Conquer Your Fitness Fears

Conquer Your Fitness Fears
Hate exercise? Here''s how you can learn to love working outBy Barbara Russi Sarnataro
WebMD FeatureReviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, LD

Wouldn''t it be great if you could be allergic to working out?

Then you wouldn''t have to admit to friends, loved ones, and co-workers that you simply hate to exercise. Saying your throat swells up or you break out in hives might be easier than enduring the disapproving looks that you fear might come with confessing the truth!

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But truth be told, there are plenty of exercise haters out there.

Never mind that study after study has shown that regular physical activity -- even at moderate levels -- reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity and enhances physical and mental functioning. Many Americans still choose a sedentary lifestyle.

A CDC report released last summer showed that 55% of American adults didn''t move enough in 2001 to meet the minimum recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. And the Gallup Health and Healthcare Survey found that just 45% of Americans regularly engaged in vigorous exercise in 2002 -- down from 52% in 2001.

Experts say there are many reasons people hate to exercise. They include:

  • Intimidation. "There''s lots of fear and intimidation," says exercise physiologist Kelli Calabrese. "And rightfully so. The industry is so confusing. Everyone is making these claims and you don''t know what works." You also may feel embarrassed that you don''t know how to use the machines at the gym, have no rhythm in step class, or don''t own the right exercise clothing.
  • Lack of time. "People put themselves under pressure that they have to get an hour workout," says exercise physiologist Nicole Gunning, who manages the Unilever Cosmetics International corporate fitness center. "Especially single career moms will say they don''t have enough time or they don''t know how to manage their time to fit it in." If you have trouble managing your time, exercise is often the first thing to go. A not-so-important meeting or a grocery run can hinder your best-laid plans. Heck, a rerun of Friends often sounds better than a trip to the gym.
  • Negative image of exercise. Does just saying the world "exercise" bring up unfortunate memories of dodgeball games during grade-school gym? "I hated gym class," says Calabrese. "For some people, that''s their only experience with exercise, so they start out with a negative perspective."
  • Slow results. Seeing and feeling the benefits of exercise does take time, and many people give up long before they get there. "Some people are still looking for the magic pill or the ''drink this and you''ll lose weight,''" Calabrese says. "They are still thinking there''s a better, faster, easier way, so why exercise?"
  • Money. "People think they can''t afford a health club or the equipment or gear they need to get involved in a particular activity," says Calabrese. "They also have a fear or wasting money on something they won''t use or won''t like."
  • Lack of support. Without the encouragement of a spouse, friend, or family member, it''s easy to give up.
  • Motivation. Whatever the excuses are for hating to exercise, in the end, it''s a lack of motivation that keeps us from moving our bodies. "As anyone who has tried -- and failed -- to adopt a regular fitness routine realizes, knowing that exercise will benefit you in the distant future isn''t the best motivation," says Jay Kimiecik, professor of exercise motivation at Miami University of Ohio.

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