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Factors Preventing Individuals from Doing Physical Activity or Doing Exercise

Steve Mackie

Factors Preventing Individuals from Doing Physical Activity or Doing Exercise

02 January 2021

With each passing year, the turn of a New Year often inspires us all to come up with a New Year's resolution list. Top of almost everyone’s list is the need to improve once health and fitness.

The year 2020 started off with many resolution lists, but quickly faded as the year became very different to all the years that had come before it in recent memories. It went down as Covid-19 Year. Whilst this little unknow disease was first making itself known to Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic. The norm, we had become accustomed to, is now an uncharacteristic world where each day is unpredictable, filled with prayers for our families and loved once to be kept safe!

What has been great to see, is the number of people that have been forced out of their houses to go for a walk’s around the world. This may well have been born out pure boredom of being told to stay at home, whilst Covid-19 could be brought under control. This has led to many active lives, which may well be a trend that last or it could very well be a Covid-19 inspired health and fitness spark which fads when the fight against Covid-19 is won.

Either way I decided to look into some of the main reasons why our well-intentioned, genuine New Year resolutions commitments to health and fitness often does not last beyond a few months let alone a complete year.

There are many reasons and theories as to why we are less active with each passing year and the potential lasting generational effort. It is far from my intention to dive head first into these debates. The main intention of this article is to look into the barriers that prevent individuals from starting their health and fitness journey.

Broadly speaking barriers to physical activity falls into two categories; Environmental Barriers and Personal Barriers.

Environmental Barriers

Like it or not, the environment in which we live in, influence our level of physical activity. This was so apparent to me during my university years. I attended Loughborough University in the UK. This is the best sporting university in the UK. It was very interesting observing the students, lectures, etc. The level of activity at the university is so much higher than other universities in the UK. The environment inspired the uninspired, as the majority of university were active, this impacted on those that would otherwise have been very happy being inactive. The amount of those that smoked compared to other universities was low. You hardly saw it and this become more apparent when you visited at universities.

When it comes to environment barriers, these barriers take the control sometimes out of the individual hand’s, as our circumstances forces us to live in places where we would not want to live. Factors under environment barriers, can be considered as, but not limited to the list below;

Recreation facilities

Community force or spirit

Social environment

Gender split

Age pollution




Crime level


Family and friends

Personal Barriers

This deals with all the excuses we generate and convince ourselves to believe. Over generations, our lives have become far easier compared to our parents and grandparents’ generations. As a result, we are far less active. The top three barriers to engaging in physical activity which are well documented can be summarised into the following three areas;

Time – We live in a fast-paced world and so easy to run out of time. In our daily life, it is easy to forget about physical activity or place it further down our daily list. This perceived or real lack of time is the biggest stumbling block for people trying to adopt a new exercise regimen.

Energy – This fall into a cycle-of-effect with ‘time’. Being so busy in our daily lives, it is very easy to be tired at the end of the busy day.

Motivation – This can either be the motivation needed to get started, or the motivation need to keep going long enough to see the results.

Studies conducted into “Determinants of exercise behaviour”, “Predictors of adoption and maintenance of vigorous physical activity in men and women” and “Barriers to participation in physical activity and exercise among middle-aged and elderly individuals” found the following specific reasons why individuals do not exercise;

Insufficient time to exercise

Inconvenience of exercise

Lack of self-motivation

Non-enjoyment of exercise

Boredom with exercise

Lack of confidence in their ability to be physically active (low self-efficacy)

Fear of being injured or having been injured recently

Lack of self-management skills, such as the ability to set personal goals, monitor

Progress, or reward progress toward such goals

Lack of encouragement, support, or companionship from family and friends

Non-availability of parks, sidewalks, bicycle trails, or safe and pleasant walking

Paths close to home or the workplace

In the next article, I will aim to address how we can overcome these barriers highlighted above to try and ensure we can remain true to your 2021 New Year's resolution!

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