SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- You are never too old to start being active.
- There is always a way to fit some physical activity into your day.
- Build exercise into your everyday activities by trying things like walking part of the way to work or taking the stairs instead of the lift.
- Choose activities that are not weather-dependent on days when it might be too hot or too cold.
- The best sort of physical activity is the one you enjoy because that is the one that you will maintain.
On this page
- Overcoming barriers to physical activity
- I’m not fit
- I don’t feel well
- I’m scared or embarrassed
- I don’t have enough time
- I don’t have enough energy
- I’m worried about injury
- I don’t know how to be active
- I can’t afford it
- It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s raining
- I travel a lot
- I have small children
- I’m too old
- Exercise is boring
- You haven’t really got an excuse, have you?
- Where to get help
Overcoming barriers to physical activity
Finding the time and interest to build physical activity into your daily life can sometimes be difficult. We can all come up with lots of excuses to avoid exercise.
Do you have an excuse for not being active? We can fix that.
There are several common barriers to doing physical activity.
I’m not fit
If you are unfit, start exercising slowly with activities you are comfortable with. Suggestions include:
- Start with walking. It’s fun, free and you don't need any special clothing or equipment, other than a pair of comfortable shoes. And you can do it on your own or with someone else.
- Try stretching, strengthening and balancing exercises. There are plenty of movement activities that won’t place too much stress on your body, and yet will help improve your overall fitness levels.
- Try using a fitness app or device that tracks your heart rate, breathing and distance travelled. You’ll be motivated to do even more by monitoring your improved fitness.
I don’t feel well
There’s something for everyone to do, even if you’re not feeling the best. Sometimes activity can actually help you feel better too. Suggestions include:
- See your doctor for a full medical check-up before starting any physical activity program, particularly if you are obese, over 40, haven’t exercised in a long time or have a chronic medical condition. Your doctor can assist and support you to make changes to your lifestyle.
- Choose an activity that feels comfortable. For example, swimming may be suitable because the buoyancy of the water supports your body.
- Don’t push yourself too hard. If an activity hurts, decrease the intensity or stop altogether. Pain is a sign that there is something wrong.
I’m scared or embarrassed
If you are scared or embarrassed about exercising, start in your comfort zone. Suggestions include:
- Exercise on your own, in the privacy of your own home, or at a park where you won’t bump into people you know. Then as you get into a routine, you might feel confident enough to exercise with others around.
- It might be easier to exercise with a friend, colleague or family member who is around the same fitness level.
- Join a beginner’s class. Often, exercise can be less daunting when you know others are starting at the same level as yourself.
- A key to keeping motivated is to make exercise fun. Mix it up. Why not plan active social activities with your friends, like bowling or dancing?
I don’t have enough time
If you feel as though you don’t have time for physical activity in your day-to-day life, try to:
- Plan ahead. Look at your diary at the start of your day or the week to see how much time is free. Perhaps there’s a free spot now because something has been cancelled or postponed. Maybe you could reorganise some errands; spread them across the day or the week.
- Try not to feel overwhelmed by lack of time. Think small. Consider shorter timed sets of exercise a few times a day, every day, instead of blocking out longer periods. Start with some stretches when you wake up, take a brief walk at lunchtime, then do core exercises at night. All short bursts of 15 or 10 minutes.
- Involve your family. For example, instead of playing board games or watching television together, go outside. You could play backyard cricket, go to your local swimming pool or take a walk through the park.
- Try to incorporate physical activity into your daily life. For example, get off the bus or train one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way. Take the stairs instead of the lift.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t worry if you miss a day, just get back into it the next day.
I don’t have enough energy
Life can be exhausting but the more active you are, the more energy you will have. Suggestions include:
- Plan your exercise for when you usually feel most energetic. Are you a night or morning person? When you’re tired, working out can be hard. It’s easier when you’re feeling fresh or not as rushed, such as the weekend.
- You may feel flat before you start, but you’ll soon feel a lot better. And you’ll feel proud for pushing yourself.
- Check your diet. A healthy diet includes all of the foods and drinks you need to build and maintain good health. This means eating fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and avoiding highly processed foods, sugary drinks and many fast foods.
- Try to get more sleep.
- There are lots of other ways to fight fatigue, but if you’re concerned about your energy levels, see your doctor.
I’m worried about injury
If you are worried about injury, suggestions include:
- You can reduce the likelihood of injury by choosing activities that suit your age, fitness level, skill level and health.
- What you do before and after exercise is important. Learn how to warm up and warm down.
- Start with low-impact activities, such as walking, that will help build your confidence, and lead you to do more and try other activities.
- If you have an injury, or you haven’t exercised for a while, consult a health professional such as your doctor before you get started. A physiotherapist can also help you to find out what activities are right for you.
I don’t know how to be active
There are lots of people ready to help you when you’re ready to get moving. Suggestions include:
- See your doctor for suggestions and support when embarking on a physical activity program.
- Contact your local community centre. Most centres offer a range of physical activity classes at modest prices.
- Visit your local gym or sports centre. Most gyms, sporting clubs and dance clubs offer an introductory free first lesson. Take advantage of these free lessons to help find an activity that appeals to you.
- Pick something that really interests you. What sport do you enjoy watching on television? For example, if you never miss the Australian Open, perhaps taking up tennis would interest you.
- Ask any of your physically active friends if you can come along during their next exercise session.
- Start with activities that don’t use new skills, such as walking or climbing stairs.
- Book some lessons with a coach, personal trainer or some sessions with an AUSactive registered professional.
I can’t afford it
You don’t need money to get fit. Suggestions include:
- You can walk and run for free.
- Choose activities that don’t need facilities, equipment or instructors.
- Choose activities that use cheap, easy-to-find equipment, such as skipping and swimming.
- Councils, community groups and workplaces often run free or inexpensive recreation programs.
- There are many fitness apps available for little or no cost.
- Swap your daily coffee for a weekly exercise class.
- Investing in your health may save you money in the long run. Health care can be expensive – spending some money on exercise now may save you on doctors, physiotherapists, x-rays and other costs down the track.
It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s raining
There’s always something you can do, regardless of the weather. Suggestions include:
- Consider activities that aren’t weather-dependent. Try these inside: indoor cycling, aerobics, dancing, indoor swimming, calisthenics, stair climbing, Pilates, skipping or boxing.
- Buy some wet weather gear so you can walk or run in the rain. With the right gear it could be fun.
- Have a variety of indoor and outdoor activities to choose from so that weather can’t interfere with your exercise plans.
- Take a brisk walk through your local air-conditioned shopping centre.
- Choose weather-specific activities such as skiing or snow-play in winter or swimming in summer.
- Watch a video about staying active in summer.
I travel a lot
You can still fit in exercise if you travel a lot. Try these suggestions:
- Put a skipping rope in your suitcase.
- Download an exercise podcast, or put some apps on your phone.
- At your hotel, climb the stairs instead of using the lift.
- Stay in hotels with swimming pools or exercise facilities.
- Check if your gym has branches in your regular destinations.
- Join a gym that offers reciprocal membership with other gyms at your regular travel destinations.
- Visit the local shopping mall and walk around for half an hour or more.
- Go for a run, or walk in a park/around the harbour/through the city/to a restaurant.
I have small children
If you have small children, suggestions include:
- Trade babysitting time with a friend, neighbour or family member who also has small children.
- Exercise with the kids or find a gym with childcare options.
- While the kids are in bed, you could be on an exercise mat, stretching or following a fitness DVD.
I’m too old
You’re never too old for exercise. Suggestions include:
- Change your mindset: try to become more active, not less.
- Spend more time gardening, walking the dog, and playing with your grandchildren.
- Learn a new skill, such as ballroom dancing, tai chi or swimming.
- Now that you have more time, get active every day. Go for a walk every morning or every evening before dinner. The world is your oyster.
Exercise is boring
Sometimes lack of interest is the problem rather than lack of time. If you think exercise is boring, try to:
- Exercise with a friend, join a local walking group or take up a team sport. Physical activity doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit.
- Think back to physical activities you enjoyed as a child. Did you love to rollerskate, ride your bike or jump on a trampoline? Did you play a team sport? Revisit these activities and you may find them just as enjoyable today.
- Change the way you think about physical activity. Don’t think that exercise must be painful or dull in order to be ‘good’ for you. Physical activity is all about getting more movement into your day. The activities should also be fun. Think about pursuits such as dancing, gardening or yoga.
- Mix it up. Plan to participate in a range of physical activities.
- Consider using exercise equipment at home (such as a stationary bike or treadmill) so that you can work out while watching your favourite television programs.
You haven’t really got an excuse, have you?
There is always a way to fit some physical activity into your day.
So get moving. No more excuses!
Watch a video about overcoming barriers to physical activity.
Where to get help
- Your GP (doctor)
- Local gym
- Local community centre
- AUSactive Registered Professional
- AUSactive Tel. 1300 211 311
- Exercise physiologist
- Heart Foundation
- Exercise and physical activity, National Institute on Aging, US Department of Health and Human Services.
- Overcoming barriers to physical activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA.