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Fitness: Getting Around Barriers to Exercise

Topic Overview

Even when you know the good things about being active, you may find it hard to change your lifestyle until you deal with the reasons you give yourself for not being active. Barriers to exercise include the valid reasons you aren't active and the excuses you make to avoid something you dislike or fear.

Why don't you exercise? For a few days or a week, write down your reasons for not exercising. Then for each of your reasons, write a response that prompts you to reconsider your choice. Look at this list of reasons and responses whenever you are about to make a choice about exercising.

Barriers to fitness
Reason for not being active Possible solution

"I have no time."

"I'm too busy at work."

"I'm always feeling rushed."

"I have more important things to do."

Look at other people who are active and are about as busy as you. Talk with them about how they fit in physical activity. Think of ways to manage your time better. Ask your family for help with fitting in some time for exercise.

Try shorter periods of activity spread throughout the day, such as a few 10-minute walks.

"I'll look silly."

"I'm too old."

"I'm too out of shape."

"I'm too fat."

Join a group or take a class with others who look or feel like you do. You'll see that fitness is for all ages and shapes. Avoid places that make you feel more embarrassed. Start with walking, or try an exercise DVD at home.

Work with a fitness expert for a few sessions to help you get started.

"I'll have a heart attack."

"My knees are bad."

"I'll pull a muscle or sprain my ankle."

"I'll get overheated and faint."

See your doctor for a checkup, and ask him or her about what you can safely do. Read or talk with experienced people about preventing injuries. Have someone with experience watch you exercise to see if you are doing something that may put you at risk for injury.

Work with a fitness expert for a few sessions to help you get started.

"What if I get so hungry I eat more and gain weight?"

"What if I start to look like a bodybuilder?"

"What if...?"

Fear of the unknown is often not based on facts. Talk to more active friends or a health professional about your concerns. Ask yourself whether these reasons are masking other reasons.

"I'll be too cold (or too hot)."

Too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy. The weather may never seem right for exercise. Many people exercise no matter what the weather is like. Try a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. When it's cold, hot, or humid, take precautions.

"I don't have the money."

Being physically active doesn't need to cost money. Just parking farther away so you have a longer walk into the store, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, will increase your activity. You can also exercise with low-cost items such as a jump rope or elastic bands. Or use items you already have, such as using milk jugs filled with water as weights for arm exercises. Do resistance exercises like push-ups or squats.

Perhaps the greatest fear that holds people back is the fear of failure. The most helpful approach to this fear is to carefully define "success" and "failure" using realistic goals. If your goal is simply to become more active than you are now, it will be hard to fail. If your goal is to look like the people in health club ads or to lose a certain amount of weight, then the fear of failure is likely to hold you back.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Heather Chambliss, PhD - Exercise Science
Last Revised September 26, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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