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Overcoming barriers and setting goals

There are many reasons for not being physically active. Everyone is different, with different abilities, knowledge, interests and free time. The keys to success are setting a realistic goal for yourself, choosing activities you like to do, and asking for the support of friends and professionals when you need it. Learn more about getting around barriers to exercise.

Common barriers and tips to try

We make many excuses to avoid physical activity. But the fact is, everyone can fit in some form of physical activity. Here are some of the most common barriers to physical activity, with some suggestions for overcoming them:

“I have no time and it’s inconvenient”

  • Schedule activities into your day and use an exercise diary so you can see how little time it takes
  • Build activities into everyday tasks
  • Cycle to work
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Go for a short walk on your lunch break at work
  • Do some gardening
  • Park your car farther away from the shops
  • Find an activity you enjoy
  • Choose an activity you can do at home
  • Choose an activity that’s located on the way to or from work

“I can’t seem to get motivated”

  • Keep in mind all the physical and psychological benefits of activity
  • Make sure you set your own activity goal and make it specific to your needs. Set both short and long term goals. Make your goal measurable, but be realistic and build in some flexibility

“Physical activity doesn’t feel rewarding to me”

  • Decide what kind of reward would work best for you:
    • Praise from your review clinician, or a friend or family member
    • A new pair of running shoes
    • A certificate, badge or attendance chart
  • Track your physical activity using a pedometer of Fitbit
  • Have a fitness test done by an exercise professional so you can see how your body has changed, your health has improved, and your fitness has progressed. This can help motivate you to stay active

“I’m worried I’ll get injured”

  • Start at a comfortable level then gradually increase the length of time, number of days per week and level of effort
  • Progressing gradually will help you avoid injury. Don’t push yourself so hard that you can’t talk to a friend or sing a song while exercising
  • Choose an activity you enjoy, try a different activity once in a while. Variety keeps things interesting

“I’m an older adult”

Physical activity isn’t just for young people. There are many ways to participate as an older adult. Learn more about the different ways to become more active under the online resources and local physical activity services sections

“Physical activity is too expensive”

Try to find an activity that doesn’t cost money or need special equipment, for example going for a walk around your local park.

“I had a bad experience in the past”

  • Find an activity you enjoy and do it in an encouraging environment. Join a local gym class or ask a friend or family member to do some activity with you.
  • Choose a goal you’re confident you can reach. If you need advice speak to your weight management physio or a qualified exercise professional.

“I need more support”

  • Ask your review clinician or physio for support. They’ll be able to give you specific tips on how to stay active every day, such as keeping an activity log or diary and writing down reminders in your calendar
  • Join a club or program, or get active with a friend or family member so you have support and encouragement during difficult times
  • Consider talking with one of the weight management buddies

“I forget to do it”

  • Write reminder notes to yourself or set your watch alarm when it’s time to be active
  • Have a set time and place for activity so it becomes a routine and you don’t have to think about it
  • Put your trainers near the door as a reminder. Have your gym kit ready to go.

“Physical activity doesn’t feel right for me”

  • Choose an activity that’s suited to your health status, abilities, limitations, personal goals and activity preferences or interests

“I’m always discouraged by setbacks”

  • It’s OK to have a setback in your regular activity or routine. Setbacks can happen for lots of reasons. For instance, you may have been sick or gone on holiday
  • To help avoid being discouraged, think about how you can overcome difficulties or challenges ahead of time
  • Have a support system to encourage you (friends, family, your clinician, group or club)
  • Keep changing and adding variety to your activity routine

“I have a disability”

Physical activity is adaptable and possible when you are living with a disability. Try to:

  • Think about how you can be more active in your daily life. Remember: it doesn’t have to be strenuous. Gardening, playing with your kids and grandchildren, walking or wheeling at lunch are part of an active lifestyle!
  • Find an activity, fitness program, club or facility that meets your needs and has qualified staff to assist you
  • Recognize your interests, decide on your needs and set realistic goals

Setting SMART goals

Setting SMART goals is a way of overcoming barriers that stop us being or sustaining being more active.  It has been evidenced that setting and writing down SMART goals means they are much more likely to be achieve sustained changes. Here are some not SMART and SMART examples to help you understand the difference:


  • Not SMART: I will walk more.
    SMART: I will get off the bus 1 stop early on the way to work, 3 x next week
  • Not SMART: I will do more exercise at home more.
    SMART: I will do the WM circuit 2 x next week
  • Not SMART: I will sit less at work.
    SMART I will set my alarm to stand up every hour at work; I will take the stairs not the lift and have a 10 minute walk at lunchtime.