10 Effective Ways to Overcome Exercise Obstacles

by Jane Ashley

Most of us want to get more exercise, but there’s always a reason or excuse as to why we never succeed. For patients in active treatment, exercise helps reduce fatigue. For us cancer survivors, 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week cuts the risk of recurrence by 40 to 50 percent.

First Step

Sadly, many survivors don’t exercise. But exercise improves our quality of life . We’re stronger and have more energy. We become more flexible and can do more of our favorite things again. So what can we do to get motived?

10 Ways to Overcome Exercise Obstacles

There are lots of reasons and/or excuses that all of us use to explain why we don’t exercise. Here are some ways to reframe our objections and turn them into action.

1. Not enough time. Because exercise is so important to our survivorship plan , we HAVE to work it into our schedules. Set aside a specific time – one of the easiest ways to get up earlier. Studies also show that short 10-minute bursts of exercise are effective too. Park at the back of the parking lot and walk more. Use the stairs instead of the elevator.

2. It’s boring. Some people get bored doing the same repetitive exercises week-after-week. Rotate between walking and working out at the gym. Listen to music. Choose something that you LOVE to do. You might prefer to golf or play tennis with friends or a Silver Sneakers program and make new friends.

3. Inconvenient. Going to the gym is inconvenient for many people. Our cable company might offer an exercise channel or purchase a yoga or workout video to do at home. 

4. Weather. Vary your exercise routines so that you have something to do during inclement weather. If you live where there is lots of snow, you might want to invest in a short-term gym membership.

5. Self-image. Some of us are self-conscious about our bodies after cancer treatment. Women might decide to go to Curves, a women-only fitness center. The LIVESTRONG program is offered at over 700 YMCA facilities throughout the U.S. – it’s just for cancer patients so no one will be judging your body. 


6. Don’t know how/not athletic. We don’t have to be athletic or know how to use the equipment at the gym. Start off by walking. One of the best ways to track our progress is using a phone app such as MapMyWalk, available free for both Android and iPhone. 

7. Too lazy. If you are a confirmed couch potato, have a quiet talk with yourself about how important exercise is to your future health. Start small and build up gradually. 

8. Expense. We don’t have to belong to an expensive gym. We can buy a couple of inexpensive resistance bands to use instead of weights. YouTube has lots of exercise and training videos. Many local community centers and senior centers have low-cost or no-cost exercise classes. Find a friend and walk at the local mall or around your neighborhood.

9. I might hurt myself. Before beginning any exercise program, be sure to consult with your oncologist and/or primary care physician. For example, I am at risk of developing another parastomal hernia because of the surgery I had for my rectal cancer. My surgeon told me not to run or jog or lift anything heavier than 15 pounds. Once we’re cleared for exercise, start off slowly. Do some leg stretches to begin and end your workouts. Take a beginner’s class. If your budget allows, start off with some physical therapy or a personal trainer.

10. Too tired. It sounds counterintuitive, but exercise actually helps combat fatigue. Long-term, we build muscles and stamina from our exercise. We have more energy when we exercise.


Begin with small, attainable goals.

Begin with simple goals, like I’m going to walk 2 blocks Monday, Wednesday and Friday or I’m going to lift my 5 lb. dumbbells 15 repetitions twice a day Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. 

Remember that the longest journey beings with a single step. Best wishes for a healthier year in 2019.

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