5 Barriers to Exercise – And How To Overcome Them

“I would love to exercise, but I just don’t have the time”

This is the most common reason given when people are asked why they don’t exercise. And while most of us understand the benefits of regular exercise and enjoy physical activity, some struggle to see how and when they could fit more into their already busy lives. And in addition to time constraints, there are many other barriers to exercise that can get in the way of our good intentions.


However, the good news is the majority of barriers to exercise can be tackled once we have identified them. Once we recognise each, we can create a tactical plan to overcome them. Here we take a look at some of the biggest barriers to exercise and outline how to tackle each.

1. Lack of Time

Even if your day is packed with school runs, commuting, meetings or other commitments, you will be surprised how easy it is to create time for exercise if you try.

  • The first step in overcoming this barrier to exercise is to monitor your daily activities for one week.
  • Keep track of all activities including the time you get up, the time you spend commuting to work, watching TV, on the internet/social media and the time you go to bed.
  • At the end of the week, identify at least three 30-minute time slots you can spare. If you can’t find three 30-minute slots, start smaller. Seek out a few 15-minute slots that you can start with.
  • Can you spare time before work or before your partner has to leave the house? Can you spare time at lunch, after dinner or at the weekends? Look at all possibilities.
  • Over time you can work these into longer sessions and you can achieve more in shorter time periods.
  • Integrate HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) exercises into your regime to save time.

If you can carve out time for yourself early in the morning, consider joining a gym near where you work. You can beat the morning traffic and have your workout done before you start your day.  Alternatively, if you spend a lot of time commuting home after work, perhaps this time could be better spent exercising and you get to avoid traffic jams and tailbacks.


2. Family Obligations

According to the BMC Public Health Journal, the transition to parenthood is consistently associated with declines in physical activity. Working parents and in particular, working mothers, are faced with major constraints to exercising.

These include family responsibilities, lack of support and scheduling conflicts. Other studies have shown that childcare and cost are major barriers for parents when it comes to integrating regular exercise into their lives. If family obligations are an issue for you, one way to overcome this is to create a strategy to eke out more time for exercise.

  • Create efficiencies where you can. Do a meal plan for the week ahead and try batch cooking at the weekends. By freezing meals or slow cooking each morning  you can save prep time each evening. Then dedicate any saved time in the evenings to physical exercise.
  • Speak to your partner about how you can support each other in your fitness goals. Create a plan that allows for both of you to integrate physical activity into your week and find ways to work exercise into your weekends like family walks, swims and other activities you can do together.
  • Alternatively, look for a gym near where you work and get your workout done early. If the cost of childcare is a major barrier for you, why not try trading babysitting time with family or friends.
  • There are also lots of ways you can exercise with your baby or small child. Start by going for walks with them in tow. Even if these are short walks around your local area, to the playground or in a nearby park. Also, look out for classes where you can bring your child along with you. Try Googling mum and baby boot camp or child-friendly exercise classes near you.


3. Low Energy

There are numerous reasons why someone might suffer from a lack of energy. Disrupted sleep, stress and being overweight are just some of the causes of fatigue and low energy. There are also a number of medical conditions in which low energy is a symptom of a bigger issue.

We would advise you to first speak with your GP to determine when your low energy started, to check your blood pressure and determine if any medication you were prescribed is causing these issues.

  • Then we would recommend overcoming this barrier to exercise by firstly getting more quality sleep. Try to get at least 7 hours sleep a night and spend the hour before sleep unwinding without blue screens. Try reading or meditating to get better quality sleep.
  • Next, look at your diet. The type and quantity of food you eat play an essential role in determining your energy levels throughout the day. Some foods contain nutrients that can boost your energy levels and improve your focus and moods. These include bananas, fatty fish, sweet potato, blueberries, eggs, apples and hummus to name a few. Try to integrate more of these into your daily diet.
  • Start with gentle exercise and build your way up to faster-paced, more intense workouts. Work with the fitness team in the gym to create a tailored fitness plan for your age, fitness levels and health status.

Gym Plus Staff Member talking to a member


4. Low Self-Confidence

Physical activity including team sports and group classes have been proven to improve participant’s social skills and confidence. Exercise has also been linked to an increase in motivation, positive thoughts and overall happiness.

Physical activity can help increase your confidence – once realistic goals are set, progress is tracked and success measured. However, a lack of confidence can make it difficult for someone to take the first step on the journey.

And while increasing one’s self-confidence is a process that takes time there are some simple ways to establish healthy habits:

  • Firstly, don’t compare yourself to others. Your fitness goal is unique to you and every journey starts with day one.
  • Try not to dwell on past efforts and instead focus on the present. If you find the gym intimidating, then check out our recommendations on how to reduce your fears HERE.
  • Next, understand that the fitness team in the gym is there is help you succeed. Work with them to set long and short-term goals. Setting goals can help you feel in control of your fitness and allows you to create a tactical plan to reach them. Confidence grows with success but you need to be able to measure your progress along the way.
  • Next, start small. When you start out, your long-term goal can feel overwhelming and unachievable. So start with gentle exercises like walking, swimming or a yoga/pilates class. 
  • Once you get over the initial hurdle, your willpower and motivation will get stronger. Creating a routine, introducing some healthy lifestyle changes to your daily life and finding balance will ultimately bring success. And you will be surprised at how quickly your confidence will grow.

Group Exercise Class At Gym Plus


5. Fear of Injury

Fear of injury is a very real barrier to physical activity, especially for anyone who has experienced an exercise-related injury in the past. Often older people have a fear of injuring themselves through exercise, as well as those who would consider themselves unfit, very overweight or who already suffer from joint pain or back problems.

And we understand this fear, as humans, we try to avoid the activities that can hurt us. However, what a lot of people don’t realise is that by not exercising you are more likely to suffer an injury or an illness in the future. So let’s look at some of the ways to overcome this barrier:

  • Join a gym or fitness club where you have access to regular fitness assessments and speak to the team about your concerns. If you have suffered an injury in the past make sure to speak to your GP or physiotherapist before starting a new fitness regime. 
  • The fitness team will put together a tailored plan for your requirements and will recommend the right exercises for your age, fitness level, skill level and health status.
  • If you can, get the help of a personal trainer when you start out to ensure you’ve got the correct form and technique. 
  • Learn how to warm up and cool down properly to prevent injury, as well as hydrate adequately to help lubricate your joints. 
  • Find exercises you enjoy doing. You are more likely to focus on something you enjoy rather than worry about possible injuries if you do this.


If you would like to find out more about how to overcome barriers to exercise and get a personalised health and fitness plan for you, try a one-day guest pass at Gym Plus. If you join in March or April you will receive a free gym bag and sweat towel. Download your free guest pass HERE.

Gym Plus Kit Bag and Sweat Towel



Webbiz Team

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