Elisa Shackelton: Overcome your perceived fitness barriers in '08

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— No energy to exercise? Unfortunately, if you don't exercise, you'll have no energy, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Breaking this "no-energy" cycle with physical activity is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, but starting and sticking to a regular exercise schedule isn't easy since there can be more perceived hindrances than there are motivators for most people - time, boredom, injuries, being out of shape, self-confidence, etc.

Don't let the following "tried and true" excuses get the better of you in 2008, but instead forge ahead and make this year your healthiest ever - you owe it to yourself and your family!

According to Mayo Clinic, the following are commonly expressed barriers that make it hard for people to either start or maintain fitness habits:

Not enough time to exercise

Squeeze in a few 10-minute walks throughout the day. Short spurts of exercise spaced throughout the day offer health benefits, too.

Get up earlier. If your days are packed and the evening hours are just as hectic, get up 30 minutes earlier twice a week to exercise. Once you've adjusted to early morning workouts, add another day or two to the routine.

Claim the back row of the parking lot at work, or start parking a block away from other routine destinations.

Self-conscious about how you look

Go to the gym during its least busy times, or work-out at home with an exercise video or equipment such as a stationary bicycle, treadmill, stair-climbing machine or other home exercise equipment.

Realize that everyone who is working out probably wishes they looked better than they do, which is why they are working out! Most people who exercise in the midst of others are very encouraging and supportive of one another, so if you aren't sure how to use something, don't be afraid to ask!

Too tired to exercise after working all day

Try a morning dose of exercise. Hop on the treadmill or stationary bicycle before you shower and dress for work. Studies show you actually burn more fat exercising first thing in the morning.

Make lunchtime count. Keep a pair of walking shoes at your desk, and take a brisk walk during your lunch break.

Too lazy to exercise

Set realistic expectations. Start with a walk around the block. Don't give up if you feel worn out. Take another walk around the block tomorrow. Keep it up, and eventually you'll no longer feel worn out.

Work with your nature, not against it. Plan physical activity for times of the day when you tend to feel more energetic - or at least not quite so lazy.

Schedule exercise as you would schedule an important meeting or appointment. Block off times for physical activity, and make sure your friends and family are aware of your commitment. Ask for their encouragement and support.

Not athletic

Natural athletic ability isn't a prerequisite to physical activity. Try something simple, such as a daily walk. Better yet, team up with friends who are in the same boat. Have fun while helping each other work out.

Failed at an exercise routine in the past

Don't throw in the towel! You can't see it when you lower your cholesterol or reduce your risk of diabetes, but that doesn't mean you aren't doing yourself a great favor. Re-evaluate what went wrong in previous attempts to exercise, and learn from your mistakes.

Pace yourself. Start small and build up to more intense workouts, when your body is ready.

Set realistic goals. Don't promise yourself you're going to work out for an hour every day, and then get down on yourself when you fall short. Stick with goals you can more easily achieve, such as exercising 20 minutes a day, three days a week for the first month.

Remember why you're exercising. Use your personal fitness goals as motivation, and reward yourself as you meet your goals.

Afraid of hurting yourself exercising

If you're nervous about injuring yourself, consult with your physician to make sure you can safely exercise.

Try an exercise class for beginners. You'll learn the basics by starting from scratch.

Consider working one-on-one with a personal trainer. Get a customized fitness tutorial from a certified expert, who can monitor your movements and point you in the right direction.

Family and friends don't support efforts

Have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved ones, and explain that you want to be there for them for many healthy years to come. Encourage them to exercise with you or to start doing something they have always wanted to do.

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