Overcoming Common Barriers to Exercise 

By David Hawkins, Physiotherapist

Exercise or physical activity should be considered a wonder-drug – the single best thing we can do for our health.  It can have a dramatic impact on improving so many health parameters that nothing else compares.  Better yet, exercise is free, readily accessible and relatively easy to do.  Yet, for many of us, the latter is not the case.  Committing to a regular exercise regime is one of the hardest things to do.  Why is this the case?  Below, we’ve identified some common barriers to exercise that are regularly discussed in our clinic and some ideas on how to overcome them. 

  • Confidence/Comfort/Intimidation: Find a non-confrontational, non-threatening activity to begin with.  For most people, walking and body weight resistance exercises performed in the home are a great way to begin.  And don’t despair, your Exercise Specialist will write you a program for that bodyweight exercise routine.  Train with a supportive friend, exercise in your home, do a class in the dark (e.g. spin).  As your confidence increases, you will likely feel more comfortable to try new things and expand on your experiences.   
  • Procrastination: Just do it.  We often plan and research and plan and research some more,  wait for the right moment, miss it, the wait again until we start exercising.  While it might seem that you are arming yourself with knowledge to optimise your workout, you’re probably just procrastinating.  Don’t overthink or over-complicate things.  Just go for it – go for that walk.  Go to the gym.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it right or if it is not perfect workout.  What matters is that you get started – immediately.  Motivation doesn’t last forever, so turn those motivating thoughts or desires into action.  Actually doing the exercise is often much easier (and less work) than the burden of thinking about exercising or chastising yourself because you didn’t.   
  • Paralysis through AnalysisNot knowing what to do or how to exercise often leads to research and sifting through volumes of information, which is often contradictory or just plain confusing.  Simplify things to get started: daily 30minute walk at a moderate intensity (huffing and puffing, but able to speak in somewhat shortened sentences) is considered the single best thing you can do for your health.  And, in regards to resistance training, your Exercise Specialist will write you an easy-to-follow program. 
  • Time:  Finding the time to exercise can be one of the most challenging of barriers to exercise.  Typically, exercising first thing in the morning helps to remove most barriers.  For other ideas, watch the webinar, “Finding Time to Exercise.” To watch, simply follow the link: https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/2795104089663762957 
  • MotivationWhether it is getting it, keeping it or turning it into action, motivation can be a challenge for many to start exercising.  One key piece of adviceset goals for the short (milestone) and long-term and connect with your goals on an emotional level (why have you set the goal? How will achieving your goal impact your life? What will it feel like to reach your goal? etc)  
  • All or nothing: When it comes to diet and exercise, and in fact many other facets of our lives, many of us adopt an “all or nothing approach.”  When faced with small blip on our journey, we perceive it as a road block or detour, and as a result, lose our trajectory and momentum.  The result, we resume old habits and either start to eat poorly or avoid exercise, or worse, both.  Consider a blip as just that – a blip.  Just a little stumble, not a trip.  Don’t stop and turn back!  Find your feet and keep moving forward towards your goal.  Then give yourself a pat on the back for getting back on track and continuing on your path.    

We hope the above information is helpful in your quest to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to include exercise into your day.  The benefits greatly outweigh the challenges, so give it your best shot.  It will be worth it! 

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