How can I overcome my barriers to exercise?

If you’re not active, it’s likely that you have at least one barrier or reason why. Perhaps you’ve never been very active. Maybe you’re afraid that your blood glucose level will drop.

Think about what is keeping you from being active and then check out some of our solutions to the most common barriers to physical activity. Is there a solution for you?

I don’t have time to exercise for 30 minutes a day.

  • Think about your day – do you have available time slots? Take advantage of any extra time that you may have and pencil in a workout. If you find yourself waiting for the kids to finish practice or watching their game from the sidelines, use that time to take a walk or pace while you watch.
  • Do as much as you can. Every step counts. If you’re just starting out, start with 10 minutes a day and add more, little by little. Work up to at least 10-minute sessions, three times a day. You can also try for 15-minute sessions twice a day.
  • Make physical activity part of your daily routine. For example, walk or bike to work or to the store, exercise while you watch TV, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or do something active with your family to spend time together.

I’ve never been active.

  • Don’t discount your everyday activities. You may be more active than you think. Housekeeping or mowing the lawn counts as activity. Being active is more than just planned exercise.
  • If you have never been active or have not been active for a while, it is important to start slowly. If you feel unsure about your health, check with your health care provider before making big changes in your exercise plan.
  • Starting slowly is important and so is choosing activities that you enjoy. Over time, the activities you do will get easier. You will even find that you can increase the duration and/or intensity.

I’m too tired after work.

  • Find a time when your energy is highest. You could plan to do something active before work or during the day. For example, you could try walking for 30 minutes during your lunch break a few days each week or hitting the gym early in the morning.
  • Remember that increasing the amount of physical activity you do will actually increase your energy.

I don’t have the right clothes.

  • Wear anything that’s comfortable as long as you have shoes that fit well and socks that don’t irritate your skin.

I’m too shy to exercise in a group.

  • Choose an activity you can do on your own, such as following along with an aerobics program on TV or going for a walk.
  • Remember that the everyday activities you do on your own like gardening and household chores get you moving and help burn calories.

I don’t want to have sore muscles.

  • Exercise shouldn’t hurt if you go slowly at first. Choose something you can do without getting sore.
  • Make sure you warm up and cool down.

I’m afraid my blood glucose level will drop too low.

  • The people who need to be most careful about lows are people with type 1 diabetes and those who are on insulin or insulin secretagogues. If you’re taking a medication that could cause low blood glucose, talk to your health care provider about ways to exercise safely.
  • Always be prepared. Make sure you’ve got some regular Gatorade, glucose tabs, or another fast-acting carbohydrate to treat a low if one should occur. Wearing a diabetes ID is another important safety precaution. (See our “12 Quick Safety Tips“)

Walking hurts my knees.

  • Try chair exercises, swimming, biking, or an elliptical machine. These and other low-impact exercises may be less painful.

It’s too hot outside.

  • If it’s too hot, too cold, or too humid, walk inside a school or a shopping center.
  • Think of some other activities that are always available regardless of the weather like using a stationary bike, indoor aerobics classes, yoga videos at home, indoor swimming, stair climbing, calisthenics, or dancing.

I’m afraid I’ll make my condition worse.

  • Remember that getting enough physical activity is important for everyone’s general health – whether you have diabetes or not.
  • Remember that exercise helps lower A1C and has many other health benefits. (See our list of the benefits of physical activity.)
  • If you have certain complications from diabetes and are unsure about your health, talk to your doctor before making any big changes to your fitness routine.

I can’t afford to join a fitness center or buy equipment.

  • Do something that doesn’t require fancy equipment, such as walking, jogging, calisthenics, or using water bottles for weights.
  • Jumping rope and resistance band exercises are other activities that only require one piece of inexpensive equipment.
  • Look for inexpensive resources in your community like community education programs, park and recreation programs, walking trails, school running tracks, or worksite wellness programs. Your employer is another place to check for discounts on gym membership or reimbursement for fitness-related activities

 Exercise is boring.

  • Find something you enjoy doing.
  • Mix it up. Try different activities on different days, and make sure you pick an activity that you enjoy!
  • Exercise with someone else to keep you company.
  • If you can, try exercising while listening to music or watching television.

I don’t really know how to exercise.

  • Select activities that require few skills, like climbing stairs, walking, or jogging.
  • Take a class and develop new skills.

I don’t have the motivation to exercise.

  • Invite a family member or friend to exercise with you on a regular basis. You can also join an exercise group or class in your community.
  • Remember all of the benefits that come with being physically active.
  • Make a plan so you decide when you will do each type of activity. Be sure to set realistic goals and make a plan so you know what you are working toward.


Using a pedometer

A pedometer is an inexpensive tool that counts your steps when you clip it to your belt or waistband. You can buy one at most athletic stores or you can order one online.

Use It Regularly

At the end of each day, check your pedometer and record your steps for the day.

Make sure you reset it to “0” the next morning before clipping it on.

Keeping a record of your steps can help you gauge how much activity you are getting or how far you are walking each day.

It also gives you a starting point to help you set goals. You can gradually increase your steps or the minutes you walk each day from there.

For example, let’s say you find that you usually take around 3,500 steps during the day after wearing your pedometer for a week. You can try to increase your daily average by 500 steps every of couple weeks until you hit 7,500 steps per day. You can go even higher than this if you want.

Remember, the more active you are, the more benefits you’ll see from exercise.


Walking is a great way to get fit.

Here are some advantages of walking for exercise:

  • It doesn’t require a gym membership or fancy equipment – it’s totally free!
  • It’s an easy place to start since most of us do it every day – there’s no learning curve!
  • It has been shown to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, and depression.
  • It can help to promote weight loss and reduce your risk for other chronic diseases like heart disease and dementia.
  • It is enjoyable and something you can do with others.
  • It is a safe and generally risk-free form of physical activity.
  • It is a form of exercise that is easy to keep up – there are lots of places you can do it!


If you’re not used to being active, you can start with 10 minutes of walking each day and build as your fitness improves.

When you begin, find a comfortable pace and try to add about three to five minutes to your daily walking time each week. A good goal to shoot for is at least 30 minutes of brisk walking, five days a week.

Start out by keeping track of how much you currently walk for a few days. Use a pedometer or a watch to determine how many minutes of walking you already do or how many steps you take.

What’s important is that you take it one day at a time and build up your walking stamina at a pace that’s comfortable for you.


Quick Tips for Walkers

  • Warm up first by walking in place or start out walking at a slower pace than normal for 3-5 minutes.
  • Stretch for 5-10 minutes after you warm up or after your walk to help you stay more flexible.
  • Keep good posture. Gaze forward, not down at the ground, with your chin level and head up.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking throughout the day before you begin your walk.
  • Wear shoes designed for walking or exercise for greater comfort and to prevent injuries.


Once you are used to your walking routine, don’t be afraid to take it to the next level. Here are some ways you can change up your walking routine to keep improving your fitness:

  • Pick up your speed for short intervals throughout your walk to get your heart rate up.
  • Increase the distance of your walks to build endurance.
  • Walk both faster and farther, and add some hills to your workout.
  • Switch up your routine. Do a faster, shorter walk some days and longer brisk walk other days.
  • Try going with a friend some days and bring music for others.

I found a blister on my foot, what should I do?

Diabetes complications include nerve damage and poor blood circulation. These problems make the feet vulnerable to skin sores (ulcers) that can worsen quickly and are difficult to treat. Proper diabetes management and careful foot care can help prevent foot ulcers.

When foot ulcers do develop, it’s important to get prompt care. An ulcer that won’t heal causes severe damage to tissues and bone and may require surgical removal (amputation) of a toe, foot or part of a leg.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your feet healthy, and what happens if amputation is necessary. (Hyperlink)