Several technological advancements and conveniences have contributed to a sedentary lifestyle, resulting in decreased physical activity. However, various personal factors, including physiological, behavioral, and psychological aspects, can influence our intentions to engage in physical activities. By comprehending the common obstacles to physical activity and devising effective strategies to overcome them, we can integrate physical exercise into our daily routines. These barriers can be classified into two main categories: external barriers and internal barriers. External barriers pertain to the surrounding environment, whereas internal barriers encompass personal elements such as individual preferences and attitudes.
The progression of technology and the availability of convenient amenities have undeniably improved the overall ease and comfort of people’s lives. However, these advancements have inadvertently contributed to a decline in physical activity levels. Furthermore, individuals often possess various personal rationales or justifications for their lack of physical activity. Based on existing research, the most frequently cited factors preventing adults from embracing more physically active lifestyles include:
- boredom with exercise
- insufficient time to exercise
- lack of self-motivation
- inconvenience of exercise
- non-enjoyment of exercise
- lack of self-management skills, such as the ability to set personal goals, monitor
- lack of confidence in their ability to be physically active (low self-efficacy)
- lack of encouragement, support, or companionship from family and friends
- fear of being injured or having been injured recently
- non-availability of parks, sidewalks, bicycle trails, or safe and pleasant walking
- paths close to home or the workplace
- progress, or reward progress toward such goals
The primary obstacles impeding individuals from participating in physical activity throughout adulthood are as follows:
In a 2013 study conducted to investigate the external and internal impediments to physical activity and exercise engagement among middle-aged and elderly individuals, notable findings emerged. Among the middle-aged and elderly respondents, the prevailing external barriers were identified as ‘insufficient time’, ‘lack of exercise companions’, and ‘inadequate exercise facilities’. Conversely, the most common internal barriers reported by middle-aged participants were ‘excessive fatigue’, ‘perception of already being sufficiently active’, ‘lack of knowledge regarding exercise techniques’, and ‘lack of motivation’. Similarly, elderly respondents cited ‘excessive fatigue’, ‘lack of motivation’, and ‘perception of already being adequately active’ as the primary internal barriers affecting their physical activity participation.
Other barriers include:
- illness or injury
- partner issues
- uneasiness with change
- child care
- unsuitable programs
- safety considerations
Environmental Factors and Their Impact on Physical Activity
The physical activity levels of individuals are significantly influenced by the environment in which they reside. Our environment encompasses various factors that have an effect on us. Evident factors include the accessibility of pedestrian paths, cycling trails, and recreational facilities. Additionally, factors such as traffic congestion, the availability of public transportation, crime rates, and pollution levels can also impact physical activity. Furthermore, our social environment, including the support we receive from family and friends, as well as the sense of community spirit, plays a role. Taking action to modify our environment can be achieved through campaigns promoting active transportation, enacting legislation to ensure safer communities, and establishing new recreational facilities.
Identification of Barriers to Physical Activity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed the Barriers to Being Physically Active Quiz to aid in the identification of obstacles hindering physical activity. This quiz serves to raise awareness among clinicians and participants and offers targeted strategies to enhance compliance. It consists of a 21-item assessment that evaluates various barriers to physical activity, including the following: 1) time constraints, 2) social influences, 3) lack of energy, 4) lack of willpower, 5) fear of injury, 6) lack of skills, and 7) insufficient resources (e.g., recreational facilities, exercise equipment). Each category comprises three items, resulting in a total score range of 0 to 63. Respondents rate the extent to which these barriers interfere with their activity levels on a 4-point scale, ranging from 0 (indicating “very unlikely”) to 3 (indicating “very likely”).
Overcoming Barriers to Grow Physical Fitness Levels
As healthcare professionals, we can assist individuals in identifying obstacles to engaging in exercise and provide recommendations on how to overcome these barriers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers suggestions for surmounting physical activity barriers:
Lack of time
- Determine available time slots.
- Monitor your daily activities for one week to identify at least three 30-minute intervals that can be utilized for physical activity.
- Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. For instance, consider walking or biking to work or while shopping, organizing school activities around physical exercise, walking the dog, exercising while watching TV, or parking farther away from your destination.
- Choose activities that require minimal time, such as walking, jogging, or climbing stairs.
- Communicate your interest in physical activity to friends and family. Request their support.
- Invite friends and family members to join you in exercising. Plan social activities that involve physical activity.
- Cultivate new friendships with individuals who are physically active. Join a group, such as the YMCA or a hiking club.
Lack of energy
- Schedule physical activity during times of the day or week when you feel most energetic.
- Convince yourself that engaging in physical activity will actually boost your energy levels, and give it a try.
Lack of motivation
- Plan ahead by making physical activity a regular part of your daily or weekly schedule. Write it down on your calendar.
- Invite a friend to exercise with you regularly and mark it on both of your calendars.
- Consider joining an exercise group or class.
Fear of injury
- Learn warm-up and cool-down techniques to prevent injuries.
- Familiarize yourself with appropriate exercises based on your age, fitness level, skill level, and health status.
- Opt for activities that pose minimal risk.
Lack of skill
- Choose activities that do not require acquiring new skills, such as walking, climbing stairs, or jogging.
- Enroll in a class to develop new skills.
Lack of resources
- Select activities that demand minimal facilities or equipment, like walking, jogging, jumping rope, or calisthenics.
- Identify affordable and convenient resources available within your community, such as community education programs, park and recreation initiatives, or worksite programs.
- Establish a set of regular activities that are accessible regardless of the weather.
- Engage in indoor activities like cycling, aerobic dance, swimming, calisthenics, stair climbing, rope skipping, mall walking, dancing, or gymnasium games.
- Pack a jump rope in your suitcase and jump rope wherever you go.
- Utilize hotel hallways and stairs for walking and climbing.
- Select accommodations that offer swimming pools or exercise facilities.
- Consider joining the YMCA or YWCA and inquire about reciprocal membership agreements.
- Explore local shopping malls and engage in walks lasting at least half an hour.
- Bring your MP3 player with your favorite aerobic exercise music.
- Arrange for childcare exchanges with a friend, neighbor, or family member who also has small children.
- Exercise with your children by going for walks together, playing tag or other running games, or using aerobic dance or exercise tapes designed for kids (several options are available in the market).
- Engage in activities like jump roping, calisthenics, stationary biking, or using home gym equipment while the kids are occupied playing or sleeping.
- Attempt to exercise when the children are not present, such as during school hours or when they are napping.
- View retirement as an opportunity to increase your level of activity rather than decrease it. Dedicate more time to gardening, walking the dog, and playing with your grandchildren. Walking can be an enjoyable shared activity between children, who have shorter legs, and grandparents, who may have a slower pace.
- Pursue a new skill that has always interested you, such as ballroom dancing, square dancing, or swimming.
- With the newfound time available, incorporate regular physical activity into your daily routine. Take a walk every morning or evening before dinner. Treat yourself to an exercise bike and ride it while reading your favorite book or magazine.