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Overcoming Barriers: Adding More Physical Activity to your Life

There are many reasons for not being physically active. Everyone is different, with different abilities, knowledge, interests and free time. The keys to success are setting a realistic goal for yourself, choosing activities you like to do, and asking for the support of friends and professionals when you need it. Learn more about getting around barriers to exercise:

Overcoming Barriers – Common Reasons and Tips to Try

We make many excuses to avoid physical activity. But the fact is, everyone can fit in some form of physical activity. Here are some of the most common barriers to physical activity, with some suggestions for overcoming them:

I Have No Time and It's Inconvenient

  • Scheduling activities into your day and use an exercise log so you can see how little time it takes
  • Build activities into everyday tasks no matter where you are
  • Bike to work
  • Use the stairs
  • Take walk breaks at work
  • Garden
  • Park your car farther away from stores
  • Find an activity you enjoy that works for your schedule
  • Choose an activity you can do in a convenient location, for instance in your home or office
  • Choose an activity that's located on the way to or from work
  • Fit activities during a break in your workday

Physical Activity is Too Expensive

You don't have to go to a fancy gym to fit in physical activity. Try to find an activity that doesn't cost money or need special equipment.

I Had a Bad Experience in the Past

  • Find an activity you enjoy and do it in an encouraging environment. Join a program or get active with a friend or family member
  • Choose a goal you're confident you can reach. If you need advice, call 8-1-1 and ask to speak to a qualified exercise professional

I Can't Seem to Get Motivated

  • Keep in mind all the physical and psychological benefits of activity (call 8-1-1 if you need more information)
  • Sign a contract with a clear description of your goal and how you'll meet it. Putting it in writing makes your goal more formal and significant
  • Make sure you set your own activity goal and make it specific to your needs. Set both short and long term goals. Make your goal measurable, but be realistic and build in some flexibility

I Need More Support

  • Ask your health care provider or exercise professional for lifestyle counseling. They'll be able to give you specific tips on how to stay active every day, such as keeping an activity log or diary and writing down reminders in your calendar
  • Join a club or program, or get active with a friend or family member so you have support and encouragement during difficult times

Physical Activity Doesn't Feel Rewarding To Me

  • Decide what kind of reward would work best for you:

    • Praise from a program leader, your health care provider, or a friend or family member
    • A new pair of running shoes
    • A certificate, badge or attendance chart
  • Have a fitness test done by an exercise professional so you can see how your body has changed, your health has improved, and your fitness has progressed. This can help motivate you to stay active

I Forget to Do It

  • Write reminder notes to yourself or set your watch alarm when it's time to be active
  • Have a set time and place for activity so it becomes a routine and you don't have to think about it

I Never See Any Benefit

  • Spend some time learning about the physical and psychological benefits of activity

It Doesn't Fit With My Cultural Beliefs and Practices

  • Find an activity or a way to do a certain activity that's appropriate for your culture

I'm Worried I'll Get Injured

  • Start at a comfortable level then gradually increase the length of time, number of days per week and level of effort
  • Progressing gradually will help you avoid injury. Don't push yourself so hard that you can't talk to a friend or sing a song while exercising
  • Choose an activity you enjoy, try a different activity once in a while. Variety keeps things interesting

I'm Not Sure How to Get Started

  • Get advice and support from an exercise professional or your health care provider
  • Set realistic goals and expectations

Physical Activity Doesn't Feel Right for Me

  • Choose an activity that's suited to your health status, abilities, limitations, personal goals and activity preferences or interests

I've Outgrown My Fitness Plan

  • Get your health care provider or exercise professional to monitor your activity. This makes sure your fitness plan changes with your needs. It also encourages you when you succeed
  • Be sure to create new goals when you reach your previous goal

I'm Always Discouraged by Setbacks

  • It's OK to have a setback in your regular activity or routine. Setbacks can happen for lots of reasons. For instance, you may have been sick or gone on vacation
  • To help avoid being discouraged, think about how you can overcome difficulties or challenges ahead of time
  • Have a support system to encourage you (friends, family, an exercise professional, group or club)
  • Keep changing and adding variety to your activity routine

I'm An Older Adult

Physical activity isn't just for young people. There are many ways to participate as an older adult. Learn more:

I Have a Disability

Physical activity is adaptable and possible when you are living with a disability. Try to:

  • Think about how you can be more active in your daily life. Remember: it doesn't have to be strenuous. Gardening, playing with your kids and grandchildren, walking or wheeling at lunch are part of an active lifestyle!
  • Find an activity, fitness program, club or facility that meets your needs and has qualified staff to assist you
  • Recognize your interests, decide on your needs and set realistic goals

Learn more at physical activity while living with a disability.

Last Updated: June 2021