Women and Physical Activity - It’s Time To Get Moving

“I just don’t have time to exercise,”  “I am always tired,”  “It is too cold to exercise.”  Whatever the excuse may be, more than 25 percent of women in the United States are inactive.  Women receive many health benefits associated with exercise including: a lower risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer; healthy bones, joints, and muscles; improved mood and self-confidence and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

A common misconception about exercise is that it must be strenuous in order to be beneficial.  However, there are numerous health benefits to engaging in a moderate amount of exercise on a regular basis. Engaging in activities such as walking, gardening, and swimming are all effective ways to get your exercise. 

Identifying Barriers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified several barriers that keep women from being physically active.  These barriers include both environmental and personal issues.

Environmental Barriers

Environmental barriers exist within our communities and decrease an individual’s ability to engage in physical activity.  These limitations range from the location of adequate sidewalks, running paths and parks to the level of crime and pollution in communities. 

Personal Barriers

Many personal barriers are responsible for why women do not exercise.  Women often say they do not have time to exercise, feel that exercise is boring and lack the confidence to participate in physical activities. 

What barriers are discouraging you from being physically active? Complete the “Barriers to Being Active” quiz and find out.

Overcoming Barriers

After you have identified your personal barriers to physical activity you can begin to learn ways to overcome them. 


Suggestion to Overcome


  • Schedule physical activity appointments with yourself.  Just like any other appointment, you will need a good reason if you decide to cancel. Take advantage of the time you have during breaks to exercise.  Physical activity does not have to be done all at one time but can be broken down throughout the day.
  • Include more physical activity into your daily routine.  Park farther away from where you want to go, and walk.  Take the stairs rather than the elevator.


  • Exercise with other people.  You may find that you are less likely to cancel if you know someone is counting on you.
  • Join a physical activity group such as a walking, bicycling or running club.


  • Participate in activities when you will have the most energy.
  • A benefit of exercise is that it increases your energy level.


  • Exercise with other people.
  • Participate in activities that you enjoy.
  • Set goals for yourself and reward yourself.


  • Learn how to appropriately stretch before and after exercise.
  • Set goals for yourself that are equivalent to your exercise level.  You would not want to start out your routine running five miles if you have not run in over a year.
  • Participate in low-risk activities if you fear injury.
  • Seek advice from a medical professional before beginning your new workout routine.


  • Exercise does not require individuals to be extremely skilled. Select activities that require low skill levels such as walking, stair climbing, and bicycle riding. 
  • Take a course to improve your skills before attempting an activity.


  • Choose activities that do not require a lot of equipment such as running and walking. 
  • Locate parks and fitness programs in your community that may offer exercise equipment use for free or at low cost. 


  • Find alternatives to your daily workout on days when the weather does not permit outside activity. Activities such as jumping rope, video exercise tapes and walking indoors are great activities that can be done regardless of the weather. 
  • Take advantage of outdoor activities throughout the season they are suitable for.  For example, if you like to ski, substitute a few days of skiing rather than running.


  • Select facilities to stay at that have fitness equipment.
  • Take your exercise videotape along with you.
  • Pack your sneakers and workout gear and explore your surroundings.


  • Engage your family in exercise with you.  Take the kids with you on your walks, jump rope with them and bicycle together.
  • Find a babysitter who is willing to watch the kids while you exercise.
  • Take family members with you to the gym. Select a gym that has a childcare center for young children.
  • Exercise when the kids are not around.


  • Choose to remain active during retirement.
  • You may find now that you have more time that you will be able to exercise more.

What’s Next?

Once you have identified your barriers to being physically active, and the ways to address these barriers, it is time to get moving!  There are countless ways to be physically active and it is important to find the activities that you enjoy participating in. 

Discover a fitness program that works best for you and have fun!

Physical Fitness Links

American Heart Association


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



Family Doctor


The Presidents Challenge


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health Exercise



Source: American Heart Association,

http://americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2155; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,


http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/recommendations/index.htm; Family Doctor,

http://familydoctor.org/x2801.xml; The Presidents Challenge,

http://www.presidentschallege.org/the_challenge/index.aspx; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health Exercise,