Why It’s Ok Not to Exercise

by Heather

I want to talk about something that doesn’t really mesh with the vibe of this blog. But I think it needs to be said.

It’s okay not to exercise.

I don’t mean it’s ok in terms of health- exercise is absolutely important in health. I mean ok more of casual, permission-granting sense.

And I say this under two very different circumstances.

[Note: This is not a PSA telling you not to exercise. It’s about giving yourself a break from the pressure. Chill. Relax. Enjoy life.]

It’s Ok Not to Exercise: Situation 1

It’s ok to not exercise in the traditional sense. You don’t need to go to the gym every day, or train for marathons or triathlons or fitness competitions. You don’t need to keep track of every mile you run or how many calories you burn, or how many days you do it.

You just need to move. I don’t care if it’s walking, lifting soup cans like weights in your living room, mowing your lawn, an on-demand yoga episode on TV, or chasing your kids all over the house. If you’re doing something, it counts for something.

Maybe it’s running just for the sake of running. Who says you have to run a marathon at the end of it all?

It’s OK Not to Exercise: Situation 2

It’s simply ok not to exercise. Sometimes. When you’re surrounded by fitness, be it magazines, TV, or blogs, you can lose perspective.

Sometimes, you just don’t have it in you. Mentally, physically, emotionally- for whatever reason, you just can’t bring yourself to lace up your running shoes or dust off your yoga mat.

And so what?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not what you need in that moment. Maybe thinking about how to cram in a trip to the gym during your lunch break or figuring out when to fit in a 2 hour run is just adding to your stress. Believe it or not, life gets in the way.

Perhaps you should cut yourself some slack. It’s ok.

Mental health is no less important than physical health.

There is no rule that says if you don’t exercise this week or this month that your chances at fitness are over.

[There’s also no rule that says if you haven’t exercised in a month (or 10) you can’t start again today.]

That being said, you have to know where to draw the line. Is taking a break from the gym really giving you a mental vacation? Or is that just an easy excuse not to go?

Are you “not exercising” or do you have a permanent seat on the couch with your name on it?


Maybe you don’t need a break. Maybe you just need a little breather. Maybe going to spin class a couple times a week is better suited to you this month than training for a winter marathon. Maybe you like hiking. Maybe Pilates is your thing right now. Maybe you like doing something completely different every single day.

Maybe if you take that break, it’ll be just the motivation you need to get back at it.

What do you do instead of exercising sometimes?

PS In the realm of NOT not exercising, I’m trying hot yoga again today. 🙂

PPS The blogging resources on my Favorites page are 25% off with code november25

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg November 16, 2010 at 8:14 am
I'm a huge fan of listening to my body and giving myself rest days when I don't feel like working out. I'm always generally active anyway, because we have two dogs, so I know I'll at least get a few walks in. And, I find that stepping away from exercise for a day or two gets me really excited to jump back in when I do!
Heather November 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm
Sometimes I wish I had dogs so it wouldn't feel weird to just go on a stroll through the neighborhood....but I do it anyways sometimes ;)
Becca November 16, 2010 at 8:16 am
I guess it all comes down to being honest with yourself. Ask why you're exercising, or why you're not exercising. If you're exercising to be healthy, are you really being healthy by beating the crap out of yourself? But, conversely, don't make excuses not to. I must say I admire your non-exercise! I cried the last time I did hot yoga. I can't explain it - something about it just made me bawl. I ended up having a big hug from the instructor in the car-park afterwards!
Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman November 16, 2010 at 8:48 am
I totally agree. And also: If you're injured sometimes it's better NOT to exercise. Doing so can just make things worse!
Honey B Nutrition November 16, 2010 at 8:51 am
Great post. :-) I try to tell people to add variety to exercise - well, to everything, but exercise in particular - and I think taking days off is an important part of that variety. You don't want to over-do it, wear out your muscles or yourself to exhaustion and most certainly you do not want to be adding to stress!! There are just such extremes! People who over-exercise and people who NEVER do. Balance is key. :)
Amy B @ Second City Randomness November 16, 2010 at 9:02 am
I agree. I think sometimes people overextend themselves. And I've definitely had those nights where I get home and just collapse into my couch and say "yeah... it's so not happening today". That's ok. It just makes me more motivated for my next session. :)
Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun November 16, 2010 at 9:50 am
What a great post. I agree whole heartedly that its okay not to stress over exercise. Sometimes we need a break...and we should always be doing what works for us. It won't always be the formal workout stuff.
Alina @ Duty Free Foodie November 16, 2010 at 11:03 am
I definitely believe it's fine to take some breaks from exercise, or even have some months of reduced activity. Six days a week of intense workouts all the time is not really sustainable ... our bodies let us know when we need to rest. However, a separate issue is when you end up taking time off for a good reason (like illness), and the lack of exercise drains you of energy so it's hard to get back in. Then I think you have to make yourself do something (hopefully something you enjoy) two or three times, but by the fourth workout my body is usually like, yeah, we're back baby!
Heather November 17, 2010 at 8:01 pm
Such a good point!! It's a vicious cycle: no energy from not exercising but no energy to go exercise...
Junebug November 16, 2010 at 11:31 am
woohoo!! today is my hot yoga day too! soooooooooooooooooo excited!
LizLivingVegan November 16, 2010 at 11:57 am
Thank you thank you thank you for this post!!! I get so caught up in the "I have to go to the gym" mentality that sometimes exercise isn't fun anymore! I need to relax and enjoy my workouts! Thank you again :)
Alexa @ The Girl In Chucks November 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm
I decided I wasn't in the mood to train for a 10K and dropped down to a 5K. Part of me was feeling like a failure, but then I realized, I didn't fail. I've been more into going to the gym lately than I've been into running and I reminded myself that it is totally okay. The important part is remaining active...you don't have to run to do that...unless you want to, of course.
Lisa November 16, 2010 at 1:47 pm
Sometimes I just need a few days off in a row and that usually resets my brain. It helps prevent burn out.
Sal + Liv November 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm
Amen! I finally got to a point where I actually WANTED to exercise (which doesn't happen often enough) and then my body gave out on me. Fever and sniffles aside, it's nice to take a little break from the gym to give my body and mind a chance to catch up with each other.
sarah (the SHU box) November 16, 2010 at 7:50 pm
i rarely take a day off that i haven't 'planned' -- but today a downpour began just as i was headed out for my run, and i was NOT feelin' it! currently lying on the couch and trying to be okay with it. what lovely timing for your post :)
Christine (The Raw Project) November 16, 2010 at 8:29 pm
Great post. I tend to get over driven to exercise and beat myself with guilt when I skip a workout. Silly, I know, but easy for a health nut to get distorted when so much research.
Nichole November 16, 2010 at 10:23 pm
It is OK! Love this:) Can't wait to hear about hot yoga. I end up cleaning house or going outside to play sports, it's about moving and engaging my body.
Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine November 17, 2010 at 8:58 am
Amen to this! I think MOVEMENT is key. Exercise doesn't have to be in a gym, in sneakers, dripping sweat. Exercise can mean walking somewhere, it can mean deep-cleaning your house, it can mean just running around school or your office like a crazy person. As good as it feels sometimes, our bodies just don't like to be still for too long...just staying active in every day activities is enough!!

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