Motivators and Barriers to Exercise

27 April, 2016

By Claire Knoop, AFA Student Support Coordinator BSp & ExSc.

We all know that exercise is good for our physical health, but did you know that it can have a noticeable effect on your mental health too?

The physiological benefits of regular exercise are well known! As Personal Trainers we know that regular physical activity engagement results in improved mood and emotional states, and negative feelings such as depression, tension, confusion and fatigue can all decline, leading to an overall improvement in quality of life.

Other benefits of regular physical activity include increased self-confidence and self-esteem. By helping a person to meet small, successful goals, a sense of accomplishment is often experienced. Exercising for 20 to 30 minutes every day, picking an enjoyable activity, varying what you do to ward off boredom, and mixing exercise with friends and individual workouts to keep things interesting, not only keeps the weight off but always keeps self-confidence high.

Despite all of this, it is often our brains, rather than our bodies, that let us down when it comes to not only starting an exercise program, but also sticking with it. Whatever it is that is stopping people from getting out there and having a go, it might not be as much of a barrier as you think.

The fewer reasons a person offers to explain their lack of exercise patterns, the higher the chance is that they will actually commit to regular exercise. Barriers to engaging in regular exercise and other forms of physical activity are referred to as perceived because they reflect an individual’s reasons for not exercising.

Most of us will be familiar with the most common barrier to a regular physical activity routine – lack of time. Inadequate time is one of the most frequently reported barriers in Australia and is often perceived as the most difficult to overcome. This includes the actual exercise time, whilst taking into account travel time to and from the exercise facility. One could argue that a simple solution to this barrier would be to get out of bed earlier or cut into TV time, however this is not always so easy to implement.

Although it is the most frequently cited barrier, it is suggested in fact, that a lack of self-motivation is the real obstacle to regular participation in physical activity.

Lack of pleasure due to high physical exertion and discomfort is another common obstacle, particularly among those who are overweight, inexperienced and lack motivation to overcome physical fatigue. Unfortunately an unpleasant exercise experience only exacerbates the reasons not to continue to exercise. To overcome this, PTs need to understand a person’s individual barriers and make recommendations based on this, such as suggesting clients try exercising with a friend or take up a team sport outside of their PT sessions.

A change in mindset is also important; avoiding negative thinking that exercise must be painful or dull in order to be good for you. Instead it can be thought of as bringing movement into your day.

Although lack of time and lack of enjoyment are highly reported exercise obstacles, additional barriers include fear of injury, unavailable exercise equipment, too expensive, lack of knowledge about proper exercise technique, lack of confidence, feeling intimidated, no exercise partner, and a lack of support from partner/others. All of these perceived road blocks that prevent many Australians from regularly partaking in physical activity may or may not reflect reality.

For people committed to a physical activity program and setting health and fitness goals, it’s helpful to first identify individual barriers. An understanding of these barriers and developing tactics to overcome them in advance will mean you’ll have better effects in overcoming them.

The goals of every fitness professional are to reduce the frequency and intensity of exercise barriers, to help clients overcome these barriers, to strongly encourage people to initiate and maintain a regimen of regular exercise, and to help people develop an active, healthy lifestyle.

As a Personal Trainer, an understanding of your clients and their individual barriers to exercise will help you to keep them motivated and committed to exercise.

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