For many, adopting a healthier lifestyle, which includes incorporating regular physical activity, is a common aspiration. However, the journey to becoming more physically active is often met with various barriers that can dampen enthusiasm and hinder success. In fact, physical inactivity continues to remain a major global public health concern despite it continuing to be a major goal for many people.
An Australian Health study surveyed 894 individuals in 2015 revealed that close to half (45%) of Australian adults aged 18–64 years did not participate in physical activity at levels recommended set by the current guidelines of 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity each week prior to surveying (1).
Due to the clear disassociation between starting to become more physically active and sticking with it, this blog post is crafted specifically to provide insights and practical tips to overcome common barriers which will inevitably come up while striving towards your fitness goals.
Redefine time management in the gym
One of the most cited barriers to exercise is the perceived lack of time (1,2). Balancing work, family, and personal commitments can make finding time for physical activity challenging, but not impossible.
A 2021 review posted in the Journal of Sports Medicine laid out evidence-based practices to help cut your workouts approximately in half while still getting similar results. I have a separate blog post with three ways that will allow you to speed up your workouts, but I’ll summarize some of the major points below.
Limit rest periods to 1 minute
A 2017 systematic review by Grgic et al. encompassing 23 RCTs, or Randomized Control Trials, found evidence that short rest intervals of less than 1 minute produced robust strength gains in both untrained and trained individuals (2).
Prioritize opposing muscle group supersets with high levels of exertion
When training to failure at an 8-12 repetition loading scheme, superset training can be performed in approximately half the time as traditional training without sacrificing results (2).
Specifically, superset training is when you pick two exercises and perform them back to back with no rest, with rest following the completion of both exercises. In addition, the study proposes to prioritize opposing muscle groups for the super sets.
For example, you can do a dumbbell chest press and immediately follow it with a single-arm bent over row, then take 90 seconds rest. That one sequence is considered one superset, as seen below.
1 (a) Dumbbell chest press
1 (b) Single arm bent over row
Use compound movements
A review from 2017 that encompasses 23 original articles concluded that the inclusion of single-joint exercises won’t meaningfully contribute to additional short- or long-term benefits from a strength and hypertrophic standpoint over training solely with multi-joint exercises (2).
This is not to say single joint exercises are ineffective per se, but if you are lacking time, focus on exercises that train multiple muscle groups at once.
By redefining your approach to time management and structuring your workouts properly, you can make fitness an integral part of your daily life and still see great results.
A little motivation goes along way
Maintaining motivation throughout the year can be a significant challenge. To overcome the motivation barrier, focus on activities that resonate with your interests and preferences as opposed to “finding the perfect program”.
This is because the body is largely unaccustomed to exercise when you first start or have taken considerable time off from training. In fact, many training programs will work so don’t sweat it if you can’t workout for hours on end.
This is supported by multiple lines of evidence, which state that untrained or de-conditioned individuals should train major muscle groups 2-3 days a week, 1-3 sets for 8-12 repetitions within 1-3 reps from failure (3).
Because these new individuals will adapt easily from training programs, this opens the door to exploring a variety of exercises to keep things exciting, which allows people to set achievable, short-term goals that won’t cause you to overtrain or get injured.
Finally, celebrate your successes along the way, no matter how small, and consider hiring a personal trainer for extra motivation and support. If you’re ready to take the guesswork out of your training, experience online fitness coaching with a free 2-week trial! Fill out the form at shifttostrength/2weektrial to get started!
Embrace Cost-Effective Options
Financial constraints should not be a barrier to your fitness journey, yet they are commonly sighted as a common barrier to increasing physical activity (1).
Indeed, socioeconomic status plays a fundamental role in ones overall health and quality of life, but it doesn’t need to stop you from becoming more active. Instead of focusing on expensive gym memberships or specialized equipment, explore cost-effective alternatives such as home bodyweight workouts can be very effective.
Not convinced? Researchers Lipecki and Rutowicz (2015) published a paper in the Polish Journal of Sports Tourism which assessed the impact 10 weeks of bodyweight training had on 15 sedentary woman’s physical fitness.
The results of the study showed a 33% increase in aerobic capacity, a 5.6% increase in explosive lower body strength and 10.7% increase in strength endurance of the core. Furthermore, general flexibility, strength, muscle mass, and physical capacity were increased (4).
In addition, outdoor activities like walking, running, or hiking require minimal financial investment. Take advantage of free community resources and consider joining local fitness groups that offer affordable options. Breaking the financial barrier ensures that everyone, regardless of budget, can embark on a journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
Create a Positive Mindset- The Positive Feedback Loop
Psychological barriers, such as low self-esteem or anxiety, can hinder your enthusiasm for physical activity. To overcome these obstacles, focus on creating a positive mindset.
One of the best ways to develop a positive mindset? Start moving your body more! The effects of physical exercise has been extensively studied, with a positive relationship existing between increased levels of physical activity and brain health, including reductions in anxiety, depression, alzheimers, and dementia while acutely increasing cognitive function and creativity (5,6).
The Positive Feedback Loop
Herein lies a positive feedback loop where the barrier itself, - physical activity, plays a significant role in creating that positive mindset. By understanding this and engaging in activities that bring you joy, all while surrounding yourself with a supportive community, you will begin to take advantage of this positive feedback loop.
Starting out by embracing a positive mindset is a powerful tool in overcoming psychological barriers and building the confidence needed for a successful fitness journey (5). By taking your first steps, you should be confident in knowing that it will get easier with time and the benefits will be enormous!
Lack of knowledge about exercise options and their benefits can hinder your progress. Take the time to educate yourself about the positive impact of regular physical activity on both your physical and mental health. Dispelling common myths and misconceptions can empower you to make informed choices about your fitness journey.
Explore various types of exercise to find what resonates with you, and be open to trying new activities. Education is a powerful tool in overcoming barriers and paving the way for a successful and enjoyable fitness experience. If you are looking for extra advice, check out some of my other blog posts or shoot me a message on Instagram or Facebook with your questions!
As you begin your journey towards a more active lifestyle, remember that overcoming barriers is an integral part of the process.
By redefining your approach to time, cultivating sustainable motivation, prioritizing health and safety, embracing cost-effective options, creating a positive mindset, and educating yourself, you can navigate the challenges and make lasting strides towards your fitness goals.
Let this be the year where you break barriers and becoming empowered. Let it be more than just a fleeting commitment – let it be a transformative journey toward a healthier, happier you.
Need help getting to the gym?
When you’re busy, staying fit can get put on the back burner, causing your fitness goals to suffer. Discover how a certified personal trainer can help you stay on track with your fitness goals by visiting shifttostrength.com/onlinetraining today.
Hoare E, Stavreski B, Jennings GL, Kingwell BA. Exploring motivation and barriers to physical activity among active and inactive australian adults. Sports (Basel, Switzerland). 2017;5(3):47. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports5030047.
Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No time to lift? Designing time-efficient training programs for strength and hypertrophy: a narrative review. Sports Medicine, 51(10), 2079-2095. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1
Kraemer, W. J., & Ratamess, N. A. (2004). Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 36(4), 674–688. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000121945.36635.61
Lipecki, K., & Rutowicz, B. (2015). The impact of ten weeks of bodyweight training on the level of physical fitness and selected parameters of body composition in women aged 21-23 years. Polish Journal of Sport and Tourism, 22(2), 64-68. https://dx.doi.org/10.1515/pjst-2015-0014
Kvam, S., Kleppe, C. L., Nordhus, I. H., & Hovland, A. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: a meta-analysis. Journal of affective disorders, 202, 67-86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2016.03.063
Loprinzi, P. D., & Kane, C. J. (2015, April). Exercise and cognitive function: a randomized controlled trial examining acute exercise and free-living physical activity and sedentary effects. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 90, No. 4, pp. 450-460). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.12.023