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Beating the Barriers to Exercise

We all know that we should exercise, but sometimes it's hard to summon up the energy or motivation to make it happen. We encounter stumbling blocks at every turn and somehow end up back on the couch. Here are a few common barriers to exercise and some "work-around" tips from Robyn Stuhr, MA, Executive Vice President of the American Council on Exercise. 

No Time

Squeeze in short bouts of exercise during your day.  

  • Go for a ten-minute walk before lunch. Then find another ten minutes to stride around the block while dinner is in the oven.
  • Perform some Pilates movements or try the footwork while watching " Dancing with the Stars " . If you can accumulate 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity over the course of a day, you ' ve met the Surgeon General ' s physical activity recommendation!  


Combine Activities

  • Use the treadmill or exercise bike while watching the news or your " soap " .
  • Instead of catching up with a friend over lunch, meet for a walk.
  • Have " walking meetings " with business colleagues.
  • When looking for a parking spot, stop fighting for the place closest to the door. If you park farther away, you ' ll get a mini-walk!



  • Schedule exercise on your calendar and don ' t let errands or work sidetrack you. That to-do list will still be there tomorrow. You ' ll get more done after you're energized with exercise anyway!
  • Exercise first thing in the morning. Activities and obligations are less likely to get in the way and, statistically, early morning exercisers are more successful sticking with it.
  • Keep a pair of athletic shoes and socks handy at work and in the car. That way you ' re always ready to grab some exercise and fresh air, no matter where you are.  


Too Tired

  • Exercise as early in the day as your schedule allows. As the day rolls on, fatigue sets in and it ' s easier to talk yourself out of it.
  • Recruit an exercise buddy. When you ' re dragging, the two of you can keep each other going. This could be a neighbor, family member, or how about the dog?
  • If you ' re planning on exercising after work, a late afternoon snack such as yogurt and an energy bar will give you the energy you need to get to the gym and put in a good workout.
  • Find activities that you enjoy or you can share with friends. Heard that tai chi can improve your balance and reduce stress? Grab your neighbor and give it a try. Always wanted to learn ballroom dancing? NOW is the time to sign up for a class. Immediate " fun " benefits will give you more reasons to exercise on those low-energy days.
  • Hire a personal trainer to help motivate and guide you. You ' ll have a personalized coach who is monitoring your progress and expecting you at the gym. Just make sure to look for a trainer who possesses an NCCA accredited certification, such as ACE or ACSM.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol and high sugar foods. They give you a quick high, followed by a real low. Caffeine and alcohol may also disrupt normal sleep patterns.  



  • Walk tall and display confidence. Confident targets are less likely to be selected.
  • Recruit an exercise buddy. Two are always safer than one.
  • Exercise in the morning. Based on crime statistics, it ' s a safer time of day.
  • Be aware. Trust your instincts. If someone or somewhere doesn ' t feel safe, it isn ' t!
  • Don ' t second guess yourself; leave immediately.
  • Exercise in an area that ' s well lit, with some foot traffic so you ' re not alone. Many shopping malls open early and have security on duty. You ' ll be surprised how many people take advantage of mall-walking programs.
  • Carry pepper spray or a whistle in a handy place (for example, on a wrist bracelet or around your neck). Take your dog with you on your walk.
  • Awareness and prevention are key. Take a self-defense course, but remember that it ' s easier to avoid a high-risk situation than get yourself out of it.  


Health Concerns

If you have joint or muscle conditions such as osteoarthritis or low back pain, check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Ask for a referral to a physical therapist who specializes in your condition. You'll learn targeted exercises that will strengthen the injured area and allow you to engage in an overall program of exercise.  

Although many health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure require certain modifications and precautions, these conditions can be significantly improved by regular exercise. Seek guidance from your doctor before starting a vigorous program.

Don't become a member of the "too much too soon" club. Start with just a few minutes of activity every other day and add only 10-20% in time or distance each week. Give yourself permission to "start low and go slow". You'll reduce your risk of injury and gradually build your body's tolerance for a new active lifestyle. 

Bad Weather

Choose exercise clothes designed to keep you warm and dry in the cold, and cool in the heat. High-tech fabrics and new garment designs make it easier to handle weather extremes.  

When inclement weather has you dreading stepping outside, find indoor options: fitness club, home exercise equipment, fitness videos or t.v. shows.

During hot weather, exercise first thing in the morning or evening when the air is cooler and ozone levels are low. Find a shady course or park for walking or bike rides. Drink plenty of fluids before you leave home and carry a water bottle with you.

Snowy, icy weather can create slippery surfaces. Choose an indoor option, or wear shoes with good traction. Remember that layering with jackets, hats and gloves keeps you protected when you leave the house, yet you can remove items as your body warms up.

Source: American Council on Exercise

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