5 common barriers to exercise – and how to overcome them

One in five women over 50 say body embarrassment stops them exercising.

While many people are hoping to get fit as part of a New Year resolution, tackling flabby and unfit bodies through exercise isn’t as easy as it sounds.

One in five women over 50 say embarrassment about their bodies stops them from exercising, according to a new survey by social networking site for grandparents, Gransnet, while nearly half (46%) say physical hindrances, including disabilities, mean they can’t exercise.


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Fitness experts are well aware of these and many other barriers to exercise, and Steven Virtue, of Total Fitness health clubs, says: “There are a lot of different barriers which can stand in the way of someone meeting their fitness goals. Sometimes it can be real life or physical barriers, such as time constraints or a disability, making exercise more challenging which often results in someone choosing not to train at all.

“Other common barriers can be psychological, such as worrying about body image or lacking motivation, all of which can affect our abilities to be more physically active. However, these fitness barriers don’t need to affect you, as most, if not all, can be easily overcome.

“Having a positive attitude and telling yourself you can do it is the first step towards your goals. Working out with friends or in an exercise class is another great way to stay motivated and feel empowered in a friendly environment, or try learning the ropes with a personal trainer who can encourage you and push you at the same time.”

Here are some of the most common reasons people either don’t start exercising or give it up quickly, and how to overcome them.

1. Body confidence

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It’s easier said than done but try not to compare yourself to strangers. We all have to start somewhere and you don’t know what personal hang ups other people have – even if they look great to you.

In the unlikely event that the gym is full of body beautiful people, keep in mind your own personal reasons for exercising – which probably aren’t all about aesthetics anyway. Trust us, no one is paying any attention to you at the gym, they’re far more likely to be worrying about themselves. If you’re panting and sweating away on a treadmill, the only thing anyone else is likely to feel is impressed.

2. Lack of time

We’re all busy but if you make exercise (and yourself) a priority you’ll be able to find a window of time for exercise somewhere in your day. If it’s not immediately apparent where you might be able to find some free time, write down what time you get up, go to work, get back from work, make dinner, go to bed, etc, and try to work out from that where there might be a free half hour – or even less. Exercising for 15 minutes three times a week is still better than nothing.

Could you get up earlier and exercise before work, or even run or cycle to work? Could you join a gym near work and work out at lunchtime? Could you do press ups and sit ups during the advert breaks of your favourite TV programme?

3. Physical problems 


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There will, of course, be some injuries or disabilities that mean any sort of exercise is impossible. But, depending on your injury or disability, there may be something you can do. The important thing is to get professional advice from a medical expert, physiotherapist or personal trainer, to ensure the exercise you do is safe for you to do and won’t cause any further issues.

4. Too tired

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If you really are too tired to exercise then you should visit your GP to see if there’s any medical reason for your tiredness. If you’re getting a good night’s sleep, then make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, including foods that can help boost your energy levels, such as bananas, oily fish, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and eggs, and not eating too much sugar or refined carbohydrates as these can make you feel sluggish.

If you’re still feeling tired, start with gentle exercise and try to build up to a more vigorous programme – and remember that no matter how tired you feel before your workout, you’ll feel invigorated after you’ve exercised and those feel-good exercise endorphins start flowing through your body.

5. The cost of gym membership

Many people can’t afford expensive gym memberships, particularly if they’re contracted to pay a monthly fee. But while 17% of the women over 50 surveyed by Gransnet said a discounted gym membership would encourage them to exercise, the reality is that getting fit doesn’t have to cost anything at all.

You can put on a pair of old trainers and go for a run or a fast walk or do free exercises at home using YouTube videos (search Joe Wicks, Yoga with Adriene or Popsugar, for example). But remember to be careful, always warm up and cool down before and after exercise, and if you have any medical problems, consult your GP before starting any exercise programme.

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