Are You "Too Lazy" to Exercise?
Calling yourself "lazy" doesn't help you understand your exercise avoidance.
Posted September 13, 2021 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
- "Laziness" is a frequent explanation for exercise avoidance.
- But people who consider themselves "too lazy" to exercise are probably not lazy in other areas of their life.
- Instead, childhood experiences might explain some of their reasons for avoiding physical activity.
Do you think you’re "too lazy" to get active? When I was leading weight control groups, people frequently told me they were too lazy to exercise. If this might be you, let’s look at what lazy actually means and see if it fits for you.
Lazy is usually defined as being unwilling to work or use energy. Are you unwilling to work or use energy? Or is it something else?
Let me tell you about Rita, a 38-year-old participant in one of my weight control groups. Rita told me that she was too lazy to join the fitness program at the gym. I asked her, “When Megan [her toddler daughter] cries in the middle of the night, do you get up to comfort her, or do you just turn over and go back to sleep?”
Rita was irritated and answered, “Of course, I get up.” Despite her annoyance, I continued, “How about going to work on rainy Monday mornings when you haven’t slept well. When the alarm rings do you turn it off and go back to sleep? When you have to vacuum or mop the floor do you do it or just put it out of your mind?”
Now, she was getting pissed off. “I always go to work and try to keep the house clean. What’s your point?”
I followed up, “If you’re not too lazy to get up in the middle of the night, or too lazy to go to work when you haven’t slept, why do you think you’re too lazy when it comes to exercise? Rita, maybe something else is keeping you from being active.”
You can ask yourself the same question. If you can make yourself do all sorts of things that you don’t want to do, why is it so difficult to make yourself exercise? Laziness probably isn’t the reason. There could be several reasons for your inactivity. One possibility is negative experiences you had as a child.
When you were a kid, did you ride your bike or skateboard, jump rope, play hide-and-seek, or dance? Chase your brother or sister around the house, or play tag? No one told you you should do it; it was just fun. You enjoyed moving your body! So what happened: How did you lose the joy of movement? How did you come to believe that you were “lazy”?
Ask yourself if you’ve had any of these experiences. Were you:
- Criticized by a coach or gym teacher
- Criticized by a parent or sibling for being slow or uncoordinated
- Feeling self-conscious because the outfit you had to wear (e.g., a swimsuit, gym shorts, or leotards) drew attention to your body
- Embarrassed because you weren’t fast enough or strong enough to do well at a sport
- Having trouble keeping up with your peers because you were out of breath
- Feeling rejected when you were the last one chosen for a team
- Feeling anxious when parents or others were watching you at a game.
- Punished with exercise. Were you made to run or do push-ups as punishment for an infraction at school or camp?
Even though this happened a long time ago, you may still have bad feelings. Any of these experiences could make you uncomfortable, even now, with physical activities so you’d rather not exercise.
Recalling your unpleasant childhood experiences can help you recognize that labeling yourself as lazy is hurtful. Fortunately, you’re not a kid anymore. As an adult, you can recognize the change in your circumstances and overcome the bad and shameful feelings they engendered. When you give up the negative “lazy” label, you can examine the source of your reluctance. Think about what’s holding you back now, and begin making a realistic plan to get more active. Labeling yourself as “lazy” is inaccurate, hurts your feelings, and does nothing to help you become more active.