Regular physical activity may help prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. It also may also increase your energy and boost your mood. But many people don’t know how to make physical activity a part of their lives and they hold on to one or more of the common barriers to physical activity listed below.
Barrier 1: Between work, family, and other demands, I am too busy to exercise.
Solutions: 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 yard, 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 softball game, or an evening walk around the block.
Barrier 2: By the end of a long day, I am too tired to work out.
Solutions: Think about the 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.
Barrier 3: Getting on a treadmill or stationary bike is boring.
Solutions: 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. Check out music or audio books from your local library.
Get outside. A change in scenery can relieve your boredom — try hiking or planting a garden.
Choose an activity that you can stick with, like 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 4: I am afraid I will hurt myself.
Solutions: Start slowly. If you are starting a new physical activity program, go slowly 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.
Take 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 class and let you know if you are doing things right.
Choose water workouts. Whether you swim laps or try water aerobics, working out in the water is easy on your joints and helps reduce the risk of 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. These sessions vary in price, so find out about fees before making an appointment.
Barrier 5: I do not want to spend a lot of money to join a gym or buy workout gear.
Solutions: 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 centers. Other companies will even pay for part of an employee’s membership fee.
Check out your local recreation or community center. These centers may cost less than other gyms, fitness centers, 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.
Barrier 6: I do not have anyone to watch my kids while I work out.
Solutions: Do something physically active with your kids. Kids need physical activity, too. No matter what age your kids are, you can find an activity you can do together. Dance to music, take a walk, run around the park, or play basketball or soccer together.
Take turns with another parent to watch the kids. One of you minds the kids while the other works out.
Hire a babysitter.
Look for a fitness or community center that offers child care. Centers that offer child care are becoming more popular. Cost and quality vary, so get all the information upfront.
Barrier 7: My family and friends are not physically active.
Solutions: 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 basketball team or dance partner counts on you, you will not want to miss a workout, even if your family and friends are not involved.
Barrier 8: I would be embarrassed if my neighbors or friends saw me exercising.
Solutions: 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.
Invite a friend or neighbor to join you. You may feel less self-conscious if you are not alone.
Go to a park, nature trail, or fitness or community center to be physically active.
Barrier 9: My neighborhood does not have sidewalks.
Solutions: Find a safe place to walk. Instead of walking in the street, walk in a friend or family member’s neighborhood that has sidewalks. Walk during your lunch break at work. Find out if you can walk at a local school track.
Work out in the yard. Do yard work or wash the car. These count as physical activity too.
Barrier 10: Winter is too cold/summer is too hot to be active outdoors.
Solutions: Walk around the mall. Join a mall-walking group to walk indoors year-round.
Join a fitness or community center. Find one that lets you pay only for the months or classes you want, instead of the whole year.
Exercise at home. Work out to fitness videos or DVDs. Check a different one out from the library each week for variety.
Jennifer from Detroit says, “I needed to find something to do to keep off the extra 5 pounds I gain every winter. I didn’t feel like doing anything after work, when it is already dark. So I started working out at a fitness center near my office at lunchtime. I do the treadmill and lift weights three days a week. It makes me feel great. Also, I don’t pay for my membership during the summer, when I’d rather be outside.”
Barrier 11: I do not feel safe exercising by myself.
Solutions: Join or start a walking group. You can enjoy added safety and company as you walk.
Take an exercise class at a nearby fitness or community center.
Work out at home. You don’t need a lot of space. Turn on the radio and dance, or follow along with a fitness show on TV.
Barrier: 12 I have a health problem that I do not want to make worse.
Solutions: Talk with your health care professional. Most health problems are helped by physical activity. Find out what physical activities you can safely do and follow advice about length and intensity of workouts.
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.