“I Don’t Have Time to Exercise” IS a Valid Excuse.
General Population (aka 1 in 3 Australians): “I don’t have time to exercise”.
Fitness Professional: “You do have time, it’s just that you’re not prioritising exercise”.
Standard conversation. Heard it a million times. And everything the Fitness Professional (let’s call them ‘FP’) has said is completely accurate. But there’s a problem. If we peel back a few layers, there’s more to the picture.
Firstly, what’s correct about this response? Well, what the FP is saying is right. we can find time to do anything if we value that thing enough. Even more so if we value the end result of that thing. We make time to work because we value the end result (getting paid). We make time to watch Netflix because we value the end result (entertainment and ‘down time’).
So there’s a problem that runs deeper than ‘not enough time’. And this brings us to the faulty assumption of the Fitness Professional. They assume that the the General Population (‘GP’) VALUES exercise (and its benefits) MORE than working or binging on Netflix.
So we’ve got a problem. It’s not that people don’t have the time. The problem is that people aren’t prepared to give up their time to exercise.
Here’s the faulty solution. Change the value system of GP. Wax lyrical about ‘making time’, ‘prioritising your health’.
People’s value systems are aggressively ingrained. Nature and nurture. Good luck rewiring decades of value systemisation.
Sure, there are some things we can do. We can gradually build willpower to fuel habits and we can understand the science of habit formation. Ultimately, we can find the missing link in your habit chain.
These things involve change. And while change is possible, it’s hard. Really hard. The very reason habits are so effective is the same reason it’s so difficult to change values. They’re ingrained.
So what’s the solution?
Instead of trying to change people (or at least while slowly making small changes), we need to meet people where they are. Go to them, instead of making them come to you (metaphorically speaking).
It’s really hard to change people’s priorities, so instead of fighting the difficult battle of overhauling the population’s collective values system, we need to offer easier, low barrier solutions that make exercise accessible EVEN WHEN it’s not a priority.
If you want to increase how much someone does something, reduce the friction. Make it easier. Make the barrier to entry lower. Starting is often easier than people think.
People are hard to change. So don’t try to change them. Work within what you’ve got.
You don’t have time to exercise? No problem, let’s find a way to exercise that you DO have time for. You might be surprised at how little exercise you actually need.
Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology. He has worked with many thousands of individuals along the full spectrum of health, and has coached at The CrossFit Games. He regularly presents to corporate and fitness industry groups and mentors Fitness Professionals.