Don’t Feel Like Exercising Today? Here’s Why You Should Do It Anyway
If you’re like most people, you have days where you just don’t want to exercise. You’ve had a long day and are already tired after a day of too much work and not enough relaxation. Not only are you fatigued but you’re in a crabby mood and feeling a bit down or under the weather. On days when you’re feeling below par, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and take the day off and relax in front of the television or with a good book in your lap. You can always make up for it when you do your next workout, right?
Unless you’re sick or sleep-deprived, there are compelling reasons to do your workout anyway. Why should you reconsider your decision not to exercise? Research shows that exercise is a mood booster. According to Harvard Health and a study published in JAMA psychiatry, the odds of feeling depressed dropped by 26% with each significant increase in physical activity. Working out helps chase away those doldrums, and there’s a physiological basis for how exercise fights the blues.
Studies show that a vigorous workout boosts endorphins, natural chemicals that relieve pain and lift mood. Researchers believe endorphins play a role in the runner’s high, the feeling of well-being and calmness that people experience during and after a run. Research even shows that exercise boosts creativity and can help you come up with new ideas and fresh solutions to problems. In some ways, it’s like a reboot for your body and brain.
What about your fatigue and lack of motivation? It’s hard to lace up your exercise shoes and launch into a workout when you’re fatigued, but research shows exercise can boost your energy level. Once you get going and blood and oxygen begins pulsing to every cell in your body, it lifts your spirits and your energy level.
One study found that people who said they dreaded taking a walk and thought it wouldn’t make them feel better reported feeling more energetic, positive, alert, and optimistic afterward. Sometimes it’s best not to listen to those negative voices that tell you that you’re too tired to move your body and push through anyway.
Flex Your Self-Discipline Muscle
Another reason to exercise on days you don’t feel like it is it reinforces self-discipline. Motivation isn’t the most important factor for long-term exercise success; it’s self-discipline. Motivation is short-term and often based on emotion, while self-discipline keeps you going after the initial flush of excitement of starting an exercise program dies down.
When you exercise on days you don’t want to, you flex your self-discipline muscle and make it stronger. When you don’t succumb to excuses not to exercise, it becomes easier to stay on track in the future. You’re telling your body that it’s okay to be tired, but there’s still work to do and a plan to follow. After all, you can’t call into work every time you feel tired, right? How much more successful people would be with exercise training if they treated it with the reverence they treat their job. Exercising when you don’t want to keeps your self-discipline muscle from getting flabby.
How to Exercise When You Don’t Feel Like It
Sometimes granting permission not to exercise hard will help you follow through on days where you don’t want to do it. Tell yourself you’ll exercise for only 10 minutes. After 10 minutes are up, you have permission to stop. Almost anyone can do something for 10 minutes. Once 10 minutes elapse, there’s a good chance you’ll keep going. Once your body adapts to the shock of movement, you’ll feel better and you probably won’t mind continuing. It’s the initial inertia that’s so intimidating.
Think back to days you didn’t exercise. How did you feel on those days? Chances are, you felt less energetic and maybe experienced a little guilt that you sat so much and didn’t get your body moving. Keep that in mind when you don’t feel like exercising too. Knowing the positive things that exercise does for your mental and physical health is extra motivation when you feel tired.
Know When Not to Exercise Too
This doesn’t mean you should always work out when you don’t feel well. If you only slept two hours the night before, you feel like you’re getting sick, or already have an illness, it would be foolish to push your body too hard. Don’t exercise if you have a fever or if you have symptoms that extend below your neck, such as a cough. Be sensible and don’t harm your mental or physical health by exercising when you truly aren’t up for it, but don’t be too easy on yourself either.
The Bottom Line
Not only can exercise boost your mood and give you more energy on those days that you feel tired, pushing through strengthens self-discipline, so you’ll be more capable of sticking with your plan to get into and stay in shape. Keep the longer-term goal in mind. If you constantly find reasons to not work out, you’ll eventually give up in frustration.
If you find you’re questioning whether to work out too often, change the time you’re working out. Of course, you’re tired after a long day at work. Why not exercise first thing in the morning while you’re still fresh? Choose the path with less resistance that still allows you to stay on track, and the next time your body tells you that you’re too tired, cover your ears!
Harvard Health Publishing. “More evidence that exercise can boost mood”
MayoClinic.org. “Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress”