Overcoming Barriers to Participation in Sports

Instructor: Jennifer Nemeth

Jennifer is a Registered Nurse with experience in Med/Surg, Orthopedics and Neurology. She also holds a B.A.

There are many perceived barriers that prevent participation in sports and recreational activities. Discover some of the most common and learn about solutions to encourage involvement and start benefiting from a healthier lifestyle.

Common Barriers to Activity

When you think about joining a team or doing a regular physical activity, do you think, 'I'm too overweight or have special needs. I have no time and no money. I have small children at home.' Do these excuses sound familiar?

Once you start to recognize what prevents you from physical activity, you can begin to take measures to work around the obstacles that once seemed insurmountable. Here we will focus on some of the most common barriers to participation in sports and active recreation and then look at practical solutions to overcoming them.


Feeling like there are just not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done is probably one of the greatest reasons people don't exercise or participate in sports. Long commutes, working off-hour shifts, household duties, shuffling children around to their many activities - there are many factors that have to be reckoned with during the course of a day.

When you're feeling overwhelmed but still want to add in an exercise routine, you may want to start by keeping a journal for a week. Write down all of your commitments in a daily schedule. Aim for finding at least three 30-minute blocks of time each week that you can devote to physical activity.

Other ideas:

  • Park further away and walk to your destination
  • Take the stairs instead of elevators
  • Use your lunch hour to walk with coworkers
  • Walk or jog during your child's sport practice
  • If you work nights, try to find a 24-hour gym in your area

Once you take a good look at your schedule, you may be surprised at how many opportunities you actually do have to exercise.


Lack of money is another constraint to sports and exercise involvement for adults and children alike; once the bills and expenses have been covered, often there is little left over to devote to other activities.

Many sports recreation programs for children offer free or reduced pricing for families exhibiting financial need. Fundraising activities can also help drive down fees. You can purchase gently-used sporting equipment at discounted prices. Ask if your local gym offers flexible payment plans to help spread out the cost.

Don't overlook all the ways to exercise that are low-cost or even free: walking, jogging, jumping rope, and playing basketball in the park. If you own a computer or a smart phone, there are many free apps that can help you get into shape. Refuse to accept financial restrictions as a reason to remain sedentary.

Jumping Rope and Playing Basketball
Jumping Rope


Not feeling motivated to begin or stick with an activity is a common problem. Certainly it is much easier to sit on the couch and watch your favorite TV shows than it is to commit to a regular fitness schedule. Ways to overcome this are to recruit a friend or two to workout with or join a class at the gym that you've always wanted to try. Letting others know of your fitness goals makes you more accountable to staying on track.

Resources: Sometimes support resources in the way of child care and transportation are barriers that prevent your involvement in sports and exercise. As the common saying goes, 'Where there's a will, there's a way!'

  • Call your local gym - many facilities offer low-cost babysitting for members.
  • Offer to swap child care hours with a friend (budget-friendly alternative!)
  • Take children to the park and incorporate exercise with the family.
  • Check with your county to determine what public transportation options are available
  • Carpool with friends

Physical Limitations

There are various physical limitations that may prevent an individual from joining in on sports and other recreational activities. Physical restrictions can be overcome to allow for maximum involvement and participation in sports and exercise.


Safety is of utmost concern when focusing on individuals who are differently-abled and their involvement in sports. There are various adaptations that can be made with regard to physical and mental special needs, such as rule revisions and using customized equipment.

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