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Barriers to fitness: Overcoming common challenges
Sticking to a regular exercise schedule isn't easy. Get practical tips for overcoming common barriers.By Mayo Clinic staff
Sticking to a regular exercise schedule isn't easy. After all, there are plenty of potential hindrances — time, boredom, injuries, self-confidence. But these issues don't need to stand in your way. Consider practical strategies for overcoming common barriers to fitness.
Barrier No. 1: I don't have enough time to exercise
Setting aside time to exercise can be a challenge. Use a little creativity to get the most out of your time.
- Squeeze in short walks throughout the day. If you don't have time for a full workout, don't sweat it. Shorter spurts of exercise, such as 10 minutes of walking spaced throughout the day, offer benefits too.
- Get up earlier. If your days are packed and the evening hours are just as hectic, get up 30 minutes earlier twice a week to exercise. Once you've adjusted to early-morning workouts, add another day or two to the routine.
- Drive less, walk more. Park in the back row of the parking lot or even a few blocks away and walk to your destination.
- Revamp your rituals. Your weekly Saturday matinee with the kids or your best friend could be reborn as your weekly Saturday bike ride, rock-climbing lesson or trip to the pool.
Barrier No. 2: I think exercise is boring
It's natural to grow weary of a repetitive workout day after day, especially when you're going it alone. But exercise doesn't have to be boring.
- Choose activities you enjoy. You'll be more likely to stay interested. Remember, anything that gets you moving counts.
- Vary the routine. Rotate among several activities — such as walking, swimming and cycling — to keep you on your toes while conditioning different muscle groups.
- Join forces. Exercise with friends, relatives, neighbors or co-workers. You'll enjoy the camaraderie and the encouragement of the group.
- Explore new options. Learn new skills while getting in a workout. Check out exercise classes or sports leagues at a recreation center or health club.
Barrier No. 3: I'm self-conscious about how I look
Don't get down on yourself! Remind yourself what a great favor you're doing for your cardiovascular health, or focus on how much stronger you feel after a workout.
- Avoid the crowd. If you're uncomfortable exercising around others, go solo at first. Try an exercise video or an activity-oriented video game. Or consider investing in a stationary bicycle, treadmill, stair-climbing machine or other piece of home exercise equipment.
- Focus on the future. Praise yourself for making a commitment to your health. And remember that as you become fitter and more comfortable exercising, your self-confidence is likely to improve as well.
Barrier No. 4: I'm too tired to exercise after work
No energy to exercise? Without exercise, you'll have no energy. It's a vicious cycle. But breaking the cycle with physical activity is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
- Try a morning dose of exercise. Remember the suggestion to get up 30 minutes earlier to exercise? Hop on the treadmill or stationary bicycle while you listen to the radio or watch the morning news. Or step outside for a brisk walk.
- Make lunchtime count. Keep a pair of walking shoes at your desk, and take a brisk walk during your lunch break.
- Be prepared. Put workout clothes on top of your dresser, socks and all. Keep a full water bottle in the fridge. Have an exercise video queued up and ready to go when you get home at night.
- Hit the hay earlier. Running on empty is no way to face a full day. Go to bed earlier to make sure you're getting enough sleep.
Barrier No. 5: I'm too lazy to exercise
If the mere thought of a morning jog makes you tired, try these thoughts on for size:
- Set realistic expectations. If your mental bar is too high, you might give up without even trying. Start with a walk around the block. Don't give up if you feel worn out. Take another walk around the block tomorrow. Keep it up, and eventually you'll no longer feel worn out.
- Work with your nature, not against it. Plan physical activity for times of the day when you tend to feel more energetic — or at least not quite so lazy.
- Schedule exercise as you would schedule an important appointment. Block off times for physical activity, and make sure your friends and family are aware of your commitment. Ask for their encouragement and support.
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- Ebben W, et al. Motivations and barriers to exercise among college students. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online. 2008;11:1.
- Wolin KY, et al. Low discretionary time as a barrier to physical activity and intervention uptake. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2008;32:563.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 9, 2010.
- Tips for exercise success. American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=801. Accessed Dec. 6, 2010.
- Physical activity in your daily life. American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2155. Accessed Dec. 6, 2010.