Overcoming Barriers

A barrier is anything that prevents or blocks movement from one place to another. An exercise barrier then is anything that prevents you from exercise.

The good news is that you’re not alone. Everyone faces exercise related barriers; the key to overcoming them is to decide that you won’t let them stand in your way. Barriers can seem insurmountable when they occur, but with a little forethought, even the most difficult ones can be worked around.

The key is to plan ahead. Write down the barriers you know you will run into before you begin your exercise program. Take a look at the barriers and try to come up with a creative way to work through them. Need some ideas? See below for a few suggestions on how to eliminate barriers that are common to all of us

Our Mindset

Part of the problem with exercise in is our mindset towards it. In the course of the day, there are things we need to do, and things we want to do. Exercise is, something that we need to do, but many simply think of it as something we want to do. One of the keys to starting and maintaining an exercise program is making this shift in how we think about exercise. Treat it like a priority. Your health is important enough to make it so.

Not enough time

When individuals report that they don’t have time to exercise, they are usually thinking about trying to squeeze in exercise into a where simply won’t fit – well don’t. Accept it and plan to exercise at another time of the day. ‘I don’t have time in the evening.’ OK, if the evening is not a good time for you, what about the morning, what about lunch time? Consider other times of day when you can exercise.

I can’t exercise for 30 minutes

You may not have thirty minutes – but do you have ten? Try breaking up an exercise session into small chunks to get it in. 30 minutes is better than 10, but ten minutes is better than none. Try three ten minutes sessions instead of one thirty minute block.

I’ve never exercised

You’re not alone if you’re in this group, but jumping to the other side is easier than you might think. First, make sure you discuss your interest with your doctor. Think about where your active now (grocery shopping, errands) and whether you can increase activity there. If you shop for groceries twice a week, try walking the perimeter of the parking lot before going in, or making sure you go through every aisle twice). If you are often shuttling the kids off to soccer practice, try walking around the track.

I don’t know who to talk to for advice

Your doctor is the first one, as well as other members of your diabetes team (your diabetes educator, registered dietician, etc.) If you want exercise related advice and your medical provider doesn’t know how to help or who to recommend, try Profinder, a site that hold databases of exercise professionals from the American College of Sports Medicine, the US Registry of Exercise Professionals, and the Clinical Exercise Physiology Association.

Fear of low blood sugar

If this is a concern for you, then you should be congratulated, it shows that your mindful of the risks of low blood glucose and the problems that come with it. But you should not avoid exercise simply because of this fear. Remember plan ahead to avoid this from happening

Consider testing your blood glucose before, during, and after you exercise. While this might sound like a lot, remember that you are trying to learn how your body responds to exercise, and having the numbers down will help you plan for the next exercise session.

Always have a source of fast-acting glucose available. This can include a carbohydrate sports drink, glucose tablets or gel, or a piece of candy that is predominantly simple sugars. (Starbursts, Life Savers, Skittles).

Make sure you have a way to reach out for help. This can include having your mobile phone with you, or making sure you are wearing a medical ID.

Work with your health care provider. They are one of the most important members of your diabetes team, and their knowledge of when insulin or medication peaks, as well as whether in fact medication needs to be adjusted is critical in your success.


Deciding you want to start an exercise program is a wonderful first step, but only the first of many. One of the things you may struggle with during your exercise journey is staying motivated. After all, it is one thing to tell yourself you want to exercise, it is entirely another if the only time you can do it is at 6 AM, and the buzzer is going off.

Keep track of your progress. Whether you use a fitness tracker or a calendar, keep track of your progress. It can be incredibly motivating if you are new to exercise and you see all that you’ve accomplished.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Missed a workout? Everyone does. Missed a week of workouts? Yes, that happens too. Everyone will run into a time when it can be tough to get your exercise sessions in. Give yourself a break and realize that it happens to everyone, but the difference between those that make exercise a habit and those that don’t are what happens after you hit a roadblock the derails your program for a day or two (or a week). Take the next day a little easier in your program and get right back to it.

Make it about you. This is your exercise program, not the person who’s on the treadmill next to you. Who cares what they’re doing – you have no idea how long they’ve been exercising for, so it doesn’t matter how much faster, or how much longer they might be on the treadmill.

Have fun with it. Do a cardio class with a friend. Try a sport like disc golf that gets you outside in the fresh air with friends. Involves others in your progress. It will be good for you, and for them.