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Despite the health benefits of regular physical activity, adults insufficiently participate in it. This reality clearly points to the need to help adults become more physically active.

There are barriers (or perceived barriers) that keep adults from being, or becoming, physically active regularly. You can overcome these barriers to physical activity and make it a part of your daily life by taking advantage of a few strategies.

Let’s take of look at some of the barriers identified by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and some recommendations for overcoming them.

Perceived Barriers and recommendations

Lack of time

  • Identify available time slots.
  • Monitor daily activities for one week. Identify at least three 30-minute time slots that could be used for physical activity.
  • Add physical activity to daily routine. For example, walk or ride a bicycle to work or shopping, organize school activities around physical activity, walk the dog, exercise while watching TV, park farther away from the destination, etc.
  • Select activities requiring minimal time, such as walking, jogging, or stair climbing.

Lack of energy

  • Schedule physical activity for times in the day or week when feeling energetic.
  • Convincing self that if giving it a chance, physical activity will increase energy level.

Lack of motivation

  • Plan ahead.
  • Make physical activity a regular part of daily or weekly schedule and write it on a calendar.
  • Invite a friend to exercise on a regular basis and write it on both calendars.
  • Join an exercise group or class.

Fear of injury

  • Learn how to warm up and cool down to prevent injury.
  • Learn how to exercise appropriately considering your age, fitness level, skill level, and health status.
  • Choose activities involving minimum risk.
  • If you’ve been injured before and scared of re-injury, seek expert help from a physiotherapist for your specific needs.

Lack of resources

  • Select activities that require minimal facilities or equipment, such as walking, jogging, and skipping rope.
  • Identify inexpensive, convenient resources available in your community (community education programs, park and recreation programs, worksite programs, etc.).

Weather conditions

  • Develop a set of regular activities that are always available regardless of the weather (indoor cycling, aerobic dance, indoor swimming, stair climbing, rope skipping, mall walking, dancing, gymnasium games, etc.)

Family obligations

  • Trade babysitting time with a friend, neighbour, or family member who also has small children. 
  • Exercise with the kids. Go for a walk together, play tag or other running games. 
  • Spend time together and still get your exercise. 
  • Jump rope, ride a stationary bicycle or use other home gymnasium equipment while the kids are busy playing or sleeping. 
  • Try to exercise when the kids are not around (e.g., during school hours or their nap time).

Social influence

  • Explain interest in physical activity to friends and family. 
  • Ask to support efforts. 
  • Invite friends and family members to exercise. Plan social activities involving exercise. 
  • Develop new friendships with physically active people.  
  • Join a group, a hiking club.

Lack of skill

  • Select activities requiring no new skills, such as walking, climbing stairs, or jogging.
  • Take a class to develop new skills.
physical activity stair climbing

How physiotherapists can help

Physical activity can take the form of a structured exercise programme or the accumulation of activities of daily living or leisure exercise.
Whatever form it takes, a health promotion intervention focusing on physical activity would help reduce inactivity as a way of decreasing the incidence of noncommunicable diseases or their sequelae.

It has been argued that physiotherapists are ideally placed to promote physical activity to combat the impact of chronic diseases of lifestyle.

Physiotherapists take health promotion as an integral role as it is currently one of the core competencies expected from the physiotherapy profession. They can help access your real or perceived barriers to physical activity participation using various scientific tools including validated questionnaires


  • Abaraogu, U.O., Edeonuh, J.C. and Frantz, J., 2016. Promoting Physical Activity and Exercise in Daily Practice: Current Practices, Barriers, and Training Needs of Physiotherapists in Eastern Nigeria. Physiotherapy Canada, 68(1), pp.37-45.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity.” Physical Activity for Everyone. Available @ Accessed on 13/04/2017
  • Frantz, J.M. and Ngambare, R., 2013. Physical activity and health promotion strategies among physiotherapists in Rwanda. African health sciences, 13(1), pp.17-23. •