Barriers to Exercise: How to Solve it

Introduction: I always talked about how important exercise is to your health. But not everyone can follow the guidelines consistently. Particularly whenever you hear people say around New Year’s day where most of the new year’s resolution is to lose weight and exercise. After the first 2 weeks, people stop going to the gym or stop exercising. It is important to understand why barriers are a bad thing and how to overcome it to get the benefits in regards.

Type of Barriers:

People claim many barriers as a reason why they do not exercise. There are different types of obstacles most people experience. There are personal, social, and environmental barriers. According to ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer 5th edition, personal barriers defined as barriers that are internal and/or behavioral towards the individual.

Social barriers defined as barriers relating to individuals social networks like family and friends.

Environmental barriers defined as physical barriers, particularly with the outdoors that prevent an individual to become active.

It’s important to note the difference because this can build an understanding of yourself or personal trainer to create another form of rapport when dealing with their clients. Once the barriers identified to the individual is set, either yourself or a personal trainer can create some effort to commit to overcoming the barriers. Developing strategies for self-efficacy and overcoming barriers can lead to continuous exercise and reaping benefits for physiological and psychological effects of exercise.

Personal barriers:

There are a lot of personal barriers to prevent exercise. The few reasons include lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of energy, physical barriers like obesity, injury, or disease, poor body image, and fear of injury.

Social barriers:

Family/friend/work obligation and lack of social support are examples of social barriers.

Environmental barriers:

Bad weather, safety concerns, and lack of access to programs or facilities are good examples of environmental factors that prevent exercise.


These apply to personal trainers, but it can also apply to those who are not personal trainers but love to exercise.

Personal barriers

Lack of time:

Strategies you can use to prevent this barrier include: use a bike to work and/or take the stairs instead of the elevators to make choices for an active lifestyle. Break the long session from 30-60 min into 10 min of exercise (10 min of exercise is more effective than no exercise). Write down how you use your time for 1 week and see which time can be used for exercise.

Lack of motivation:

Solution to this is to find activities that you enjoy doing like dancing or cycling and create self-regulating strategies. For example, a journal to outline how to manage time to exercise and/or identify ways to become active. Setting SMART goals is a great way to prevent a lack of motivation. (Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time: I will lose 20 lbs in 10 weeks with cardio and strength training that targets fat 5-7 days a week to lose 1-2 lbs each week)

Lack of energy:

Change diet to eat foods that can give you energy for exercise, evaluate what time of day you have the most energy to participate in physical activity, and discuss the benefits of exercise including increased energy are the solution to this barrier.

Physical barriers:

Help increase exercise gradually or provide a workout that prevents aggravating conditions as strategies for overcoming this barrier.

Poor body image:

Build self-worth, provide positive qualities about yourself, and look at the health and psychological benefits of exercise for overcoming this barrier.

Fear of injury:

For personal trainers, communicate your clients throughout the program and make them aware of the credentials to ensure safety for their body. Most importantly, slowly progress your exercise as your fitness level increases.

Social barriers

Family/friend/work obligations:

Encourage discussions with family, friends, and work to talk about needs and goals is a good way to overcome this barrier.

Lack of social support:

Prevent this barrier by getting your family and friends to be part of activities that you and your family and friends can enjoy.

Environmental barriers

Lack of access to programs or facilities:

Provide active transport, lifestyle, and outdoor activities to do instead of indoor activities, spread awareness of free exercise opportunities for your community, and/or get exercise DVD’s you can use at home. My personal strategy is to use YouTube because of how large YouTube workout videos are.

Safety concerns:

Some safety concerns you may encounter can be the absence of sidewalks or bike lanes, unsafe neighborhood, and heavy traffic. The solution you can do is find quiet places or parks for exercise or find affordable home equipment like dumbbells, treadmill, elliptical, mat, or resistance bands to do a workout.

Bad weather:

Create a backup plan. Instead of outdoor go to indoor for exercise and wear appropriate apparel if considering to exercise extreme temperature.


Despite the barriers to exercise, teaching your client or yourself how to overcome the barriers can help to prevent inactive lifestyle that could lead to fewer benefits of exercise. Planning your goals while making self-aware of yourself can regulate the desire to exercise. Providing social support or encouragement is a plus for better rapport of your family, friends, or personal trainers. Develop these strategies and you will stay active for longevity.



Battista, R., Mayol, M., Hargens, T., & Everett, K. L. (2018). ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

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