Perhaps you'd love to make it to the gym more than you manage, or you've tried to take up running many times – but never turned it into a habit.
It's not just you – a survey found 60 per cent of Kiwis don't meet the Ministry of Health's exercise guidelines and, according to the World Health Organisation, this is a growing problem around the globe.
Government guidelines suggest as a minimum we should be doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, plus muscle-strengthening activity on two or more days, so lots of us are lagging behind.
"Exercise is often difficult for women for a number of reasons," says clinical sports psychologist Carole Seheult.
"Some women feel guilty for taking time out from family life and many were put off by bad experiences of PE at school, or feel self-conscious in the gym."
Here we've asked the experts for ways to get over these barriers.
If you never seem to have the time…
"This is a big problem for women who may be working full-time as well as looking after family," says Carole. But there are still ways to fit in a workout.
- "Build exercise into your day," says exercise psychologist Dr Jeff Breckon.
"For example, use your work lunch hour to go for a jog or to a fitness class."
Or you could run or cycle for at least part of your commute so your workout has a practical purpose and doesn't eat into extra time.
- Set your alarm clock just 10 minutes earlier and do a mini-workout at home.
If you find the gym boring...
"Many people find the gym monotonous, so don't be hard on yourself if you don't enjoy it," says Jeff. Get experimenting to find the workout that's right for you.dance as exercic
- Try a team sport. "It gives you that element of competition that makes exercise more interesting," says Jeff.
- Set yourself a challenge. "Having a goal like a charity event you have to train for can help motivate you," says Carole.
- Varying your exercise regime keeps you motivated, says a study from the University of Florida. Alternate weights sessions with something fun, such as a dance class. Or consider training for a mini-triathlon – Google 'fun' or 'sprint' triathlon – where you swim, cycle and run for much smaller distances than traditional triathlons.
- Go for a power walk with a friend. You'll be so busy chatting and catching up that you'll scarcely notice how hard you are working!
If you lack confidence…
- Research has found many women are deterred from physical activity early in life. If you were the last to be picked for the team in each PE class, it's not surprising you might not love exercise now. Body image issues can also be a concern – and it can be particularly hard at certain times, for example after having a baby, having had a health issue or surgery, or you might feel self-conscious about joining in when you're older.
- Hire a trainer. Whether it's a personal trainer at the gym or a one-to-one yoga teacher, having a professional to guide you and offer encouragement can boost your confidence, helping you feel sure you're getting your workout right. Just a handful of sessions can be enough to get you going.
- Try classes streamed over the internet, which you can do in your living room. Usually, these work with a video conferencing app that allows just you and the instructor to see each other.
You can find everything from barre workouts to Pilates taught this way.
- Signing up for a beginners' course – whether that's in yoga or belly dancing – is another great way to get into a new activity. Fancy running? Try a beginners' course at your local running club or use the Couch to 5K app to build up slowly.
- Realise that these issues are very common and while it might not seem like it, many other people in the class are probably feeling the same way. Remember that you are doing this for you, and nobody else's opinion matters. And focus on how great you'll feel once you've done it.
How to stay motivated
Exercise psychologist Jeff Breckon has the following tips to help you keep up your regime and stay motivated:
- Keep setting small goals to maintain your focus – tick each one off when you reach it and set a new goal.
- Keep a log of what you do each time you exercise. Every two weeks, look back on how you've improved. For example, running or cycling further, lifting heavier weights or perfecting that yoga pose.
- Notice how you're feeling as you get fitter. Are you less stressed, more energetic, sleeping better? Acknowledge the benefits.
- Get support. Working out with a team or an exercise buddy provides extra motivation as you won't want to let them down – plus they will encourage you.