Overcoming barriers to exercise… and remember to start slowly

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Obici Hospital

With work, families, and other responsibilities, it is easy for exercise to take the back burner on the priority list. To help you overcome the moments when exercise is one of the least important or undesirable items on your list, please read on to learn how to break through exercise barriers.

If starting to exercise is new to you and you feel that you may not be in shape, remember to start slowly. Taking one step at a time is better than taking no steps at all. Your body will thank you for taking those first steps to a healthier lifestyle.


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You can start to exercise without having to invest in any elaborate equipment or gym facilities. Going to the mall, local recreation centers, school tracks, trails, parks, stairwells, and parking lots are all options.

One of most common barriers is time, and solutions to help you overcome this include resetting priorities. Have a set time daily to exercise. You may want to split up your session into two 15-minute brisk walks a day. Get rid of the day’s stress by fitting in one of the sessions after work. Also, schedule a &uot;walk and talk&uot; with friends, and walk your dog twice a day.

Family responsibilities have been known to be a barrier for exercising; however, it is possible to fit in exercise and fun at the same time. Consider getting the family involved with exercise. Walking, biking, playing tennis, rollerblading, and even joining a family walk or run in the community are all solutions to take advantage of. Another helpful tip is to keep shoes and clothes in the car for use anytime if the family is on a road trip.

If traveling seems to be your barrier to exercising, consider stopping at rest stops along the way to get some activity. Use hotel stairwells and take advantage of their exercise facilities and pool. An additional option is to set out on foot to sight-see. This is a great way to feel good physically and to improve your heart health.

A barrier that we don’t have control over is the weather. It’s unpredictable; therefore, it is important to be prepared for indoor activities. At home, try exercise tapes, exercise bands, climbing stairs, and using some free weights. If you don’t have free weights, you can make do with grabbing some canned goods from the pantry.

Going to the mall provides opportunity to move about, and if you belong to a gym, the indoor classes and equipment override the weather.

Check with your local mall for mall walker programs.

If the weather is cooperating and you’ve been working out alone, consider a local sport or activity club. To find one, ask around at gyms or local community centers. By joining up with new people, you will be challenged to improve your skills and health.

Remember, you don’t have to be a personal trainer or a marathon runner to lead an active lifestyle. If you have health conditions and are unsure of where to begin, check with your doctor regarding the type and amount of appropriate exercise. All in all, exercise does a body good, and it is possible to fit in exercise no matter what the barrier.

Jessica L. Bartoszek is a clinical dietitian and a member of the Healthy Eating Task Force, a sub-committee of the Partnership for a Healthy Community. The Task Force’s mission is to coordinate the resources of the community in a collaborative effort to improve the mental, physical, socio-economic, and spiritual health of all its citizens. Articles written by Task Force members to help promote a &uot;healthy community&uot; will appear in The Suffolk News-Herald on the last Tuesday of the month through May 2004. For more information on the Healthy Eating Task Force, contact Virginia Savage at 934-4933.