7 Common Barriers to Exercise and How to Overcome Them

Exercising regularly is an essential part of living a healthy life. It boosts our mood, improves immunity, stimulates the brain, strengthens the heart, and many more. There are so many benefits to exercise, but why is it challenging to stick to a fitness routine?

It is a common experience to set goals to improve our health and well-being, only to find it difficult to stick to these intentions after a few months or so. For example, thousands of people embark on a weight loss journey, only to find themselves reverting to their old patterns and regaining the weight they had lost. This is similar to people hitting the gym to exercise regularly but eventually returning to their sedentary lifestyle.

In this article, we'll discuss the common barriers to exercise and provide practical tips on how you can overcome them.

Sticking to a routine has everything to do with how our brain is wired. Creating new habits and breaking old ones are often challenging because of the strong neural connections made in our brains.

The human brain is designed to create habits as a way to save energy and streamline decision-making, so it can be automatic to do certain tasks. That is why habits are so powerful; you can do them effortlessly and without thinking too much. However, this is also the reason why bad habits are difficult to change and sticking to new ones fails because they require rewiring of the brain, which takes time and effort.

Our brain detects which activities or behaviors provide pleasure and which bring discomfort or dissatisfaction. The brain then releases certain chemicals, such as dopamine, when we engage in rewarding activities to reinforce the behavior, making us more likely to repeat it in the future.

If healthy behaviors are associated with discomfort, it may be challenging to establish them in your lifestyle. For example, subscribing to a restrictive diet and exercise routine you hate won't get you far because you perceive the activity as unpleasant, and the brain won't reward you for it.

The key is to find ways to make healthy behaviors more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Recognizing the sources of friction that makes healthy habits unpleasant for you is a crucial step toward creating a routine that sticks to you. By being mindful of these frictions, you can proactively overcome them and eventually develop healthy habits that are automatic.

In our modern world, it is simply hard to have enough time for everything. With busy schedules and demanding work or family commitments, finding consistent time to engage in physical activities can be challenging.

Solution: Although nothing compares to having a complete work session for an hour or two, you can still try incorporating physical activities into your daily routine. This can be as simple as taking a walk during lunch break or jogging in the morning before work. One effective way is to practice movement snacks and break up your workout into smaller chunks of time throughout the day.

Motivation can be an excellent tool to keep you moving forward, but it is an exhaustible resource. When you are not in the mood to work out, it can be challenging to get started and lead to a lack of sufficient progress towards your fitness goals.

Solution: Find a workout buddy or join fitness classes. Having someone with the same goal can help boost your motivation and give you a greater sense of accountability. In addition, the social aspect can spice things up and make working out more enjoyable.

Goal setting and tracking your progress each month can also keep your motivation level in check. Writing down your goals and documenting your fitness journey gives you a more tangible sense of progress and allows the habit of exercising and eating healthy to be more rewarding.

Not everyone can afford a gym membership or have access to exercise equipment. The lack of fitness facilities and a suitable environment for training can be a significant barrier to engaging in physical activity.

Solution: Many forms of training do not require expensive equipment or gym membership. Calisthenics and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are examples of workouts that maximize the use of your own body weight and can significantly increase your strength and promote weight loss.

A workout app or quick online research can also give you valuable insights for free. If you cannot afford a gym membership, take advantage of free outdoor spaces, such as parks and local trails, for your workout. As long as you move and stay active, you can gradually achieve your fitness goals.

Physical limitations such as previous injuries and lack of flexibility or strength can hold you back from exercising and training at your full potential.

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Solution: Seek the help of a professional. Talk to a physical therapist or fitness coach to determine what exercise is safe and appropriate for you. They can also guide you in overcoming your physical limitations and preventing potential injuries effectively.

It also wouldn't hurt to take things slowly at the gym. In fact, most trainers recommend prioritizing proper exercise forms during the first week in the gym. You can also consider low-impact activities such as yoga and swimming, which can be less daunting for some.

Excessive fear of getting hurt or being injured can have a mental impact on you when exercising. This is commonly seen in people who have a low tolerance to pain or those with a history of injury, or who have little experience with physical activities in the past.

Solution: It is essential to take things slowly and gradually build up your tolerance and "appetite" for a physical challenge to reduce the risk of injury. Remember to practice on lighter weights first and gradually progress to heavier weights as you become stronger. Doing so can give you confidence and help you overcome your fears in the gym.

You can also consider working with a personal trainer to help you develop a safe and effective workout routine, tailor your specific needs, and systematically address your limitations.

Many people need help managing their energy or are unaware of how they spend it. Like time and money, you need the energy to accomplish the things that you want to do. It is extremely difficult to fit exercises into your daily routine without enough energy left in your tank.

Solution: Avoid stress and prioritize what or where you spend your precious energy. In addition, nothing can beat a complete and restful goodnight sleep. Limiting caffeine while maintaining a healthy balanced diet can also preserve your energy.

Here’s a plan that will help you build strength and increase energy:;

Some people, especially beginners and introverts, tend to be super conscious in the gym and be easily intimidated by the atmosphere making it harder for them to commit to their goals.

Solution: Always remember that you are doing it for yourself, and no one can judge you for wanting to improve. You can also put on your headset and blast your favorite music and not care in the world, which also works well!

Ironically, working out and seeing gradual improvements in your physique will bring you tons of confidence that will radiate toward other aspects of your life.

Alternatively, you can also try home workout programs and exercise in the solitude of your home. Some even set up their backyard gym or gym area at home.

To create a healthy routine that will stick, you need to identify the barriers preventing you from doing physical activities and learn how to overcome them. By removing these frictions, you can easily repeatedly engage in healthy habits such as exercising and eating healthy until they become automatic.

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Bert Bauzon is a licensed physiotherapist specializing in spinal care and sports rehabilitation. He writes articles and books about exercise science and health care.

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