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Why is it so Hard to Start Exercising?

Updated: Apr 20

It’s easy to talk about the benefits or physical activity, what needs to be done and why. Let’s focus on the reality that, for many people, starting regular physical activity - and especially exercise - is just plain difficult. Even before we can put the sports shoes on, there are a host of valid reasons not to start:

  • Important work and family commitments

  • Existing injuries, or fear of injury

  • Personal safety concerns

  • Cost of gym or club memberships

  • Body consciousness

  • Memories of exercise as punishment

  • Working out can be, to put is simply: hard work

  • Lack of motivation

  • Starting exercise can be scary

If one or more of these factors resonate with you, it's perfectly normal. You are not alone and that's ok.

As ever, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle, especially if you are under treatment. Links to any supporting studies or resources are shared at the end of page.


Before we look at how we might start to make physical activity part of our life (note the use of the words 'physical activity' rather than 'exercise') what amount should we aim for? For the sake of simplicity let us use the World Health Organisation’s recommendations that have been adopted by most public health bodies. Those aged 18 to 64 years:

  • “should do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity; or at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week

  • should also do muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits.

  • may increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to more than 300 minutes; or do more than 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week for additional health benefits.

  • should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits, and

  • to help reduce the detrimental effects of high levels of sedentary behaviour on health, all adults and older adults should aim to do more than the recommended levels of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity”.


Making (and reading recommendations) is easy. Putting them into practice is hard. So, what is the solution? First and foremost, there has to be the desire - the mindset - to make improvement to one’s health. Without this Nothing will happen. When working with our clients, assessing mindset the very first place we start.

What are one’s health priorities, now or in the future? If health and physical activity is a priority, then we have to consider how to start. Is exercise the path we want to follow first? This is the first option for many but perhaps, as the WHO recommends, “physical activity” is a better starting point. No reason to go running or to the gym if you hate them. Maybe walking, dancing or swimming FOR FUN makes more sense. Just getting out in nature, seeing some green, can be a good starting point. What about trying different sports or exercise regimens to narrow down some options for what to do?

Looking at the bigger health picture some people might want to address other issues first: diet and nutrition, work-life balance, stress, sleep or relationships. These can often be better starting points to make initial, meaningful improvements to health rather than physical activity itself.

We are all on our own unique journey to health. The important thing is to start somewhere and sometime, and there is no time like now.

Stay Healthy


hard start exercising

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Take the first step. Contact us to arrange an introductory call, to discuss how we can support your journey to health. We are based in Singapore and work with clients globally.

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Related Studies

Paluch AE, Boyer WR, Franklin BA, Laddu D, Lobelo F, Lee DC, McDermott MM, Swift DL, Webel AR, Lane A; on behalf the American Heart Association Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Council on Epidemiology and Prevention; and Council on Peripheral Vascular Disease. Resistance Exercise Training in Individuals With and Without Cardiovascular Disease: 2023 Update: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2024 Jan 16;149(3):e217-e231. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000001189. Epub 2023 Dec 7. PMID: 38059362.

Shailendra P, Baldock KL, Li LSK, Bennie JA, Boyle T. Resistance Training and Mortality Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2022 Aug;63(2):277-285. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2022.03.020. Epub 2022 May 20. PMID: 35599175.

Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2016 Nov;46(11):1689-1697. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8. PMID: 27102172.

Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Krieger J. How many times per week should a muscle be trained to maximize muscle hypertrophy? A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies examining the effects of resistance training frequency. J Sports Sci. 2019 Jun;37(11):1286-1295. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2018.1555906. Epub 2018 Dec 17. PMID: 30558493.



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