The truer statement is, “Exercise is not important enough for me to do right now.”
Story by Kyle Kercher
“I’m too busy to work out.” “Working out isn’t important enough to me right now.”
One of those statements is uttered regularly and has become a badge of honor in our society. The other is rarely mentioned despite being the more accurate of the two declarations. Since America’s earliest days, busyness has been viewed with pride. Icons such as Ben Franklin have modeled productivity with pride. Today’s busy parents, professionals and even students find a sense of satisfaction in stating their level of busyness.
Saying we are too busy for something is misleading. We get to choose how to be busy, even if we’re limited by finite time constraints: 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year. Those limitations are not going to change. But how we decide to fill our schedules can change, thankfully. We can strive to utilize that time to the best of our ability and prioritize accordingly.
Certainly, there will be days when emergencies come up or we must take care of obligations like sick kids, work projects and social expectations. As responsible adults, we have those kinds of commitments. However, just because we have them doesn’t mean we’re too busy to exercise. “Too busy” remains the most common excuse for our sedentary lifestyle epidemic.
What this excuse truly means is that exercise is not high enough on our priority list to accomplish that day. And that’s OK if you’re fine with it — to be active or not is and should be an autonomous choice.
Most of us would agree that work and family are two of our most important priorities, and school emergencies for your kid or unexpected work obligations inevitably come up. The problem with choosing to say “I’m too busy to exercise” is it gives us a continuous copout. We are not being honest with ourselves. The truer statement is, “Exercise is not important enough for me to do right now.” That keeps the sense of control in our court. It’s our decision.
I got lucky, as physical activity is one of my favorite pursuits. I have many positive associations with being active. Some include organized sport memories from childhood, active commuting to and from friends’ houses, and most importantly the positive physical, mental and emotional responses to exercise and sport.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everybody. Many people have had terrible coaching experiences, unsupportive parents or bad experiences with exercise. Many people think it’s strange to park far away at the grocery store, to hold walk meetings instead of sit meetings, or to stretch on the floor at the airport. That’s OK; there’s no constitutional obligation to be active. We have freedom to pursue so many different areas of work and ways of living, as well as the freedom to express whatever ideas we hold dear.
Thus, this is my attempt to encourage each one of us to be more honest with ourselves when it comes to physical activity. If we’re doing it, great! If not, that’s fine, too. But if we’re not active, let’s be honest: It’s not because we are too busy. It’s because exercise is not important enough to us right now. Being physically active, just like being busy, is a choice.
In goal setting, it’s important to address the reality of the situation and acknowledge barriers if we hope to make great improvements. We have the ability to decide how important certain goals are. Then we can prioritize them appropriately. But if we continue to just say we’re too busy to exercise, then we remain in the backseat, along for the ride, rather than taking control.
Ultimately, just do your best with each of your days. Know there are only 24 hours in a day, but stop using the excuse that you are too busy. Instead, be honest with yourself. And maybe today is the day that taking care of your mind and body with exercise has become important enough.
Kyle is a husband, leader, author, Health Behavior Ph.D. student and research assistant in Bloomington, Indiana. He moved to Bloomington from Kalispell in July 2019 with his wife Vanessa. Kyle has a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Sports Psychology, and his book, “The Mental Game – Grit, Growth, and Mental Toughness in Athletes,” is available on Amazon. Contact Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.