Exercise physiologist accepts no excuses for not exercising


By Matt Robinson, Contributing Writer

Dr. Bruce Cohen is creator of the Excusercise exercise program and co-author of a book with the same title.
Dr. Bruce Cohen is creator of the Excusercise exercise program and co-author of a book with the same title.

REGION – As people recover from holiday-inspired indulgence and prepare for the year ahead, one of the most popular promises they make to themselves is to improve their health.

After a few weeks, however, many find themselves back on the couch, in front of an open refrigerator, or even in the hospital. Fortunately, there are ways that can keep even those of us with the least resolve on the track to long-term health.


No excuses

The book “Excusercise: Inexcusable Excuses for Not Exercising” by Bruce Cohen and Michael L. Sachs responds to the most popular reasons people give for not sticking to their health goals. From an alleged lack of time to a lack of appropriate equipment and training, the book stares would-be shirkers in the face and helps them face the fact that such excuses can lead to illness…or worse.

“As humans we are very good at understanding the value of things that might improve our health,” observed Excusercise creator Cohen, who has a Ph.D. in exercise, health, and sport psychology. “But we’re not as good at the execution.”

A certified exercise physiologist, the greater Boston-based Cohen has worked for the federal government and at the U.S. Army Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Natick, as well as with hundreds of personal and corporate clients.


Psycho-social aspect

“After years of providing fitness assessment and customized programming,” Cohen recalled, “I began to realize that it was not the physical aspect but the psycho-social aspect that was missing in the exercise adherence equation.”

In other words, even when people could exercise and despite the fact that they cognitively understood the risks of not doing so, many were still more likely to make excuses than progress. As a result, their health and happiness suffered.

Using his doctoral dissertation as an opportunity to research this reticence, Cohen emerged with his Excusercise program and has since helped countless clients overcome their own obstacles.

“My research showed that people who relapse back into sedentariness report significantly more excuses and less motives than long-term exercisers,” Cohen explained. As with other habit-transformation programs, Cohen emphasizes the importance of having multiple options to deal with potential challenges.

“We all need to have an A, B, and C option each day,” Cohen maintained. He suggests a fitness plan that works in any situation, regardless of where you are, what equipment you have, or who you are with. While many use the beginning of the year or summer as a starting date, Cohen suggests that any moment can be a great time to start getting (back) into (better) shape.


Not just for New Year’s

Dr. Bruce Cohen works with one of his fitness clients.
Dr. Bruce Cohen works with one of his fitness clients.

“For many, January 1 is sort of the deadline,” Cohen observed. “Really, it need not be limited to just a yearly thing.” He also suggests that it is never too late to take that next step.

“Research has shown that the 50-plus [community] has different motivations than when these same individuals were younger,” Cohen noted. He cited how younger people may play a sport in order to be around more people, while older people may participate in order to be around more years.

“Seniors’ fitness programs are also designed more for functionality than competition,” he added. “As we chronologically age with the goal to mature more slowly and more gracefully.”

No matter your age, background, or activity level, Cohen and Sachs’ book realizes that occasional relapses are to be expected. He encourages readers to find their most persistent excuses in the book to help overcome them. Then get back on track (or field or court or treadmill) to a more active and healthier lifestyle.

“We aim to provide strategies that counter excuses and increase the enjoyment factor to make exercise more realistically sustainable,” Cohen said in conclusion. “Remember, the race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running, walking, crawling, etc., so keep on keeping on!”



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