Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity and Exercise

We all have things that keep us from exercising, whether that be every once in a while or all the time. Those “things” that keep us from meeting our exercise goals are called barriers. Sometimes those barriers are valid, and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes we just need the tools and the creativity to think outside the box to come up with a solution of how to overcome those barriers.

It isn’t just adults that have barriers to exercise, it’s our students as well. We live in a time where there are constantly things to do, more technological distractions, and other things keeping our students from engaging in enough exercise to meet their recommended amounts. We can also argue that our students meeting their exercise goals is more important as ever as the rates of obesity in our youth are skyrocketing.

So as physical education teachers what can we do? WE EDUCATE.

First let’s talk with our students about what barriers are and give them examples. We can discuss psychological barriers such as fear of injury, personal barriers such as lack of time, and environmental barriers like lack of transportation. After discussing what barriers are and giving student’s examples, we need to have our students identify what their own barriers are. Have them really think about how they spend their time and the main reasons they don’t exercise. You can then have them think about if those barriers are valid or if they can be creative and come up with a solution to overcome them. Sometimes our student’s barriers are things outside of their control such as the amount of homework or lack of the ability to drive. Although some may seem out of their control, sometimes we can help them think of ways they can overcome those barriers and get more active. This is a great opportunity to have students pair up and help each other brainstorm ideas.

I know what you are thinking, “Kaci, my students are just going to say that they hate exercise or just don’t want to do it”. Well, you are right, they may say that, and honestly as frustrating as that may be, that is a valid barrier. So how can we help them find the activities that make them want to be active?

Here is an example of a barrier and how we can help student’s brainstorm how to overcome it.

Barrier: Lack of Time, Personal Barrier

Overcoming the barrier: Could the student take movement breaks while doing homework? Take a walk around their house for 10 minutes every hour they are working on homework? On weekends could they encourage friends to do outdoor activities like hiking or going to a trampoline park instead of playing video games.

I think when talking with our students about this topic it is important to be real and honest with them. Discuss your own personal barriers and how you have to plan or be creative to overcome them. This will help you connect with them and them connect with you. I also think it’s important for them to see that it is common and “normal” for most people to have some struggles with exercise.

If you are looking for a way to incorporate this into your class I have created an activity that has 3 pages of information sheets that you can laminate and hang in your gym or classroom that discuss the different types of barriers, a worksheet for students to write down their barriers and their solutions to overcome them, and 10 scenarios for students to analyze and brainstorm how that individual could have overcome their barriers. You can find it by clicking on the image below.

Click on image for link!

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