Overcoming the Barriers to Getting Active!

You know that physical activity is good for you.
So what is stopping you from getting out there and getting at it? Maybe you think that working out is boring, joining a gym is costly, or doing one more thing during your busy day is impossible. When we say to ourselves, “But, I just don’t have enough spare time to exercise …”, we’re really viewing activity as an optional, spare time activity.

Getting serious about losing weight and becoming healthier involves scheduling activity and exercise into our daily routines so that it becomes part of the norm.  

We’d never say to ourselves, “Oh, I don’t feel like brushing my teeth today” or “I just don’t have time to have a shower”.

Physical activity can be part of your everyday life and here, we’re going to look at how to help yourself get moving by offering ideas to beat those barriers to becoming active.

Why Should I Be More Physically Active?

You may know that regular physical activity can help you control your weight. Physical activity burns calories. When you burn more calories than you eat each day, you will take off pounds. You can also avoid gaining weight by balancing the number of calories you burn with the number of calories you eat.

Regular physical activity may also help prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. If you have one of these health problems, physical activity may improve your condition. Regular physical activity may also increase your energy and boost your mood.

So, What Is Standing In My Way?

Would you like to do more physical activity, but just don’t know how to make it a part of your life?

Below, we look at some common barriers to physical activity and ways to overcome them. After you read them, try writing down the top two or three barriers that you face, then write down solutions that you think will work for you. (Remember; writing things down gets processed by a different part of the brain and gives you a much greater level of ‘buy-in’ into your own ideas).

You really can make regular physical activity a part of your life!

Barrier #1: Between work, family, and other demands, I am too busy to exercise.


Make physical activity a priority. Carve out some time each week to be active, and put it on your calendar. Try waking up a half-hour earlier to walk, scheduling lunchtime workouts, or taking an evening fitness class.

Build physical activity into your routine chores. Rake the garden, hand-wash the car, or do energetic housework. That way you do what you need to do around the house and move around too.

Make family time physically active. Plan a weekend hike through a park, a family ball game, a wii console tournament or just an evening walk around the block.

Barrier #2: By the end of a long day, I am just too tired to work out.


Think about the other health benefits of physical activity. Regular physical activity may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It may also lower your odds of having heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or cancer. Research shows that people who are overweight, active and fit live longer than people who are not overweight but are inactive and unfit. Also, physical activity may lift your mood and increase your energy level.

Do it just for fun. Play a team sport, work in a garden, or learn a new dance. Make getting fit something fun.

Train for a charity event. You can work to help others while you work out. Committing to this and telling your friends you’ve committed to it will significantly increase your chances of sticking with it.

Barrier #3: Getting on a treadmill or exercise bike is boring.


Meet a friend for workouts. If your buddy is on the next bike or treadmill, your workout will be less boring.

Watch TV or listen to music or an audio book while you walk or pedal indoors. Selecting the right tempo of music can also help influence your work-rate and the effort you put in.

Get outside. A change in scenery can relieve your boredom. If you are riding a bike outside, be sure to wear a helmet and learn safe rules of the road. Also, take your camera! It’s amazing where you can end up when you’re out on your bike. You’re bound to take in scenery and landscapes that you almost certainly wouldn’t come across otherwise. Capturing some shots on camera and reviewing them a couple of days later is a great way to motivate yourself to get out there again!

Barrier #4: I am afraid I might hurt myself.


Start slowly. If you are starting a new physical activity program, go slow at the start. Even if you are doing an activity that you once did well, start up again slowly to lower your risk of injury or burnout.

Choose moderate-intensity physical activities. You are not likely to hurt yourself by walking 30 minutes per day. Doing vigorous physical activities may increase your risk for injury, but moderate-intensity physical activity carries a lower risk.

Join a class. A knowledgeable group fitness instructor should be able to teach you how to move with proper form and lower risk for injury. The instructor can watch your actions during the class and let you know if you are doing things right.

Choose water workouts. Whether you swim lengths or try aqua-aerobics, working out in the water is easy on your joints and helps reduce sore muscles and injury.

Work with a personal trainer. A certified personal trainer should be able to show you how to warm up, cool down, use fitness equipment like treadmills and dumbbells, and use proper form to help lower your risk for injury. All gymnasiums have qualified fitness instructors and their knowledge, advice and encouragement is usually included in your membership fees …. So use them!

Barrier #5: I have never been into sports.


Find a physical activity that you enjoy. You do not have to be an athlete to benefit from physical activity. Try yoga, hiking, or planting a garden.

Choose an activity that you can stick with. For example, walking. Just put one foot in front of the other. Use the time you spend walking to relax, talk with a friend or family member, or just enjoy the scenery.

Barrier #6: I don’t want to spend lots of money joining a gym or buying workout gear.


Choose free activities. Take your children to the park to play or take a walk.

Find out if your job offers any discounts on memberships. Some companies get lower membership rates at fitness or community centres. Other companies will even pay for part of an employee’s membership fee. If you’re a public sector workers or even a retired public sector worker, you’ll almost certainly have access to discounted gym memberships and the like.

Check out your local recreation or community centre. These centres may cost less than other gyms, fitness centres, or health clubs.

Choose physical activities that do not require any special gear. Walking requires only a pair of sturdy shoes. To dance, just turn on some music. Or what about borrowing the kids’ wii console for an hour?

Barrier #7: I don’t have anyone to watch my kids while I work out.


Do something physically active with your kids. Kids need physical activity too. No matter what age your kids are, you can find activities you can do together. Taking them swimming, go walking, a ride around the park, or playing with a ball or frizbee together.

Take turns with another parent to watch the kids. One of you minds the kids while the other one works out.

Look for gyms and fitness centres that offer child care facilities or a crèche. Centres that offer child care are increasingly recognising this problem and are becoming more popular.

Barrier #8: My family and friends are just not physically active.


Do not let that stop you. Do it for yourself. Enjoy the rewards you get from working out, such as better sleep, a happier mood, more energy, and a stronger body.

Join a class or sports league where people count on you to show up. If your football team or squash partner counts on you, you will not want to miss a workout, even if your family and friends are not involved.

Barrier #9: I would be embarrassed if my neighbours or friends saw me exercising.


Ask yourself if it really matters. You are doing something positive for your health and that is something to be proud of. You may even inspire others to get physically active too.

Invite a friend or neighbour to join you. You’ll feel far less self-conscious if you just invite them along!

Barrier #10: The winter is too cold or the summer is too hot to be active outdoors.


Walk around the shopping centre. A bit of retail ‘window shopping’ therapy keeps you on your feet and active. Even if it’s just once a week, if it’s more then you’re currently doing, it’s a step in the right direction.

Join a fitness or community centre. Some gyms will now let you pay seasonally or just for the classes you want.  This way, you can avoid committing yourself to the full membership fee for a whole year.

Exercise at home. Work out to fitness videos or DVDs. It doesn’t even have to be a DVD …. look on YouTube for an almost infinite variety of dance or fitness sessions.

Barrier #11: I have a health problem (diabetes, heart disease, asthma, arthritis) or an injury that I do not want to make worse.


Speak first with your GP. Most health problems are actually helped by physical activity. Find out what physical activities you can safely do and follow advice about length and intensity of workouts.

Join the Activity For Life program. Activity for life is available from your GP. In certain circumstances he/she can prescribe you a 13 week gym membership with a one-to-one personal instructor, designed to get you more active. Some of the gym equipment and machinery is designed to do some of the work for you as you begin, and is adjusted as you progress through the program. For more information, just ask your GP about Activity For Life.

Start slowly. Take it easy at first and see how you feel before trying more challenging workouts. Stop if you feel out of breath, dizzy, faint, or nauseated, or if you have pain.

Work with a personal trainer. If you recovering from an injury, a knowledgeable personal trainer should be able to help you design a fitness plan around your injury.

Action Plan

What are the top two or three barriers to physical activity that you face? What can you do to break through these barriers? Write down a list of the barriers you face and solutions you can use to overcome them.

You have thought about ways to beat your barriers to physical activity. Now, create your blueprint for adding physical activity to your life by following these three steps:

  1. Know your goal.
Set up short-term goals. For example, walking 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Once you are comfortable, try to do more. Try 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes. Then walk on more days a week while adding more minutes to your walk. You can try different activities too. To add variety, you can do low-impact aerobics or water aerobics for 30 minutes, 2 days a week. Then walk on a treadmill or outdoors for 30 minutes, 1 day a week. Then do yoga or lift weights for 2 days.

Track your progress by writing down your goals and what you have done each day, including the type of activity and how long you spent doing it. Seeing your progress in black-and-white helps to keep you motivated.

  1. See your GP first.
If you are a man and over age 40 or a woman and over age 50, or have a chronic health problem such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, or obesity, speak to your GP before starting a vigorous physical activity program. You may not need to talk to your doctor before starting less strenuous activities such as walking.

  1. Answer these questions about how physical activity will fit into your life.
Think about answers to the following four questions. Again, it’s good to write your answers on a sheet of paper. Your answers will be your blueprint to your physical activity program.

  • What physical activities will you do? List the activities you would like to do, such as walking, gardening or housework, joining a sports league, exercising with a video, dancing, swimming, bicycling, or taking a class at a fitness or community centre. Think about sports or other activities that you enjoyed doing when you were younger. Could you enjoy one of these activities again?

  • When will you be physically active? List the days and times you could do each activity on your list, such as first thing in the morning, during lunch break from work, after your evening meal or on Saturday afternoon. Look at your calendar or planner to find the days and times that work best.

  • Who will remind you to get off the couch? List the people - your spouse, kids, parents, or friends who can support your efforts to become physically active. Give them ideas about how they could be supportive, like offering encouraging words, watching your kids, or working out with you.

  • When will you start your physical activity program? Set a date when you will start getting active. The date might be the first meeting of an exercise class you have signed up for, or a date you will meet a friend for a walk. Write the date on your calendar. Then stick to it. Before you know it, physical activity will become a regular part of your life.
What one thing could you do today, that would take you nearer to your weight loss goals?

Best wishes


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