Posted by: Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes | August 12, 2008

Why Exercise Programs Fail and What to Do About It: Part 1

   According to the American College of Sports Medicine, less than half of all Americans get the recommended amount of exercise on a weekly basis.  25% of us never exercise at all.  This is compounded by the fact that more than 50% of the people who begin an exercise program abandon it within the first six months.  This happens for five primary reasons: injury, a lack of time, boredom, a lack of support and a lack of motivation.  Below, I discuss the first two and describe specific steps we can take to address each problem.

1.  Injury.  Injuries are the single biggest reason people abandon their exercise programs.  An injury can include significant damage to a muscle tissue such as a sprain, or the relatively minor muscle damage that manifests itself in soreness.  Either situation can diminish your motivation to exercise.  The most effective way to deal with injuries is to avoid them.  You can do this by warming up and cooling down before and after exercise, by starting slowly with a relatively easy exercise regimen and expanding it over time (referred to as progressive overload – a practice used by most successful athletes), by learning the proper form for every exercise, and by engaging in a variety of aerobic and strength training activities.  If you do get injured, seek appropriate medical assistance.  Mild strains or sprains can get worse if they are not properly diagnosed and treated.  If you get really sore, scale back your exercise regimen, but don’t stop it.  Light activity can help you recover from soreness more quickly by increasing blood flow, which facilitates oxygen delivery and waste removal. 

2.  Lack of Time.  The number one excuse for not exercising is, you guessed it, a lack of time.  No one ever thinks they have enough time to work out but the truth is, you only need to spend about 30 minutes, 5-6 days-a-week to get significant health benefits from exercise.  In addition, you don’t need a formal exercise regimen to be successful.  Instead, try to make increased physical activity a part of your daily life.  You can do this by cycling to work or school, by engaging in physical activities with your children (e.g., throwing a Frisbee), by participating in sports activities you enjoy (but be careful, this is how injuries frequently occur), by walking on a daily basis, or by engaging in household activities (e.g., mowing the lawn, shoveling snow).  Read my previous blog posts to get many more ideas for “exercising without exercise”.

NEXT POST – August 15, 2008:

Why Exercise Programs Fail and What to Do About It: Part 2



  1. One problem is exercise is not part of one’s daily routine. This causes many to become overweight, then more prone to injury.

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