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Overcoming barriers to exercise

calendar06 November 2020

Kate Dykes's avatar Kate Dykes

Overcoming barriers to exercise

As the weather grows colder and leaves change it can be even harder to prioritise your physical and mental wellbeing. Snuggling down under a cosy blanket can be far more enticing than changing into your workout clothes and getting moving, but it's now more important than ever to pay attention to your own wellbeing, and exercise plays an important role in that. 

The pandemic may have created a few extra challenges when it comes to your health and fitness, so we've got some expert tips to share with you today. There are a number of studies that prove that exercise, even just ten minutes of brisk walking, plays a large part in boosting our mental alertness, energy and mood. It can even reduce stress and anxiety.

There are often barriers which prevent us from exercises and these can be mental or physical. So here are a few ways that can help you overcome them in order to get your mental and physical health back on track!

Barriers you may be facing and how to overcome them:

I have no motivation!

Exercise is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but it's a great way to keep a healthy routine while our normal routines are disrupted. Waiting to feel like you want to exercise is not a reliable way to start a healthy routine. Sometimes (and maybe most times) you won’t want to do it. 

How to overcome it:

  • Set achievable goals. Start small – you don't need to be running a marathon by next month! Even getting out of the house for ten minutes for a walk gets you moving and releases endorphins in your body (hormones that improve mood). Pick a specific time, like straight after work or first thing in the morning (whatever works for you), and you'll quickly create a habit that gives you a daily boost.
  • Shift your mindset. If something is optional, it's easy to back out. What if you didn't wait until you feel like it but decide to do it anyway? Deciding ahead of time means you'll definitely do it. 
  • Make exercising as convenient as possible – There are so many options available right now. Many people have released free videos such as Lilly Sabri, Joe Wicks, Cassey Ho and Team Body Project. These cover anything from a calm pilates session, high intensity (HiiT) workouts or even just picking a playlist perfect for an afternoon walk. Also, make sure your equipment is readily available so that you minimise any excuses you might decide to come up with 😊

I’m too busy to workout!

Another obstacle we have right now is time. You may be trying to juggle home schooling, child care, work and housework all at once.

How to overcome it:

  • Create a schedule - plan your exercise around your day. Completely overhauling your routine means you'll probably want to go back to normal after a few days. The good news is, you can incorporate exercise into your usual routine.You don’t need to do one to two hours of work per day in order to see results. If you stay focused and work efficiently you will see results, even if you only work out for 20 minutes a day. Focus on being consistent daily or every other day rather than one long session per week. This will ensure you see and feel results.
  • To get a bit of extra exercise into your day, what about setting a TV challenge? Such as doing ten push ups or sit ups when an advert comes on or an episode ends.
  • Exercise with your kids. Why not do a YouTube aerobics class suitable for the whole family or play catch or tag in the park/garden?
  • Alter your perception of what exercise should be. It doesn’t have to be in the gym, a structured class or pumping weights.

I haven’t got any equipment!

Gym equipment can be expensive and can take up more space then you are willing to give up in your home.

How to overcome it:

  • Do exercise that doesn’t require equipment, such as running, walking, pilates and other body weight exercises. Use a towel or pillow to cushion knees/elbows/hips for floor exercises. 
  • To increase the resistance or difficulty of an exercise, use what you have around the house. Fill up water bottles or use wine bottles instead of dumbbells.
  • If you are happy to buy a few pieces of equipment, a yoga mat and resistance bands are a good place to start. They can be very cost effective, take up very little space and can be very effective.

I have limited mobility!

Remember you don’t need to walk/stand/jump about in order to exercise. If you struggle with mobility, there are plenty of exercises not only suitable for you but that could even help reduce pain too!

How to overcome it:

  • Try chair-based workouts, there are plenty you can try on YouTube. KymNonStop and HASfit have great playlists available for anyone with limited mobility.
  • Try the following to get your muscles pumping:
    • Leg raises strengthen your quad and thigh muscles, and stretch hamstrings and calves.
    • Sit up tall, keeping your shoulders relaxed and tummy muscles tight (no arch in your lower back).
    • Keep your left knee bent and foot on the ground.
    • Straighten your right leg, toes facing the sky.
    • Bend your right leg, returning the foot to the floor.
    • Repeat ten times.
    • Repeat on the opposite leg.
    • Arm circles to strengthen your shoulders.
    • Extend your arms to the side, parallel to the floor.
    • Keep your stomach tight (no arch in the lower back) and shoulders away from the ears.
    • Circle your arms forward using small controlled motions for 30 seconds.
    • Repeat in the opposite direction.

Finally, identify why you would like to exercise. Is it to improve your mental wellbeing, to see changes in your physical appearance or to manage pain? Exercising at home is more convenient and cost effective than investing in gym memberships or classes. It can also give you a sense of control especially during this time of so much uncertainty. When you feel discouraged and are struggling to stick to your schedule, remind yourself of why you are doing what you’re doing. Be consistent, be disciplined and keep it simple.

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