How to bust through the 5 most common barriers to physical activity

As you’re trying to be more active, there will be things that inevitably get in the way. Are you facing any of the barriers described below? If so, we’ve got suggestions to help you break through them.

BARRIER #1: NO TIME

Life is hectic, with jam-packed schedules and never-ending “to do” lists. Still, it is possible to make physical activity part of your busy day. Here’s how:

  • Schedule the activity in your calendar and honour it as a “must-do” item, the way you would with a medical appointment.
  • Keep a journal of your daily activities for a week. Identify time slots (even 30 minute ones) where you could insert some active time. 
  • If your evenings are fully booked with your kids’ activities, use that time to walk around the field, arena or community centre.
  • Use active transport for regular daily tasks – for example, walk your kids to school, cycle to work, or do errands on foot.
  • Save time by stepping out your front door for a brisk walk, or squeeze in a quick workout at home.

BARRIER #2: NO ENERGY

At the end of a long day, we all feel like collapsing on the couch. But is a sedentary evening really going to leave you feeling healthy and recharged? Consider experimenting with the following tactics:

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  • Swap an hour of TV for one half-hour episode plus 30 minutes of walking or stretching. 
  • If you’re constantly feeling fatigued, choose one night a week where you make a concerted effort to go to bed 30 to 60 minutes earlier.
  • Schedule activity sessions for a time of the day when you’re likely to feel more energetic.
  • If you have a session scheduled and you don’t feel like going, go anyway. Chances are, your mood will improve once you get there.

BARRIER #3: NO MOTIVATION

It can be hard to change long-held habits and stick with a new program. Here are some motivation strategies to keep you on track:

  • Arrange to meet a friend for a walk or run, to create a built-in sense of obligation.
  • The night before an early-morning exercise class, set out your workout clothes (or sleep in them, if necessary!).
  • Use paper-based or electronic reminders to reinforce the commitment you’ve made to yourself.
  • Reward yourself for your progress – for example, by downloading a new song at the end of the week if you’ve met your goals.
  • If your scheduled outdoor activity is cancelled due to weather, have a back-up plan to take your workout indoors.

BARRIER #4: NO BUDDY

Sometimes the notion of being active with a friend sounds easier than it is, especially if you’re new in town or have an unconventional work schedule. Give these ideas a try:

  • In casual conversations with co-workers and other peers, ask what they do to be active.
  • Seek out local retailers (for example, running and cycling specialty stores) that offer weekly group workouts, often free of charge.
  • Take your baby or toddler out in the stroller as much as you can. When you stop to play at the park, use the equipment to do a few stretches.
  • Stuck inside with the kids on a rainy day? Dance and stretch along to the innovative movement videos of GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga.

BARRIER #5: NO CONFIDENCE

Maybe you dreaded Phys. Ed. class as a kid, or you don’t think you fit the profile of the “athletic type.” It’s time to drop those beliefs and take on a new mindset:

  • Remember that being physically active doesn’t have to mean pumping iron or running a marathon – in fact, it can be found in everyday tasks such as walking your dog and raking leaves.
  • If you feel shy, start by working out at home or walking the familiar streets of your neighbourhood.
  • Remind yourself that every little bit counts. By getting out there, you’re lapping everyone who’s sitting on the couch.
  • Imagine how rewarding it will be to say: “I was reluctant to even try this, and look at me now.”

Of course, roadblocks are going to pop up along the way, but anticipating these challenges gives us a head start. If you face the barriers head-on, you’ll keep moving in a positive direction toward your goal.