Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity



Business man holding a weight above his head

Do you think it’s easy for adults to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans? Even though we’re in a profession dedicated to promoting health and well-being, do you often struggle to personally meet the Guidelines? I know I do. As professionals dedicated to helping others increase their physical activity, I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the challenges we might face ourselves and share those things that have worked for us in hopes of inspiring others to meet the Guidelines.

Here are some of the things that have worked for me: There are hand weights and elastic bands next to my desk at work. There’s a pair of walking shoes ready to go by the door. I have a few exercise posters just inside my top desk drawer. These few changes to my environment have helped me come closer to meeting the Guidelines. I often pick up the weights or bands and do a series of exercises while on conference calls, in between checking emails, or before starting an administrative task. The walking shoes often come on when I see that I have 10 to 15 minutes before my next appointment. A quick walk or a few flights of stairs gets my heart pumping, and also allows me to focus on the next meeting. I do all these things in my street clothes, no need for changing or showering.

My office does some interesting health promotions, all with the intent of getting staff more active. By taking part, I’ve done a lot of things I wouldn’t have normally tried such as: taking a yoga class, assisting in a volunteer project helping an elderly neighbor (shoveling snow off a roof), participating in a corporate triathlon relay, and recording my monthly steps. This variety of activities really helps me meet the Guidelines. The variety is actually kind of fun. My company’s not trying to get all of us into yoga, or running, or counting our steps…they’re just trying to get us active in something, this week and next week, and the week after. 

Supportive friends and relationships also help me meet the Guidelines. Instead of getting grief or mockery from co-workers who may see me doing arm curls, or see some perspiration (sometime even sweat) on my face, I get compliments about doing something healthy. When I ask for others to join me on the quick walk around the block, I actually get a few who say “yes.” When I ask for help in meeting one of the company’s health activities, my co-workers understand the importance, and lend support. 

I believe changes to your environment, choosing a variety of activities, and getting support from friends and colleagues is integral in helping most of us and our clients meet the Guidelines. So even though I sometimes struggle meeting the Guidelines, I’m finding ways to help me be active.

What environmental changes have you recommended to others to help them reach greater levels of physical activity? 

What variety of activities have you incorporated to promote more activity? 

How have you created or cultivated supportive friends and relationships for your clients?