Overcoming Barriers to Fitness Activity


We can all face barriers that stop us from being active; whether they are self-imposed or otherwise.

Here are some common examples and some ideas for overcoming them:

“I’m too tired and have no energy”

Having a mental health problem or taking medication can make you feel tired, disrupt sleep and drain energy levels so feeling low can dampen your desire to do the things you enjoy which in turn makes it even harder to get up and get out.

  • Work with you good days and bad days. For example, if you’re not a morning person, don’t book in for morning sessions and avoid times when the effects of medication may be problematic. Accept that sometimes you just need to ‘be’ with yourself so don’t be too hard on yourself if you really can’t make it.
  • Start off small. Build up your activity levels bit by bit and work at a pace that is right for you. Remember even small amounts of activity can give you natural energy and a good night’s sleep.

” I don’t have time”

Not being able to find the time to exercise is the most common barrier we see, but there are ways to squeeze it in.

  • Be clever with your schedule. Work out what time you do have available and find an activity that fits into it. How much time is spent watching TV, surfing the internet or playing computer games? Maybe you could swap one or more with an exercise class.
  • Raise your activity levels at work as well as at home. Could you get off the bus or train a stop earlier and walk? Could you walk to a friends house or the supermarket?Simple little changes can make a big difference
  • Turn exercise into something you actually like doing! Find a class or session you find fun and you’ll then be more likely to make time for it.


“It’s too expensive”

Buying the right clothes, equipment and/or membership can work out really pricey sometimes but you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to be more active.

  • Ask your local GP about exercise on prescription. Your GP might be able to prescribe an exercise programme on the NHS
  • Find activities you can do for free. The outdoors is your playground! Your local park may also host a variety of activities such as Park Lives and Park Run. See our Resource page for more information.
  • Look for local schemes and discounts. Many councils offer discounted leisure centre memberships for people who want to exercise more especially if you have a health problem or are inactive. See our Resource page for information on council run and local gyms in the area.

Check out the Get Set to Go Programme which I’m involved in


“I don’t have the confidence”

Trying out something new can be really daunting but over time you may find that taking up an activity will increase your self-confidence.

  • Ask someone you trust to help you get started. Some places will allow you to attend with a friend or support worker if relevant for the first few sessions. Also see the Get Set to Go Programme which buddies you up with someone so you go together to the activity.
  • Look for groups of like-minded people. Some sport governing bodies provide sessions aimed at people with mental health problems so you’ll be around those who can empathise and understand you more. This can also improve confidence levels.
  • You could do the activity on your own. Walking, running or cycling are great exercise and you can incorporate them into your daily routine.

Woman tying shoelaces

“I’m embarrassed about my body”

Lots of people have worries and concerns about their body and too many of us are not happy with them. These feelings can be particularly difficult if body image is part of your mental health issue.

  • Try to reassure yourself that you’re not alone. It is important to remember that everyone has to start somewhere and many people will share similar anxieties about their bodies.
  • Find a beginners class in a friendly environment. If you’re intimidated by gyms, joining a beginners class at a local centre may be a friendlier option
  • Look out for women or men-only sessions. Attending a single-sex class to begin with may help with anxiety and confidence.