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Home > Wellness Resources > Health Library > Fitness: Getting Around Barriers to Exercise
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.
"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
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
Work with a fitness expert for a few sessions to help you get
"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
"What if I get so hungry I eat more and gain weight?"
"What if I start to look like a bodybuilder?"
Fear of the unknown is often not based on facts. Talk to
more active friends 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,
"I don't have the
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.
September 11, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Heather Chambliss, PhD - Exercise Science
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