Overcoming barriers to physical activity
Quite often, the most difficult thing about any type of regular movement workout is simply finding the motivation to start. It’s not even that moving your body is necessarily going to be hard… but not moving it is almost certainly going to be easier.
Not moving your body won’t bring you the wonderful health benefits of physical exercise though, from weight management to stress reduction and an improvement in your mental health and mood.1
We’re going to explore some of the most common reason why you might feel reluctant to get moving, and help you overcome them so that exercise becomes fun and something you look forward to.
Lack of time
Time is our biggest enemy when it comes to exercising and it can truly feel like there are not enough hours in the day. If you’re totally honest with yourself though, most of us can find the time to get moving. It might mean getting up a little earlier, or it could simply mean forgoing your usual daily social media break or tv show to exercise instead. The truth is though that if we are really honest with ourselves, the time can be found somewhere. If time really is tight though, then try to focus on shorter bursts of activity, like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which involves exercising at a high intensity for 30 seconds to several minutes, separated by 1-5 minutes of recovery. Studies have shown that HIIT programmes can show cardiovascular improvements as great as more traditional, steady-state cardio activities, like running or cycling.2
You probably fall into one of two categories – either you can’t stand the thought of exercising in front of other people or you can’t think of anything worse than exercising alone. If it’s the first, there are plenty of online movement workouts that you can take part in where you will get the benefits of social support but without the fear of having to actually move in front of others. These can be great if you need to see other faces too – particularly as many online groups and classes have associated social media groups where you can share thoughts and encourage each other.
Lack of energy
When you’re feeling tired and just want to curl up on the sofa, it’s naturally going to be difficult to find the motivation to take part in some sort of physical activity instead. Contrary to what you might think though, exercising can actually give us more energy overall, rather than deplete what we have. This is because it releases ‘feel-good’ endorphins3 and helps us sleep better with less disturbance.4
Lack of motivation
Finding motivation for anything new is always difficult. We get set in our ways and our routines, and change can be scary. If this sounds like you, think of the bigger picture. Why did you start considering doing more physical activity in the first place? Was it to feel better mentally, to achieve a goal physically – in terms of either performance or appearance? Was it to break up your day and get you away from your desk? Whatever your end goal, use that as your motivation to get moving.
Fear of injury
There’s no denying it, exercise does come with a risk of injury. That being said, so does any sort of movement. You could break a toe by kicking a coffee table on your way to the kitchen, but that doesn’t stop you walking to the kitchen… it’s all about risk management. One of the leading causes of injuries is not something so dramatic as breaking a bone, but simply straining a muscle due to overuse. It’s important not to do too much, too soon. Be sure to warm your muscles up prior to any activity with some dynamic stretching and cool down with some static stretches afterwards. Studies have shown that stretching can make muscles significantly more compliant to the demands of physical exercise and may be important for injury prevention.5
Lack of skill
Exercising and finding a form of physical activity you enjoy should be less about being the best at it and more about running your own race. If you improve against yourself, that’s all that really matters. If you’re shy or insecure about exercising in front of other people, perhaps ask a friend to join you or try out an online workout at home.
High costs and lack of facilities
Some sports do come with a high price tag attached. If you get heavily involved in golf for example, you are going to need to pay for a set of clubs, green fees, suitable shoes and clothing at a minimum. That being said, you could also borrow these things off a friend or colleague while you determine if it’s something you would like to pursue in the longer term. Not all activities come with a cost attached though and one of the most accessible forms of movement workout – walking – costs nothing at all. Simply grab your trainers and your keys, and head outside for some fresh air. Many activities that were also inaccessible previously are now available online too. Pilates and yoga, dance classes and group cardio workouts can be found with a quick Google search.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! Granted, you might not want to go out for a jog around the block during a hurricane, but generally speaking, if you have the correct clothing and footwear then the weather doesn’t need to be a big barrier to physical activity. If it’s hot and sunny wear light, breathable layers (and don’t forget to top up on your sunscreen!) and if it’s cold, wet and miserable, wrap up warm, throw on a waterproof jacket and head on out regardless – as anyone who owns a dog will tell you, even the worst looking weather isn’t an excuse!
Whatever your barriers to physical activity, one of the greatest ways to overcome them is simply to focus on why you wanted to get moving in the first place. Although it can be hard to get going, you can rest assured that you will feel a lot better in yourself once you do. Good luck!
- https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html [↩]
- https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-blog/2018/march/the-workout-debate-experts-weigh-in-on-cardio-vs-hiit [↩]
- https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-198401020-00004 [↩]
- https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/36/9/1279/2453863?login=true [↩]
- https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200434070-00003 [↩]