Barriers to Exercise - What’s stopping you?

Sometimes exercise can feel like a chore. One of the toughest barriers to fitness in most young people is feeling like “I just don't have the time”.

This is a perfectly valid reason not to do a lot of things- undoubtedly, the working week has never been more intense or competitive as it is in 2018. I’m sure a lot of you might be thinking “..and I’m so tired”.

That's exactly the cycle that making exercise a lifestyle choice- a small staple of each day- can help to break. There are some undeniable benefits to regular and consistent exercise that you simply cannot achieve by any other means.

Let’s start with lethargy, for example. When you feel sapped by fatigue, more often than not, the last thing you want to do is expend more energy. But if you look at exactly why you feel so drained, there is a wealth of research (most recently from the University of Georgia, USA) that tells us that it is indeed lethargy itself that breathes further lethargy. Studies where participants engaged in low to moderate intensity exercise for 20 minutes, as little as three times per week- experienced a 65% drop in the feelings associated with fatigue.

For those of us who have not seen the inside of a gym for longer than they might like to admit, this can be as simple as taking your lunch hour to walk briskly for 30 minutes. Simple right?

Another reason many of us become trapped in a cycle of fatigue is that we are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Both of these conditions warrant a need for proper, healthy sleep. The trick is to use exercise like you might a medicine. Anxiety can be overwhelming, but there is no better means of management than through regular exercise. The effects are tenfold, but most pertinently lie within the release of hormones. Dopamine is the hormone associated with a feeling of happiness and satiation. Genetic predispositions often mean that there can be a great disparity between individuals that have more or less sensitivity within receptors in the brain.

Therefore, if we generate more dopamine by exercising more regularly, we are far more likely to feel 1) Happy and 2) Satiated (less hungry). After all, we all know the urge to reach for something sweet to make us feel better! So what if you got that same ‘high’ from a little extra movement? It is often as simple as finding something active that you find fun. From rock climbing, to boxing with a buddy, to trampolining. As soon as you find your niche, that prescribed 30 minutes will begin to feel too little rather than too much.

Injuries can sometimes make us feel like exercise is not worth the effort. “But my knee hurts” “ I can't run because I have back pain”, both of these are common ailments. The reality is, however, that 90% of the ailments that exist as barriers to exercise are symptomatic of a lack of exercise, not as a result of it. Unless you’re playing a competitive sport (in which case you’ve no doubt been nodding your head in agreement since I began to talk), exercise is almost always

therapeutic to pain in your back or joints.

I am a prime example of this:

Three years ago I was given two choices: either I could have localised treatment of pain in my shoulders, or re-think my exercise options and attempt to restructure the muscles in my back, and try to move differently. It was an arduous choice, but I chose the latter. Strengthening each muscle with a unilateral approach to my exercises has propelled me beyond recovery, to optimum health and a day to day life almost pain free.

Indeed there are some of you that might have health conditions, some of them chronic, like asthma and diabetes. More often than not, light to moderate exercise will not only help alleviate or manage these conditions- particularly in the case of diabetes- but exercise has also been proven to increase overall levels of immunity by either increasing the number of antibodies available to fight disease or directly rid the airways of bacteria that often lead to colds.

Lastly, the most sought after effect of exercise- greatly improved levels of self-esteem and confidence in your day to day life. Truly the often misconstrued aesthetic consequences of exercise that we see in the media, are often underestimated in their potential for individual sense of wellbeing. As we exercise, our bodies begin to reflect the efforts in ways that are more tangible than most of the reasons (albeit profound) mentioned above. It is human nature to derive a sense of self worth and value from the image that we see staring back at us in the mirror. As long as this is defined within healthy limits, achieving our aesthetic goals can provide confidence and patterns of better decision making that scope our whole lives.