain, collapsing… No, I’m not talking about the flu season, I’m talking about the season opener of The Biggest Loser.

As a person who has grown to love hiking and yoga for all of the positive benefits they provide, it’s difficult to watch these aggressive regimens push contestants to — and often over — their edge. But mostly I worry about the effect it has on viewers who have been trying to talk themselves into starting an exercise program.

I guess the advice that’s usually given to beginning exercisers to “start slow and gradually work your way up” wouldn’t make for very interesting TV. Still, it’s difficult for me to imagine how these punishing two-hour first-time workouts would inspire you to start exercising — especially without someone to shame and scream at you on national television.

Besides, you’re not in this for $250,000; you’re in this for life.

Current physical activity guidelines for Americans recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week. While this goal is comparatively modest, even that may be discouraging if you aren’t physically active at all.
My advice if you’re having difficulty exercising? Lower the bar.

Watch this one minute video:

Overcoming Exercise Resistance

If you want to start an exercise program but feel discouraged, ask yourself:

“What is the least amount of exercise I can do… most days of the week, joyfully and consistently?”

Do the least amount of exercise??

Yes. Joyfully and consistently. Start where you are because when the discomfort and difficulty of making a change is too great, you won’t. Instead of focusing on the gap between where you are and where you “should” be, lower the bar so low that the temptation to step right over it is irresistible!

What might that lower bar like for you?

  • Walking for five minutes a day?
  • Dancing to one song each evening in your living room?
  • Taking one flight of stairs at work (then taking the elevator up the other three floors)?
  • Doing floor exercises (or standing up) during the commercials of one 30 minute television show?
  • Walking one lap around the soccer field during your child’s practice?
  •  Something else?

Your negative self-talk might say, “That’s not enough! It won’t make any difference.” But if it helps you take that first step toward a more active lifestyle, you will be well on your way!


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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