Diabetes, Fitness

4 Exercise Barriers You Can Break (and How To Break Them!)

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What is one thing that everyone hates to receive, but loves to give out?

If you answered unsolicited advice, you get a digital high five, because who isn’t guilty of that?

If you answered candy corn around Halloween time, we need to become best friends, because we think alike.

If you answered excuses, you’ve just won today’s grand prize! 🌟 (And, we should still be best friends)

Why Do People Love Excuses?

Because they are EASY. Excuses are always a great explanation for NOT doing something. Sometimes, they’re warranted. But more often than not, they are a way for us to get out of doing the things we don’t want to do. And when are excuses best put to use? When we excuse ourselves from exercise.

Let’s get straight to the point and break down some common exercise barriers so that this coming New Year will be the year that we stick to our exercise goals! 🏆

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Barrier #1: I Don’t Have the Time.

This is my all-time personal favorite, hence its top spot on the list.

I get it! You’re busy. I’m busy. Aren’t we all? In today’s 24/7 world, we’re constantly going—going—going. And it’s hard to get a moment to just. Stop.

However, the American Diabetes Association’s (along with TONS of other accredited programs) physical activity goal for moderate to vigorous activity per week is 150 minutes – otherwise known as 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. 30 minutes a day is 2% of your day. Think about that. 2%. You can do this!

Let me break it down for you. You’ve got Curb Your Enthusiasm every Sunday, This Is Us every Tuesday, Modern Family Wednesdays, and Stranger Things 2 (or any other binge-worthy series) at-the-ready. You’ve got all those hours to watch your fave shows, so you definitely have 30 minutes to spare for exercise. Heck, you could feasibly even watch the show while you exercise!

The key here: prioritizing your exercise.

You make it a priority to be in front of your TV/computer to catch a show. The same concept applies for exercise. No excuses!

PRO-TIP: You could even break it into three 10-minute bursts throughout the day if it works better with your schedule. Get creative!

Barrier #2: I Don’t Belong to a Gym/The Gym Scares Me

And this is why the internet might as well be the 8th Wonder of the New World. If others’ perceptions of you in the gym leaves you feeling hesitant to go, or if you can’t afford a gym membership in your monthly budget, the world wide web is the answer to all of your exercise dilemmas.

The options are bountiful. There are millions of free workout articles and videos online, covering everything from bodyweight circuits to flexibility and yoga to sports-specific conditioning. All of this available without leaving your home or needing any equipment.

Not to mention, there’s always the great outdoors. Go outside and go for a run! Head to a nearby park to get your strength-train on (just use the playground equipment!).

Get to a state park and enjoy the best nature has to offer while getting in a cardio workout. Whatever it is you decide, there are plenty of other ways to exercise outside of the gym. Stop with the gym excuses. Get your creative juices flowing and your booty moving!

Barrier #3: Fear of Hypoglycemia

In our world of diabetes, this excuse is a legitimate cause for concern. We have all been there — trying to better ourselves through exercise, and have our wellness plan backfire with a dangerous low. But we can change this. With just a little bit of insulin knowledge and a planned-out exercise strategy, you’ll be armed & ready for a great workout.

Fast Facts

  • Exercise will typically increase insulin sensitivity by bringing glucose receptors to the surface of the muscle cells. Muscles are saying “feed me, feed me” and want to suck down whatever glucose is available, whether this comes from blood sugar or glucose consumed before a workout (i.e. meal or snack).

  • Short-acting insulin operates over a 4-hour action curve, with the majority of the impact delivered within 2-3 hours of administration.

If exercise increases insulin potency, and insulin functions mainly in a 2-3 hour time span, what does this mean? If possible, we want to exercise with less active insulin-on-board, since this will decrease the probability of having a hypoglycemic episode.

Other Considerations

The next factor to consider is type of exercise, since there are different options which yield different results:

  • Cardiovascular training in a steady state – this can simply be defined as longer duration exercise meant to strengthen the heart and lung capacity, typically done at a steady state.
    • Example:  2-4 mile run at the same pace.
  • Interval training – this is cardiovascular-based, but there are alternated work and rest periods.
    • Example: 100m sprints or tabata training.
  • Resistance training – otherwise known as strength-training, this is an exercise that will strengthen your muscles.
    • Example: lifting weights.
The main difference is that #1 is likely to lower your blood sugar, especially the longer the duration. But #2 and #3 have the capacity to lower OR raise blood sugar, depending on time of day and exact type of workout, among other variables. Thank your liver for its glucose dumping to cause the potential blood sugar increase.


Knowing what type of exercise you will be performing, plus how insulin works can help you devise a strategy to prevent hypos. Whether that includes eating a snack before or adjusting insulin before or during a workout is your call! It will take some trial and error, multi-checking or CGM-ing during a workout, and patience to start to understand how your body works.

But you will find that perfect system that works best for you. 💪

Barrier #4: Exercise is Boring and I’m Not Motivated

The goal is to find something YOU enjoy doing! If you dislike doing something, how can you expect to be consistent? It will be tough, and you probably won’t. Plain and simple. Instead, find a few things that you enjoy; you’ll start looking forward to your workouts. 😀

Finding a friend to join in on your fitness journey is also very helpful for accountability – you can keep each other on top of things on days you don’t feel as motivated or vice versa.

Just Start

In the words of Lao Tzu, "every journey begins with a single step." Use these tips to take that first step towards changing your life!


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Ben Tzeel RD, CSCS
Jan 07, 2019

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