Too tired to run? Too busy to hit the gym? We look at the top 6 exercise excuses everyone uses to avoid a workout and the expert tips on how to beat them

When it’s cold and dark outside, it’s all too easy to convince ourselves that exercise is a bad idea. From a lack of motivation to a hectic schedule, we’re experts at finding even the smallest excuse to dodge a workout.

Plus, we’re much better at paying attention to our short-term rather than our long-term wellbeing. When given the choice to take a nap right now versus working on our long-term fitness in the gym, the former feels so much more attractive.

So how can we help ourselves stick to our fitness routine? Health writer Rosalind Ryan uncovers the top six excuses for avoiding exercise and the evidence that proves we’re kidding ourselves…

Excuse 1: I’m too tired

Busted: Exercise boosts your energy levels

“It’s well known that exercise is one of the best ways to boost your energy levels and beat tiredness,” says Faisal Abdalla, master trainer for Nike and Barry’s Bootcamp and author of The PMA Method (£15, Aster). “Essentially, the more you move, the more energy you’ll have, and the more often you’ll want to move. It’s a great little circle that keeps on giving.” A study by the University of Georgia found that even a single workout is enough to up your energy levels. Researchers discovered that just 20 minutes of moderate exercise, such as jogging, increased feelings of energy in 91% of those taking part. Abdalla says, “If you’re really tired, just getting out of the house for a brisk 15-minute walk helps increase your energy levels.

Excuse 2: I’m not feeling motivated

Busted: Focus on the feel-good effect, not exercise as a chore

The trick to going to the gym is more simple than you think. You’ve got to go because you want to, not because you feel you have to. Instead of focusing on your workout as a means to an end, think about how it will give you a boost for the rest of the day or help you release the stresses of a busy one. According to sport and exercise psychologist J. Kip Matthews, the endorphins released through exercising not only give you an immediate lift but can actually become addictive. This is because they are “involved in natural reward circuits related to activities such as feeding, drinking, sexual activity and maternal behavior.” It may take time, but you’ll eventually stop seeing it as a chore and become hooked instead. Increase your chances of going even more by finding activities you love – whether that’s a boxing class or a chill-out yoga session. Your workout might just become one of the best parts of your day.

Excuse 3: I don’t have enough time

Busted: Short, sharp sessions are just as good

You don’t have to spend hours slogging away in the gym. Research shows that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is highly effective. One study published in the journal PLoS One found a 10-minute workout – that included just one minute of sprint training – had the same benefits as 45 minutes of cycling. “There’s so much you can do in a short space of time,” says Emily Cole, a personal coach for Virgin Active’s Walbrook club. “Try a 30-minute class that easily fits into your lunch hour or split your training up. Do cardio one day and weights the next, or focus on different areas of your body.” Getting up just half an hour earlier (less if you opt for a 7-minute HIIT session) means you could also fit in some exercise before hitting the office.

Excuse 4: I can’t afford it

Busted: You can get fit for less

Gone are the days of expensive gym memberships and lengthy contracts. Today, you can pick a gym to suit your budget. With Vitality, you can get great discounts on membership fees with our gym partners Virgin ActiveNuffield Health or David Lloyd. Or you can try a no-frills monthly pass with MoveGB – a fitness platform that gives you access to thousands of local gyms and fitness classes on a rolling membership. Want specific help or advice? Club together with two or three friends and split the cost of a personal trainer. And don’t forget that pulling on your trainers and heading out for a run or a long walk is absolutely free.

Excuse 5: I don’t know what I’m doing

Busted: Ask an expert for help

Although one in seven Brits now belong to a gym, global research shows many of us quit if we’re unsure how to use the equipment. But don’t let ‘gymtimidation’ hold you back. Cole says, “A lot of people worry they’re not using the equipment properly, or that others are looking at them thinking, ‘What are they doing?’ But if you ask one of the trainers for help, they’ll be more than happy to show you.” A trainer can also design a plan to suit your goals, so you only use the equipment you actually need. “Sign up for a class that uses different bits of kit,” advises Cole. “You’ll discover things you would never do on your own.”

Excuse 6: I feel too self-conscious

Busted: Forget about others – focus on yourself

Walking into a new gym or class can feel daunting, but if you let that fear hold you back you’re never going to start feeling better. Abdalla says, “I promise that nobody is looking at you. They’re either too focused on getting through their own workout or too hung up on their own insecurities.” For extra support, Abdalla suggests signing up to a class with a friend. Or you could take part in group exercises that create a sense of community. Try joining a run or cycle club, or even signing up to a local sport’s team – there’s plenty of evidence to prove this can boost your confidence and self-esteem. And remember getting fit isn’t all about the way you look. “Learning to focus on how you feel instead of how you look is one of the most powerful shifts in mindset you can make,” says Adballa. “It’s just as important to be emotionally fit as it is physically fit.”