6 reasons why exercise won’t help you


By David Joel Miller.

Mistakes we make in setting up an exercise or other self-change programs.

Man exercising

Man exercising

Exercise programs, like lots of other self-change efforts, fail for some very simple reasons.

I first read these points in articles about physical exercise programs but the more I read about them the more I could see that the same principles apply to mental, spiritual and emotional recovery programs also.

Have tried to change only to end up back where you started?

Below are some of the reasons these self-improvement programs often fail.

1. Trying to do too much too fast.

For most people, weight loss is not a long-term project. This exercise or weight loss program is often undertaken as a last-ditch crash activity. You want to lose weight before a special occasion or because your doctor has said your health is at risk.

Most people in early recovery, from whatever they define as their problem, fall into this same trap. The person who has neglected their heath wants to get into shape lose weight and become healthier and they want to do this by Friday.

Recovering from a lifelong issue does not happen in large sudden ways. It begins with some basic changes that you keep doing. It is the maintenance part that is so essential, yet so hard to make a part of any self-change program.

Just as dropping too much weight too quickly may be bad for your physical health, trying to undo years of a problem lifestyle overnight may be emotionally unhealthy.

The first week in recovery many a person wants to get a job, go back to school full-time, start a new relationship and pay off all their back bills. Early recovery is a time to focus on what bad habits you need to weed out of your life and to begin to think about what you want this new life to look like when you are done. Do you want a whole new healthier you or are you just trying to lose the weight by the time of the reunion?

It is easy to overwhelm yourself when you first start a self-change program, the result is that the whole self-improvement program goes out the window.

Make small changes and stay with them. Those small changes in your life repeated often enough result in major life improvements.

2. Not being consistent.

Self-change cannot be done on an on-again-off-again basis. Small incremental changes add up. Sudden burst of efforts are undone by periods of inattention to your self-improvement program.

If you really want lasting change you need to exchange your habits and building new habits takes lots of repetition. You did not get the way you are overnight and it will take time to recover.

3. Are you avoiding the hard stuff?

We all like to look for shortcuts but the shortcuts do not add much to making you happier or healthier. There is no short cut to exercise. You have to do it. Some ways of exercising may be more effective than others but they all take effort on a consistent basis.

I think of self-improvement like karma as a form of exercise. You do good things and you become a good person, you do bad things and you become a less good person. Sometimes getting to be a better person takes lots of effort.

4. Spending too much time on the fun stuff.

In any recovery program, some things are more enjoyable than others. We tend to do the things we like. But to really change yourself sometimes you need to start your routine with the hard to do things.

5. You do the wrong exercise the wrong way.

Make sure the things that you are doing in your program are truly designed to help you and that you are doing them in an effective way. Professionals can help here, so can self-help books.

Improperly done exercises result in injuries and those need to heal. A common mistake recovering people make is to run around apologizing for your past errors and saying you are sorry. Others have heard all this before. They do not want to hear you say sorry they want to see real change. Make the changes first and it will be easier for others to accept your apologies later on.

6. You forget to breathe.

Forgetting to breathe during physical excesses undoes a lot of the benefits that come from exercise. The muscles need oxygen to function and to grow. The same thing is true of spiritual exercise. You need to slow down and breathe in the joy and pleasure that comes from doing new estimable things.

In the older self-improvement books, mental health, memory, and success were linked to physical wellness. We have lost some of that emphasis as we put pressure on children to get high test scores and take away their recesses to get those test scores up. Having a healthy body is a big help in being more mentally alert and effective.

Hopefully learning these 6 ways in which exercise will be unhelpful will aid you whether you are trying to lose weight and get in shape or you are on your way to making other changes that are a part of your recovery.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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2 thoughts on “6 reasons why exercise won’t help you

  1. Pingback: Going nowhere fast? When you want something and you’re not getting it. | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Why the B student is happier – good enough is often better | counselorssoapbox

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