11 Common Exercise Excuses (and How to Overcome Them)

Eleven common excuses for avoiding exercise and a rebuttal to each. Try using on your less active friends or, yes, even on yourself.

Brock Armstrong
10-minute read
Episode #370

A sign that reads Make Muscles Not Excuses

When I meet people for the first time and answer the "what do you do?" question with "I am a health and fitness coach," people often get a panicked look in their eye. Then they blurt out something like, "I would love to run a marathon, but I have bad knees," or, "I used to belong to a gym, but it got too expensive." It's as if they think I am silently judging them or I'm about to launch into a sales pitch and they need to stop me before I pull out my business cards. Whatever their motivation, they all seem to have an excuse—some of them more than one!

So, as a way of putting all my rebuttals in one location for posterity (and future reference), here is a list of my favorite excuses not to exercise and my response to each. Perhaps you can use these on your less than active friends or perhaps even (gasp) on yourself.

11 Common Exercise Excuses

  1. I’m Too Busy
  2. It’s Too Expensive
  3. I’m Too Tired
  4. I’m In Pain
  5. I Move Enough Already
  6. I Already Did My 10,000 Steps
  7. I Don’t Enjoy Exercising
  8. I’m Too Old
  9. I Have a Bad Back (or bad knees)
  10. I Am Too Fat
  11. I’m Already Skinny

Let's look at each excuse a little closer. 

1. I’m Too Busy

Yes, I get that you are busy. We all have too much on our plate. It’s even a badge of honor in many circles to be too busy to sleep. Heck, I don’t pretend to be the busiest person in the world, and I’ve even used this excuse. But I bet if you were to track how you use every minute of your day, you could find a spare 20 minutes. Probably more.

If we have time to check our phones every 6 minutes, surely we can get up and break a sweat occasionally.

There are some studies out there that show we check our smartphones 105 times per day. (Apple recently confirmed that its users alone unlock their phones an average of 80 times per day.) If we have time to check our phones every six minutes, surely we can get up and break a sweat occasionally too, right? It simply means we have to prioritize exercise. When you say you are too busy to exercise, you are really saying, “I don’t put a priority on my health.”

2. It’s Too Expensive

If you are someone who still thinks that the only way to get fit is to join an expensive gym, buy a bunch of fancy equipment, or hire a personal trainer, then you haven’t been paying attention. There are heaps of articles in the Get-Fit Guy catalog explaining that all you truly need is your body and some inspiration. And perhaps an old pair of shorts.

When I was a poor student, I used to go for a run in some old Chuck Taylors I picked up at a garage sale, a pair of bermuda shorts that my mom bought me, and any ratty T-shirt that I found in my laundry pile. It wasn’t pretty but I got the job done—for close to free!

3. I’m Too Tired

It’s like the old saying, “You have to spend money to make money.” Having energy to work out can be viewed the same way: you have to use energy to make energy. There are two benefits that exercise can bestow on your energy level. Exercise boosts your body’s fitness level and it also boosts your mood, both of which contribute to an overall boost in energy levels.

Both of the exercise groups had a 65 percent increase in overall energy levels compared to the control group.

In a study at the University of Georgia, researchers looked at whether exercise can be used to treat fatigue. They had 36 volunteers, all of whom were not regular exercisers and complained of persistent fatigue, perform either 20 minutes of moderate-intensity or low-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks. There was also a third control group that did not exercise. In the end, both of the exercise groups had a 65 percent increase in energy levels compared to the control group. Did you notice that there wasn’t even a high-intensity group? Once again, going for a brisk walk is all it takes.

4. I’m In Pain

Ok, this excuse does have some merit if you are injured or dealing with some chronic pain. There are some pains that you do not want to “push through.” This coach does not believe in “no pain, no gain” but most injuries can be managed appropriately with some workout modification, specific movement adaptations, or by simply choosing a different mode of exercise.

If you are dealing with chronic pain you may also want to consider the possibility that your current inactive lifestyle is the main thing that is actually contributing to, or perhaps even causing, the chronic pain. A 2008 study showed that in individuals who exercised more than three times per week, chronic musculoskeletal pain was 28% less common compared to inactive individuals.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Brock Armstrong Get-Fit Guy

Brock Armstrong was the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast between 2017 and 2021. He is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute.