Jurg Widmer Probst

What exercise barriers are there, and how can you overcome them?

Exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. But it’s not always easy to stay consistent and many people struggle to maintain a regular regimen of physical activity.

Many factors affect our ability to exercise. When life gets busy, or motivation starts dwindling, exercise is often one of the first things to be pushed aside. In addition, our want or ability to stay active can vary from week to week. Most of us have experiences where we get into positive habits and exercise regularly one week, yet everything feels much harder the next.

It’s easy to say you just need to get up and go, but that’s not always helpful. Instead, real, practical, and customisable solutions are required.

As a health, fitness and wellbeing enthusiast, Jurg Widmer has faced his share of difficulties staying consistent with exercise. It’s something that affects most people, so today, we’ll look at some of the most common exercise barriers and give you some handy tips to help you beat them.

What types of barriers prevent people from working out?

Not everyone faces the same barriers to exercise; obstacles may be specific to an individual’s situation. However, when considering what stops most people from exercising, we can divide these hurdles into 3 main categories:

  • Physical barriers (such as injuries or lack of energy).
  • Mental barriers (such as low confidence, self-motivation, or lack of enjoyment).
  • Environmental barriers (such as inadequate exercise spaces, limited time, or cost).

Some challenges may be easier to deal with than others, but there’s usually a way to improve your situation.

Parents, for instance, may not have childcare that allows them to go to the gym for an hour or two. But perhaps there are gyms in your area with childcare facilities, or there’s something you and your kid would like to do together. Sometimes we need to think outside the box to find solutions that work for us.

The 10 most common barriers to exercise and how you can overcome them

We all know that exercise is good for the mind and body, but knowing this doesn’t mean it’s easy all the time. So don’t worry if you’re struggling to keep active. It happens to everyone (even top Olympic athletes).

1. Not enough time

One of the most frequent excuses not to exercise is that people don’t have the time. You may have a big project, a busy season at work, or a lot of events on your social calendar. At times like these, it can be hard to fit workouts on top of everything else.

But there are ways to compromise. For instance, you could find a particular time of the day or week when things are quieter and block out some time. And remember, exercising doesn’t always mean you have to do a super long session at the gym. You could take a walk on your lunch break or start the day with a 10-minute yoga session. You could even build exercise into your routine, for example, by walking or cycling to work.

2. Tiredness

Who wants to get up and go for a run when they’ve had a poor night’s sleep or a hectic week? Not many of us. Ideally, you should get more (and better) rest when you’re tired, but this isn’t always easy.

Ultimately, sleep is essential for us to feel well and energetic. It can help to set a bedtime alarm, which signals when it’s time to wind down and head to bed. And while it might seem counterintuitive, it’s often better for you to get up and exercise even if you’ve slept badly. Many of us get into bad habits, but getting up and exercising despite your tiredness will ensure you’re tired enough to fall asleep at a more reasonable time the next night.

3. Low energy

While low energy is often connected to tiredness, they’re not the same thing. You might lack energy even though you got a full 8 hours of sleep. It’s hard to exercise when you barely have the power to roll out of bed or head to the fridge for a snack.

So if you’ve got no energy, how are you supposed to exercise? Firstly, you can try mixing up your schedule to fit in an activity when you have the most energy. For example, if you’re a night owl, you’ll likely prefer to work out in the evening than in the morning.

It’s also worth switching your diet if you consistently feel lethargic. Food is fuel, and eating right will ensure you have the energy to keep physically active.

It’s also worth acknowledging that many believe exercise increases energy levels in the body. So you could start with some light exercise and push yourself further as your energy increases.

4. Exercise is too hard

There’s no denying that exercise is challenging, especially when you’re pushing yourself. But it’s also true that it’s good for you, even if it’s uncomfortable.

The best trick to overcoming this feeling is to give yourself time to rest and choose activities you like. For example, if you’re not a big fan of jogging or weight lifting, why not try classes at the gym or online? It can also help to join a group exercise. You’ll be less focused on how hard something is if you’re doing it with friends.

5. No enjoyment

When you hate a particular exercise or are bored with your usual routine, you’ll likely find excuses to avoid it. Instead, switch things up and try something new. Again classes, online videos, and working out with friends can be a great way to change things up and rediscover your enjoyment.

6. Lack of confidence

Many worry about doing exercises wrong or being judged by those around them. Worries like this can completely halt your desire to stay active. It can help to find a quiet time to begin your fitness journey. You could also enlist the help of a friend or trainer to help build your confidence. In fact, many gyms offer one or two free sessions with a personal trainer where you can ask questions and try out new exercises or machines you’re nervous about using.

7. Self-motivation

Sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to work out. It can help to build physical activity into your routine or join a friend or group. Most people are more likely to stick to an exercise regimen if they’ve got the accountability of meeting someone or attending a class.

8. Injury

An injury is a particularly challenging barrier to exercise. First, of course, you don’t want to risk worsening damage. Sometimes you must wait to recover before exercising again, but what if it’s a longer-term injury? In this case, you may want to consult with a doctor or physical therapist. Generally, you should try engaging in gentle workouts or something that doesn’t put pressure on the injured area.

9. Nowhere to exercise

It can be challenging to find space to exercise. You may not have transport to get to a gym, not have well-maintained paths in your area, or live in a busy city where spaces are crowded. You might not be able to solve these issues, but there are usually ways around them. For instance, you could walk rather than run on uneven paths. Or you could try online classes or tutorials at home if you can’t get to a gym.

10. Cost

Gyms and clubs can be expensive. You might not have the disposable income to partake in these exercises, but luckily there are lots of physical activities you can try for free or next to nothing. For example, jogging, jump rope, dancing, yoga, and bodyweight exercises don’t cost anything and can be done outside or at home.

Of course, this is not an unlimited list of barriers or solutions. So many things in daily life can prevent you from exercising as you’d like. But there are even more ways to overcome these barriers, living healthier and happier lives. There’s almost always a way to continue exercising if you’re flexible and willing to take a new approach to life’s challenges.

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