You already know about the benefits of regular exercise – improved mood, sleep, energy, strength, flexibility, weight management, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke… The list goes on. But just knowing the benefits of exercise, and knowing how to exercise isn’t always enough to get us moving.

Many of us struggle to achieve the recommended 150 – 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week (20 – 40 mins per day). In fact, research suggests more than 60% of Australian adults are not achieving this target.

“If exercise could be taken in the form of a pill we would all be rushing to get our hands on it,” says Ash Watson, Life! program facilitator and Exercise Physiologist. “I see many people in my daily practice who face real or perceived obstacles on their exercise journey. These are the barriers that disrupt our desire and ability to get moving.”

Today on the blog, Ash will take us through some of the most common excuses stopping us from exercising, and give us some practical tips to overcome these barriers:

BARRIER: I don’t have time.

  • Exercise does not need to be continuous to be effective. Short bursts of activity are still extremely beneficial. If you can’t find half an hour to exercise each day, try to work some incidental exercise into your day; park the car further from work so you can walk 10 minutes there and back, take the stairs whenever possible, walk the dog around the block.
  • Keep an activity diary. Jot down the minutes you’ve done and you’ll quickly see how it adds up over the week.
  • Make exercise a habit. We don’t think twice about brushing our teeth because it’s just something we’ve always done. Find a short block of time in your day when you can regularly exercise, doing a small amount everyday can be less overwhelming than setting aside two or three larger chunks of exercise per week.

BARRIER: I have an injury.

  • Focus on what you can do. If you have knee pain you can focus on upper body exercises or engage in more gentle physical activity like swimming.
  • See a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist. A health professional can help you choose exercises that are appropriate for you. That’s what we’re trained to do.
  • Focus on exercise as a way to prevent further injury. In most cases there are specific exercises that can actually strengthen weak areas.

BARRIER: It’s too hot / cold / rainy / windy /dark

  • Choose a suitable time of the day. Check the weather in advance and if it’s going to be very hot plan to exercise first thing in the morning.
  • Try exercising indoors. Gymnasiums, community centres, your house or even shopping centres are all great places to exercise out of the elements.
  • Focus on at-home exercises. There are a range of options that your Exercise Physiologist can discuss with you.

BARRIER: I don’t like exercise

  • What is your definition of exercise? Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or overly strenuous. Pop in some earphones and listen to your favourite music or podcast while you go for a walk or jog.
  • Find a form of exercise that interests you. It might be playing a team sport socially, it might be swimming some laps of the local pool, going for a walk with a friend, or a dance class. Try something new and you might find something that you enjoy.
  • Start slowly and gradually build up your exercise. Start with what you enjoy, even if it’s just a walk around the block with your dog, then you can slowly increase the duration or intensity as you like.
  • Weigh up the pros of exercising versus the cons of exercising. Think about the benefits of exercising versus the risks of not exercising.
  • Try to view exercise as an opportunity rather than a chore. It’s all about shifting your mindset.

BARRIER: I’m too tired

  • Try to exercise in the morning. Our self-control is highest in the morning, use it to your advantage and start your day in a positive way.
  • Have your exercise clothes out and ready to go. When that alarm goes off in the morning you will be far less likely to get active if you have to search around for your clothes first. Set yourself up for success!
  • Are you getting enough sleep? Try to go to bed early and prioritise sleep over TV. Ideally you should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night. When you get the right amount of sleep, you tend to wake up feeling full of energy, which makes it much easier to achieve your physical activity goals.

BARRIER: I have no motivation

  • Just start. The best time to start is right now. Walk out the door and start making your habit today.
  • Get a friend or family member involved. Choose someone who will empower and support you, it’s extra motivation to get out there and move if you know someone is counting on you.
  • Set yourself SMART goals. SMART goals are:
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Realistic
    • Time bound

Use your SMART goals to write yourself a contract you can stick to. (If you need a refresher, you can refer to your participant workbook to learn more about SMART goal setting.)

Getting started with exercise can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Small steps lead to fantastic outcomes that can help you to live a happier, healthier and more energetic life. Everyone can benefit from exercise, regardless of age or fitness level. Find what works for you and go for it, what are you waiting for?

[Ash Watson is an Exercise Physiologist and Diabetes Educator as well as Life! program Facilitator and Telephone Health Coach.]

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