Mental Barriers Block Obese Women From Exercise

But tailored programs could ease fears, overcome self consciousness, study suggests

Obese women report that several mental barriers keep them from exercising to lose weight, according to a new study.Researchers from the Center for Obesity Research and Education and the department of kinesiology at Temple University looked at data collected from 278 women who were enrolled in a year-long physical activity encouragement study.

The women completed a questionnaire when the study began and during three- and 12-month follow-up assessments. The questionnaire dealt with mental barriers to exercise, including:

  • Feeling self-conscious.
  • Not wanting to fail.
  • Fearing injury.
  • Perceived poor health.
  • Having minor aches and pains.
  • Feeling too overweight to exercise.

At every assessment, the obese women reported greater barriers to exercise than their normal weight counterparts. The barriers that the obese women identified at the beginning of the study predicted how much they would be exercising at the 12-month follow-up.

"This is the first time we've been able to systematically look at what stops obese women from getting the activity they need," Melissa Napolitano, an associate professor of kinesiology and clinical psychologist at the Center for Obesity Research and Education, said in a university news release.

Napolitano said that programs that are tailored to overcome these barriers can help obese women feel more comfortable exercising.

"There is an underlying attitude about weight loss, that it's easy if you eat less and exercise more," she said. "But if losing weight were easy, we wouldn't have the obesity epidemic we have today."

The findings were presented Oct. 5 at The Obesity Society's annual meeting, in Phoenix.

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