Barriers to Physical Activity

You may feel defeated before you start because you feel you have insurmountable barriers preventing you from starting a physical activity program. Do any of the following sound like barriers you face? Click on the barrier to find out more information and a solution.

I'm too old

Older adults can derive clear benefits from aerobic physical activity and resistance training. Your arteries become more flexible, allowing your blood to flow through your body more easily. You can lower blood pressure and blood fats, and increase your muscle size and strength. As a result, you can lower disease risk, improve your ability to stand erect and avoid falling. An additional important benefit is that you will feel better. Physical activity reduces anxiety and depression, and helps you feel more positive.

I have asthma

Nearly all people with asthma have respiratory symptoms at least occasionally when exercising vigorously in cold, dry air. Effective management of asthma is the best protection. To manage asthma, thoroughly assess any asthma triggers. If you have symptoms of asthma more than twice a week, check with your doctor for a medication that offers long-term control such as an inhaled glucocorticoid. Although the glucocorticoids do not reduce the symptoms if administered as one dose shortly before physical activity, they do diminish symptoms when administered long-term. There are also new therapeutic options on the market, and you should speak with your physician about the treatment that best fits your physical activity patterns.

I travel a lot

If you're flying, check out the airport to see if it has a fitness center. Also, air travel can be dehydrating, so drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids and avoid alcohol. Many hotels have fitness centers or are associated with a fitness center. Ask for details at the front desk when you check in. Some hotels have walking/jogging maps available at the front desk. If you don't want to leave your room, pack a jump rope or do room aerobics.

I don't have time

If you don't have a 30-minute block of time available, break up your routine into three 10-minute segments. Research shows physical activity that is broken into small segments provides benefits, too.

It's too hot outside

Try the air-conditioned mall for a casual stroll or a brisk walk, or try walking in the early morning or evening before or after the sun appears. You might also check into local fitness centers.

It's too cold outside

A mall or fitness center could be the solution, or you might want to develop a special routine for "cold weather days" that might include a physical activity video. If you want to go outside, dress in layers for better protection against the cold. Make sure your hands and head are covered.

I have high blood pressure

Blood pressure can be significantly lowered with a regular program of rhythmic continuous physical activity like walking or bicycling. Daily activity seems to be more effective than physical activity performed three times per week. If you have high blood pressure, first have a medical evaluation and then start slowly.

I'm pregnant

Physical activity has beneficial effects for most pregnant women. The physical activity can be aerobic as well as light resistive strength training. If you are pregnant, be sure to consult your physician before participating in any physical activity program. This is especially important if you have been sedentary and wish to become physically active during your pregnancy.

I have diabetes

Physical activity will help you keep your blood sugar under control. It's best to keep track of the type of physical activity, the length of your activity session, the time of day when you perform the physical activity, the length of time since your last meal, the foods eaten at the meal, and your blood sugar before, during and after the physical activity. Be sure to consult with your physician before participating in any physical activity program. You may need an adjustment to your medication or food pattern.

I have HIV

During the early stages of HIV infection (when there are no symptoms), moderate aerobic physical activity seems to be useful, and may even delay the progress of the disease by improving immunity and/or mental outlook. In the intermediate stages, aerobic training can serve as non-drug therapy in conjunction with other therapies.

Aerobic exercise and moderate resistance training may also blunt the muscle-wasting process that often accompanies the disease. Be sure to consult with your physician before participating in any physical activity program.


  • Continue incorporating moderate intensity physical activity into your life. Examples of moderate intensity physical activity include brisk walking (3–4 mph), cycling for pleasure or transportation (≤ 10 mph), moderate effort swimming, fishing, and leisurely canoeing (2–3.9 mph).
  • If your condition worsens, continue to be as physically active as you can. You may need to modify your activity based on the symptoms you are experiencing.
  • Reduce or curtail physical activity during acute illness.

I'm too large

After you have received the OK from your physician, you can get the support and structure you need to begin a program of physical activity. No matter what your body size or shape, physical activity is something you can do for yourself. You might want to check into programs specifically geared for larger sized individuals. (One place to check is

I'm just not motivated

First, think about whether or not physical activity is something you want to do or something you think you should do. To help with this process, list the positives of physical activity (as you see them) in one column, and the negatives in another column. To help you think of benefits, try reading some fitness magazines or check out our Benefits of Physical Activity.