Commonly cited reasons for not exercising include:
- Lack of energy
- Lack of motivation
- A dislike of exercise
- Competing priorities
- General poor health or mobility concerns that make exercise difficult
- Transportation challenges
In a recent Mood Walks survey of people with lived experience of mental illness, the most frequent reasons for discontinuing with a physical activity group (aside from cost barriers) were:
- The group did not fit into my schedule
- I did not feel I fit in socially with the group
- I got injured
Here is a list of common barriers to participating in physical activity groups, as well as some strategies to help participants overcome them:
|Lack of energy
||Exercise is energy-boosting! Suggest to the participant to:
- Start with short periods of exercise and notice any energy boosts afterward.
- Try journaling energy levels, and notice what activities are energy-draining or energy-boosting. Try to schedule energy-draining activities so they do not fall just before group time, and include energy-boosting activities to motivate you before the group walk.
|Lack of motivation
- Set goals and track progress (see “Goal-Setting”).
- Congratulate participants on their achievements, and encourage them to reward themselves.
- Involve participants as much as possible in selecting the group’s timeslot.
- Mornings tend to be a difficult time to get going. Point out that exercising first thing can help start the day on the right foot. (It also limits excuses.)
- Encourage participants to make their health a priority, and try to schedule other commitments around group time.
|Not fitting in socially
- Keep group communication inclusive and role-model good social skills.
- Enlist volunteers and peer leaders to ensure no one walks alone.
- In a private setting, offer participants constructive feedback about their social interactions.
- Brainstorm ways to start conversations with other participants, and discuss observing other participants to gauge their reactions to and interest in social interactions.
- Remind participants that other people may be experiencing their own difficulties, and not to take perceived slights too seriously. Not all people will connect, and that is okay.
|Fear of injury
- Provide warm-up and cool-down activities to limit the risk of injury (see “Warm-Up and Cool-Down Exercises”).
- Remind participants to go at their own pace and listen to their bodies, taking breaks when necessary.
- Encourage participants to plan ahead for the weather. Discuss appropriate clothing (see “Helping Participants Prepare for a Walk”) and how to obtain it affordably (see “Troubleshooting: Overcoming Obstacles”).
- Consider having a back-up plan for inclement weather, such as meeting at a mall or track, where you could walk indoors if necessary.
- Present varying weather conditions as opportunities to experience a familiar environment in a new light. Suggest that participants bring dry clothing on rainy days to change into after their walk.