Overcoming Barriers: Adding More Physical Activity to your Life

There are lots of reasons for not being physically active. Here’s a list of some common reasons with some ways to overcome them. Remember, everyone is different, with different abilities, knowledge, interests and free time.

The key to success is setting a realistic fitness goal for you, choosing activities you like to do, and asking for the support of friends and professionals when you need it.

No Time

  • Schedule 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 in during a break in your work day.

Too Expensive

  • Choose an activity that doesn’t cost money or need equipment.

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.

No Motivation

  • 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.
  • Use monitoring tools like a pedometer (an instrument that counts the number of steps you take) so you can see how much progress you’re making.

No 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.

Not Rewarding Enough

  • 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.

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.

Don’t See the Benefit

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

Doesn’t Fit Cultural Beliefs and Practices

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

It’s Uncomfortable, Boring, or There’s Risk of Injury

  • Choose an activity you enjoy.
  • 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.
  • Try a different activity once in a while. Variety keeps things interesting.

Not Sure How to Get Started

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

Not Right for Me

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

Outgrew It

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

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.

Last Reviewed: November, 2016

© 2016 Province of British Columbia. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a health professional. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.

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