Steve recently polled his email list about their exercise habits. One question he asked was “What struggles do you face when it comes to exercise?"
The response was overwhelming—more than 400 people wrote back and described the challenges they face on a regular basis.
Honestly, there are dozens of reasons why you might not exercise. Let’s cover five of the most common and suggest a few possible solutions.
Challenge #1: Not Enough Time
You barely have enough time for the important things, so exercise often seems like “something else" you have to do. Not only does it take time to do it, but you have to pack the right clothes, coordinate the activity, exert energy and shower afterward. To most people, the whole experience seems like a major hassle.
Start small. If you’re not exercising at all, make the decision to get extra movement throughout the day. It can be something as small as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking far away from the building instead of parking close to the entrance.
If you do activities that don’t require special clothing or cause you to sweat, you may not have to change your clothes or shower. For instance, a simple walk around the neighborhood probably won’t require anything more than changing your shoes.
Challenge #2: No Support from Family
It’s hard to do something alone—especially when those around you don’t understand why you do it. Sadly, some people even experience ridicule from a spouse or significant other when they attempt to start exercising. It’s hard to stay motivated when you feel like nobody is supporting this behavior.
If your family doesn’t support you, get help elsewhere. In an ideal world, our families are very supportive, but if that’s not the case for you, join online forums or Facebook or LinkedIn groups devoted to exercise. Attend local events listed on Meetup.com. If your budget permits, you can hire a personal trainer who will hold you accountable and keep you motivated.
Challenge #3: Extreme Weather Conditions
Where you live sometimes makes a big difference when it comes to exercising consistently. For instance, Texas in the summer can be unbearably hot. If you’re a runner, it’s difficult (even dangerous) to run when it’s over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Or perhaps you live in a region that experiences extreme cold during the winter. Low temperatures and icy conditions make exercise difficult, and even lethal in some cases.
Speaking of danger, maybe you live in an unsafe neighborhood and you’re concerned about your physical safety when running or walking.
Joining a climate-controlled gym is a great option if you are worried about the weather. Exercising at a gym is also safer than exercising in a questionable neighborhood. If finances are a concern, finding exercises to do inside your home using basic equipment or exercise DVDs may work for you.
For a few years, Steve lived in both Mississippi and South Carolina, where hot and humid weather was the norm for six months of the year. To exercise consistently, he adopted the habit of running first thing in the morning or early in the evening (with a headlamp). Neither option was “fun," but they helped him stay consistent during those spells of brutally hot weather.
Challenge #4: Physical Limitations
Not everyone is in tip-top shape. This may be especially true if you haven’t exercised lately or are overweight, but it can also be true for people who have some type of injury or handicap. There are often specific physical reasons why you can’t exercise.
Acknowledge your limitations and find a way to work around them. First off, you want to talk to a doctor about your issue and see what she suggests as a good form of exercise.
Next, you want to ease into this new habit. For instance, if you’re extremely overweight, don’t try to run a marathon. Instead, start off by walking around the block, and then gradually increase the distance you walk.
Finally, if you have injuries, find exercises that won’t exacerbate them. Rebecca has had plantar fasciitis, so she has to limit the amount of running and walking she does. Instead, she attends aqua aerobic classes and rides exercise bikes at her local recreation center. Both of those give her a good workout without causing her plantar fasciitis to flare up.
Challenge #5: That Oh-So-Awkward Feeling
If you’re not in very good shape, or if you’re not very coordinated, joining a gym may be an uncomfortable experience. This is often truer for women, who may feel self-conscious exercising in a gym where men are present.
You may also feel unsure of yourself when it comes to things like how to use weight machines or other equipment. You might not know what to actually do once you step into a gym, or perhaps you feel intimidated by all the people who look like they’re in peak physical shape.
If you’re female and feel uncomfortable going to a gym where men are present, try joining a women’s-only gym, such as Curves. You can also shop around for a gym. Join one with a mixed group of members who are simply there to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If your uncomfortable feeling is based on a lack of knowledge, hire a personal trainer or enroll in a class. Many gyms have free orientations on how to use equipment, so be sure to take advantage of them.
What's Stopping YOU?
We all have challenges that hold us back from exercising. The trick is to take time to identify your specific challenge and think of ways to overcome it. You’d be surprised at how often a simple shift in mindset or behavior can cause you to successfully build the exercise habit.