Wait, what? Stop exercising? Isn’t exercising good for you? Aren’t millions upon millions of people looking for the right reason to start exercising? Besides, isn’t it my job and duty as a fitness professional and writer to convince you of the merits and copious benefits of exercise?
No, it isn’t.
It’s my job to promote and support the intended purpose of fitness—functionality and wellness. Furthermore “selling” fitness is played out and isn’t working. Despite the noble intentions of many that join a gym, the majority drop out and the fitness industry has made little impact on the obesity pandemic and epidemic of sedentary lifestyles. Why?
Don’t Use Exercise as a Crutch
The reason may be that many have been duped into pursuing the wrong motives for exercising. Some people use fitness as a short-term crutch in an attempt to solve a problem that requires more than an exercise plan.
Take a quick glance around many gyms and you’ll see the proof that many patrons seem to be there for every purpose but functionality and wellness. Instead they pursue vanity, weight loss, and narcissism, to name a few.
Of course, there are indeed plenty of valid reasons to start (and keep) exercising. Chief among them are to get better at something, get healthier, and use your body more effectively (getting stronger, faster, or more flexible).
Exercising is also a great way to compliment almost any physical activity. If you’re a golfer or a downhill skier, you’re very likely going to be a better one if you participate in a regular fitness routine.
Exercising also helps you mitigate stress, stave off sickness, and even develop mental acuity. But you likely already knew that, and as the title of this piece states, this isn’t an article touting the benefits of exercise.
This is an article about the reasons not to exercise and believe it or not, there are some legitimate reasons you should hang up the gym shoes.
Why You Should Stop Exercising
You don’t like it. There are a lot of things we have to do that we don’t like—going to work, flossing our teeth, paying taxes. Isn’t exercising like that? No, it isn’t. Exercising is something you do with your leisure time much like going to church.
You’re there to participate in making yourself a wholly better individual and that means being a respectful “parishioner” in every meaning of the word—to others, to the environment, and of paramount importance, to yourself.
Look, not everyone likes exercise and I’m not here to convince you that you should either. If you can’t abide at the gym by participating with genuine heartfelt presence the way you would at church, then you should find someplace else to go.
There’s something physically active that everybody likes to do, even if it’s just walking the dog. Your job is to find out what that it is. Life is short. If you hate going to the gym, do us all a favor (especially those of us who actually like exercise) and just stop already.
You’re trying to lose weight. While exercise is obviously imperative for improving physical fitness and is also an important component for promoting health, a growing body of evidence corroborates that exercise is not a great means for losing weight.
While 100% of the energy you take in comes from food, only 10-30% of that energy is burned through physical activity (of which exercise is a subset). Your metabolism accounts for the other 60-80 percent of that burn, but many don’t focus on the biggest factor in addressing metabolism—your diet and how/when you eat!
Furthermore, weight gain is often an emotional issue and a question of compulsion and addiction more than anything. You wouldn’t look to solve a substance abuse problem at the gym, so why should obesity be any different?
Sure you can put yourself on an unsustainable fitness plan in order to lose weight, but you know how that story ends. The end result of many diets is that when you stop eating the fake diet food and heavily restricting calories, you’ll gain the weight back.
Similarly, when you stop exercising twice a day and doing HITT seven days a week, it’s the same story. If weight loss is your motive for exercising, instead of hiring a trainer and obsessively hitting the gym, consider getting to the root of the problem and hiring a good nutritionist and counselor.
You do it wrong. Half-baked reps, jerking your back like you’re on crack, or pedaling the spin bike a million miles an hour. Guys doing curls with no range of motion and gals doing a zillion crunches, the list goes on.
Reps, sets, exercise machines, and exercise routines are the tools to help you accomplish building your fitness project. Like any tool, these variables can be efficient mechanisms that help you get the job done.
But all tools can be dangerous when used incorrectly and it’s utterly tragic how disconnected many are from their tools. Whether your tool is a treadmill, a kettlebell, or the most important machine of all (your body), the bottom line is do it right or don’t do it at all. If you don’t know how, ask someone.
You aren’t getting better at something. If the point of going to church is to resolve your faith and deepen your relationship with the divine, then the goal of working out should be a better physical functionality, increased pliancy, or improved technical proficiency.
That’s not to say there won’t be ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. And certainly, the laws of physics dictate that you most definitely won’t continuously get bigger, stronger, or faster. Generally speaking though, the general trend of fitness should be clear—improvement. You should become a better athlete, more proficient at your craft, or simply more aware of your body in time and space.
Olympic lifting, gymnastics, and boxing are skills to hone, not just means of burning calories. The point is to be your own athlete, to practice and study, and get professional guidance. That said, if you don’t have your own coach, hire one, find a mentor, or join a community that cares.
You’re hurt. If doing squats hurts your back or running hurts your knees, I have some professional advice for you—stop! I’ve paid doctors and therapists of all kinds of cold hard cash to give me the exact same counsel. “If it hurts, don’t do it.” It makes perfect sense, but sometimes we don’t listen to our bodies despite their incessant nagging.
It isn’t courageous to exercise while injured or push through pain, it’s arrogant. True courage is having the wherewithal to stop and really address the root of your pain. I can’t spell it out any more plainly, if you’re hurt or exercise exacerbates your pain, you should stop, today.
You Have to Make It Count
Look, if you’re a fitness customer and you want to blow up the elliptical like you’re running from a zombie, or if you want to talk on the phone while you’re on the treadmill, or maybe you want to do side bends thinking you’re melting inches off of your waistline, than I suppose that’s your prerogative. But I wouldn’t go to your church unless I was serious about learning and worshiping with humility and introspection—the same logic applies to the gym.
Exercise because you like it. Exercise to get better at something. But do so with grace and proficiency and if you’re not willing to be a disciple of true wellness, do the rest of us a favor and stop exercising.
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