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Overcoming Barriers

Understanding common barriers to physical activity and creating strategies to overcome them may help you make physical activity part of your daily life.

Lack of Time:

  • Identify available time slots.  Monitor your daily activities for one week.  Identify at least three 30 minute time slots you could use for physical activity.
  • Add physical activity to your daily routine.  For example, walk or ride your bike to work or shopping, organize school activities around physical activity, walk the dog, exercise while you watch TV, park farther away from your destination, etc.
  • Select activities requiring minimal time, such as walking, jogging, or stair climbing.

Social Influence:

  • Explain your interest in physical activity to friends and family.  Ask them to support your efforts.
  • Invite friends and family members to exercise with you.  Plan social activities involving exercise.
  • Develop new friendships with physically active people.  Join a group, such as the YMCA or a hiking club.

Lack of Energy:

  • Schedule physical activity for times in the day or week when you feel energetic.
  • Convince yourself that if you give it a chance, physical activity will increase your energy level; then, try it.

Lack of Motivation:

  • Plan ahead.  Make physical activity a regular part of your daily or weekly schedule and write it on your calendar.
  • Invite a friend to exercise with you on a regular basis and write it on both your calendars.
  • Join an exercise group or class.

Fear of Injury:

  • Learn how to warm up and cool down to prevent injury.
  • Learn how to exercise appropriately considering your age, fitness level, skill level, and health status.
  • Choose activities involving minimum risk.

Lack of Skill:

  • Select activities requiring no new skills, such as walking, climbing stairs or jogging.
  • Take a class to develop new skills.
  • Select activities that require minimal facilities or equipment, such as walking, jogging, jumping rope, or calisthenics (exercises using your own body weight).
  • Identify inexpensive, convenient resources available in your community (community education programs, park and recreation programs, worksite programs, etc.)

Weather Conditions:

  • Develop a set of regular activities that are always available regardless of weather (indoor cycling, aerobic dance, indoor swimming, calisthenics, stair climbing, rope skipping, mall walking, dancing, gymnasium games, etc.)

Travel:

  • Put a jump rope in your suitcase and jump rope.
  • Walk the halls and climb the stairs in hotels.
  • Stay in places with swimming pools or exercise facilities.
  • Join the YMCA or YWCA (ask about reciprocal membership agreement).
  • Visit the local shopping mall and walk for half an hour or more.
  • Bring your MP3 player with your favorite aerobic exercise music.

Family Obligations:

  • Trade babysitting time with a friend, neighbor, or family member who also has small children.
  • Exercise with the kids-go for a walk together, play tag or other running games, get an aerobic dance or exercise tape for kids (there are several on the market) and exercise together.  You can spend time together and still get your exercise.
  • Jump rope, do calisthenics, ride a stationary bike, or use other home gymnasium equipment while the kids are busy playing or sleeping.
  • Try to exercise when the kids are not around (e.g. during school hours or nap times)

Retirement Years:

  • Look upon your retirement as an opportunity to become more active instead of less.  Spend more time gardening, walking the dog, and playing with your grandchildren.  Children with short legs and grandparents with slower gaits are often great walking partners.
  • Learn a new skill you’ve always been interested in, such as ballroom dancing, square dancing, or swimming.

Content in the "Personal Barriers" section was taken from Promoting Physical Activity: A Guide for Community Action (USDHHS, 1999).

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