Exercise Excuses: Busted

Sign "To Gym". Photo Credit:  Christian Robertson Have you seen this commercial where a couple lists off the various reasons they couldn’t work out?  While some of the excuses are pretty funny (“Wednesdays are weird” is a favorite), they all emphasize one thing:  there is an almost limitless list of excuses for skipping out on regular exercise.  Here are some common excuses for not exercising – and ways to work around them.

I don’t have time:  We live in such a go-go-go society that sometimes knocking exercise off the To-Do list seems the only way to get everything done.  If that sounds familiar, maybe you need to rethink your approach.  In order to make regular exercise a part of your routine, you have to make it a priority.  Treat exercise like you would a meeting with your boss or a co-worker (think of it as a meeting with yourself).  If you still have a hard time carving out 30 minutes at a time to work out, try breaking it up into 10 minute segments throughout the day (this video from the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine is a great full-body workout you can do right at your desk).  If all else fails, multitask.  See if there are places you can fit in a little movement through your day, whether it’s walking around the office while on a conference call or doing some bodyweight exercises during commercial breaks at night watching TV.  Remember, a little bit of exercise is better than none at all.

Need to Care for Kids / Family:  Balancing work with the needs of kids and family is a major contributor to the lack of time mentioned above, so the same advice can apply here.  Another option is include your kids in your workout routine.  You’ll be setting a good example for the little ones, getting them on track to start healthy exercise habits of their own, and spending some quality time together as a family.

I don’t have access / like going to the gym:  Gyms and health clubs can be intimidating and aren’t a good fit for everyone.  The good news is you can still build a regular fitness routine without a gym membership.  Walking is one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your day, and all you really need is a good pair of walking shoes.  There are a number of places to walk in Boston, and enough scenery to keep your walk interesting.  Weather causing you to move your workout indoors?  See if you can borrow a fitness DVD from your local library.  If you have Internet access, websites like have a selection of workout videos you can access any time – for free!

It’s boring!:  Okay, we’ll admit running on the treadmill, staring at the same wall day after day gets old.  If this is the reason you dread going to the gym, it might be time to try a new activity.  Adding variety to your workouts is not only good for your mind (by keeping boredom at bay) it’s good for your body too.  Changing up activities can prevent injury, and keeping your body guessing is one way to break through weight loss plateaus.  You could also try changing your scenery.  Going for a walk or bike ride outside gives you something new to look at (and you can easily add challenge by changing your route).  If all else fails, see if a friend can come with you.  Having someone to talk to while you work out can make the time fly by.

(Content reviewed by The Clubs at Charles River Park. Photo Credit: Christian Robertson)
Diabetes ABCs

Diabetes ABCs: Y



You are the center of your care team.  Our mission is to empower you to take charge of your health and live well, but ultimately you are the one in control.  Decide what motivates you to make healthy changes in your life – whether it’s exercising regularly, learning to prepare healthy meals, or simply checking your blood sugar regularly.  It’s a lot to handle, but know that no one expects you to be perfect.  If you start to feel overwhelmed or think you might be suffering from diabetes burnout, talk to your health care provider.  Mass General also offers regular diabetes support groups at the main campus and regional HealthCare Centers.

(Content reviewed by MGH Diabetes Center)
Fitness, Guest Post

Overcoming Barriers to Fitness: Getting Started

By Mike Bento, Personal Trainer
The Clubs at Charles River Park

Highway. Photo Credit: Maciek Ciupa

Beginning a fitness routine is a bit like getting on the highway:  you start off  slowly and gradually build momentum.  Any movement will help, but a big challenge when just starting out may be deciding exactly where to begin. 

Like any big change, it’s best to focus on immediate attainable goals and set realistic expectations.  If exercising 5 days a week seems like too much at first, maybe start by doing some form of physical activity three days a week.  If that’s your goal, focus on getting in those three days – don’t worry about anything past that.  Or, if you’re nervous about going to the gym (because let’s face it health clubs can be intimidating) a good goal could be simply getting to the gym and walking through the front door.  Once you’re there, you can do whatever you’re comfortable with.  Gaining comfort and familiarity initially will help you with your fitness later.  At the end of the week, reassess and see how you did. 

Regarding what kind of activities to begin with, a well-rounded exercise program includes cardiovascular (aerobic), strength training, and flexibility exercises.  How long and how often you do each activity can vary from person to person – the more individual fitness recommendations are, the more effective the fitness plan.  It’s always best to consult your healthcare provider beforehand, but I also recommend getting an evaluation from a personal trainer at a health club or a Physical Therapist.  To return to our automotive analogy from earlier, it’s like bringing the car in for a tune-up.  The trainer can assess your movement to identify any possible limitations and develop strategies for overcoming those limitations.  They can also make recommendations for what activities or movements to stay away from to prevent injury while maximizing results.  

Exercising occasionally is better than nothing, but in order to see the best results and get the full benefit fitness needs to become a habit.  Remember that fitness highway on-ramp:  start small, and as you build up endurance you can progress to doing more.

(Photo Credit:  Maciek Ciupa)

Fitness, Guest Post

Overcoming Barriers to Fitness (Weight Management Part 3)

By Mike Bento, Personal Trainer
The Clubs at Charles River Park

Blue Dumbbells. Photo Credit: Christa Richert

I like to think of fitness as a risk management tool.  What you do today can have an impact on both your current state and on your future.  Developing a healthy lifestyle can help lower your blood pressure, reduces your risk of having a stroke, and can help protect against developing cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.  But there’s an emotional component to fitness as well. 

As your fitness level increases, daily activities become easier; you find you want to do more.  And more than that, you start to feel good.  Your mood improves, you have more energy (especially at the end of the day and the end of the week) and your sleep gets better.  All of these “extra” benefits are just as important as actually working out because they help you stay consistent.  Sticking with it is crucial—to really see results and get the full benefit of your routine you have to make exercise a habit.

But just as there are emotional factors that can help you build momentum, there are others that can be obstacles to beginning (or staying with) your fitness routine.  For some people, it’s fear of change.  If you’ve never really exercised before, starting a fitness program can mean moving outside your comfort zone.  Change can be difficult or even scary.  It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time and reinforcement, but it does get easier as you go along and start seeing results.  Maybe it’s your clothes feeling a little looser, your waist getting a little smaller, or just someone commenting that you’ve lost weight.  Or maybe you notice your blood sugars are easier to control, or you’ve lowered your blood pressure.  And maybe it’s that you just feel better.  Any or all of these things can be the right motivation to keep doing what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, you are the only person who can do this for yourself.  It’s one thing in your life that you have complete control over.   And that can be very empowering.

Photo Credit: Christa Richert


Motivating Lifestyle Change

By Sandy O’Keefe
Program Manager, Chronic Disease Education

Rock climbing. Photo Credit: Bryan Wintersteen

Question: How many Diabetes educators does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: One, but the light bulb really has to want to change.

How many times have you vowed to lose weight or start running only to have it fall to the wayside a few days later? You may blame it on lack of willpower, not having enough time, etc., but it’s time to give yourself a break; it happens to many of us! However, if you fine tune your action plan a bit, you can set yourself up for success.

First you need to figure out what motivates you to make changes in your life. This needs to be a powerful motivator— saying something like “I want to look better” isn’t strong enough to hold your attention. Instead, “I want to lose weight so I can walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding next May” or “so I can spend time laughing and playing tag with my children outside this summer” are examples of motivators that will help you emotionally stay attached and focused on your goals. Equally important, this motivator must come from you personally.  It’s not enough to say, “I am doing this so my wife stops nagging me to lose weight.” Keep digging inside yourself until you find your own personal motivator, then write it down and keep it somewhere you can read it any time you need to remind yourself why you’re making this change.

In order to be successful at behavior change, the focus should be on immediate attainable goals rather than long term results. For example, when you say that you want to lose weight you are defining what you hope to experience in the future. Weight loss is the outcome you hope to achieve in the long run, but it’s not the goal. Think about the steps you will need to take before you experience the outcome. For example, maybe you need to invest in a pair of sneakers or join a gym. These are things that you can do in the immediate future to get started.

Goals should always be “S.M.A.R.T.” This is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable and Time-based. A S.M.A.R.T. goal might be, “I will buy a new pair of running sneakers from Sally’s Sneakers on Sunday May 6, 2012.” Consider what might get in the way of this goal and adjust as needed. Again, I suggest writing your goal down and having it in a place where you can see it to remind yourself.

From time to time assess the success you’ve had with each goal. You might say to yourself:  “last week my goal was to buy a pair of sneakers— how successful was I with this goal?” Goals may seem small at first, but each one builds upon the success of the one before it.  As they link together, you’ll start to believe, “hey, maybe I can stick to my plan this time!” 

You may want to ask a friend or family member to be a support person for you to help you stay on track. Having a health coach is also a great way to set a clear S.M.A.R.T action plan. Coaches aid you in identifying those strengths you possess that can help you change your behavior. Once you begin to realize that you really do have the power to change, you will be well on your way to making a behavior change that will help you realize your long-term vision.

Photo Credit: Bryan Wintersteen