• Psychology of Movement
    What to do when you can't exercise
  • What to do when you can't exercise
  • This blog we are sharing how to navigate those times when you are unable to exercise, be that due to time constraints, illness, or injury. Most of us at some point will find ourselves out of the game for a while whether that’s a week, many weeks, or even months.

    This can be a pretty miserable or frustrating experience, particularly if you feel as if you have been making good progress. For a lot of people, it can feel like everything has gone to pot and their hard work will be undone.

    But that isn’t necessarily the case

    It’s worth knowing that your progress or physical fitness doesn’t just vanish. For instance it takes a few weeks for cardiovascular fitness or strength to start declining after stopping exercise, and even then strength and fitness return at significantly faster rates than before when you get going again.

    Plus, from a psychological perspective, there are factors to consider to help you cope with not being able to exercise…


    Exercise is not a stand-alone habit. Your exercise efforts will be underpinned by a number of other supporting behaviours. For example your diet, sleep, stress management, general activity during the day, flexibility/mobility… and these behaviours all magnify the benefits to be gained from exercise. What this means is that whilst you may not be able to exercise, you can still honour your health and fitness goals by maintaining these supporting behaviours, or even building some new ones.

    You can still act on the values you honour through exercise in the rest of your daily life. Being unable to exercise offers an opportunity to reflect on why physical activity is important to you and what it demonstrates that you value. Perhaps you value health, challenge or self-development (see here for example values). In the face of being unable to exercise, ask yourself how can those values be brought into your daily life in other ways?

    Check your inner dialogue – when we face setbacks, our inner voice can be far from encouraging. When there are blocks to our goals, it’s natural to direct frustration toward the source of the threat. And often we perceive that source to be ourselves. If you experience a self-critical inner dialogue that goes beyond constructive feedback and honest self evaluation ask yourself “is this helping me navigate this situation?”. If the answer is no, consider how you can turn that inner critic into a voice that is more helpful and supportive during a difficult time.

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