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How do I overcome my barriers to exercise?

Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
When you run into hurdles to exercise—boredom, time crunches, and other common setbacks—reminding yourself of the pledges below can help you make it over them. It pays to think ahead about what might derail you, and then brainstorm solutions that will help you stick with your plan. Here are some solutions for common problems:
  • I will stay excited by rotating activities and trying out new sports, interactive computer games like Wii Fit, dancing, or other enjoyable activities.
  • I will plan ahead for short winter days and tough weather conditions (too hot, too cold, too icy, too rainy, too humid) by finding indoor spaces for my workouts, such as a gym, local community center, mall, or my home.
  • If I find it hard to exercise at the end of a long day, I'll choose times of day when I feel more energetic.
  • I will make small promises I can keep, allowing me to celebrate successes and make slow, steady gains.
  • I will make a game out of finding as many ways as possible to slip physical activity into my day through simple steps like taking the stairs, walking the dog, parking in one spot to run several errands, marching or jogging in place during TV commercials, or fitting in a few stretches or exercises before meals, during breaks, or even while on the phone.
  • I will invite friends, family, or co-workers to join me for walks, sports, and interactive computer games like Wii Fit—and possibly even match me in friendly competition (biggest exerciser, anyone?).

If you want to overcome your barriers to exercise you have to realize what those barriers are. For example, time is the #1 barrier to exercise. If time is a barrier it's important to realize how you are using your time to see if in fact there may be small amounts of time for exercise or add exercise into your pre-existing day. For example, park your car 20 minutes away from your office. 

Another step in overcoming barriers is to realize that you have control over them. For example, if time is a barrier it's important to realize that you have control over your time. It's also important to understand that you don't always have to participate in exercise the way you think. Some people are under the assumption that they have to exercise during one big chunk of time. That is not true in fact the research says breaking your workouts up may be more beneficial physically and psychologically. For example, if you have 2-10 minute slots of free time in your day for exercise then use the time you have available.  

What’s stopping you? Let's jump over those obstacles! Identify those roadblocks that are in your way. Example: No time to exercise? Let’s create a realistic time schedule: Exercise before work, during your lunch break, or before dinner.

To overcome barriers to exercise you have to first become aware of what they are. People find it extremely helpful to keep a journal. For three days write down everything that gets in the way of your exercise. Monday-"a late meeting got in the way"; Tuesday-"felt like sleeping in & later in the day didn't eat"; and Wednesday-"no time." If you look at this you'll notice that there are several perceived barriers getting in the way of exercise. In your three day journal, write down how you could have dealt with each of the barriers. Monday-"workout first thing in the morning"; Tuesday-"sleep in 30 minutes versus 60 and always have food you can grab quickly"; Wednesday-"park my car further from my office or use half of my lunch break for exercise." People think they don't have control over their perceived barriers but realize through writing down their barriers and coming up with a plan for dealing with them, that they do. This gives people a sense of control over what happens in their life. Once you become aware of your barriers, then you can better manage it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.