Barrier 1 Lack of confidence and self-belief

Online workshop participants shared 687 contributions to explore why some people lack the confidence and self-belief to be active. Analysis of these contributions revealed four drivers:

Driver Total Contributions % of Total Contributions
It is hard to do it alone



Lack of information



Fear of being judged – I don’t like my body



Fear of being judged – Lack of skills



Driver 1: It is hard to do it alone

Aggregate Narrative

It is hard to find the confidence and the motivation to exercise or join a leisure centre all on my own. I find exercising on my own boring, and at the same time, I feel intimated by being active in public, especially the idea of going on my own to the gym. I find that I don’t have the right support in place to help me be more active. I think it would help if we:

  • make group classes and gyms more welcoming and inclusive,
  • encourage employers to enable their staff to take the time to exercise during work hours,
  • set up a ‘gym buddy’ system, either organised by individuals or by local leisure facilities and community centres,
  • set up support groups for people who have a perception that they ‘don’t belong’, i.e. people who are overweight, or walk groups for people with Knee injuries,
  • introduce more group activities in parks,
  • make exercise sessions a social event,
  • make it fun by introducing challenges – counting steps using pedometers have been really successful, and
  • have family classes where adults can exercise alongside children.

Example evidence and solutions

  • Title: Encourage employers and middle managers to let their staff exercise during work
    Particularly in office jobs, we’re descending into a culture of “if you’re not at your desk, you’re not doing your job”. Taking time to get up and exercise is not part of the culture – you’re clearly not Giving 110% and you’re clearly Not A Team Player.” (27 likes, 0 dislikes, 9 comments).
  • Title: Make it social
    Whatever the event, like say a walk around a park, make it a social event with a chance to meet new people rather than just about the activity.” (17 likes, 0 dislikes, 0 comments).
  • Title: Gym buddies
    People often feel intimidated by gyms or by going on their own. Is there an opportunity for ‘gym buddies’ (like befrienders)? That way, people could have company to go to the gym until they feel confident to go on their own” (16 likes, 0 dislikes, 1 comments).
  • Title: Walking Group/Partners
    I have a major heart condition. I have been told by my Cardiologist that walking will build up my heart strength. I hate walking by myself. We need groups to encourage each other” (16 likes, 0 dislikes, 1 comments).

Driver 2: Lack of information

Aggregate Narrative

I would like to be more active but I don’t know what exercises I am supposed to do that are appropriate for my health condition. It would be helpful if we:

  • make taster sessions more available, appealing and fun – find opportunities for people to try different activities to find what is right for them,
  • provide information to those who want to cycle to increase their confidence and skills,
  • create a system where GPs prescribe exercise packages, and
  • provide more information on parks and outdoor facilities regarding opening hours, the location of toilets, restaurants, etc.

Example evidence and solutions

  • Title: I’m trapped and its embarrassing.
    I know I’m overweight. I know I need to be more active. I’m just too embarrassed to admit that I don’t know what exercise to do, that I’ll look stupid in those gym outfits and I just can’t think of any way to make it fun” (25 likes, 2 dislikes, 14 comments).
  • Title: Lack of incentive
    It may be that I haven’t yet found the right activity for me. Taster sessions may be an option set up either before or after work so that I can try it out before committing either financially or in major amounts of time.” (16 likes, 0 dislikes, 3 comments).
  • Title: GP exercise packages.
    I think GPs should be able to prescribe exercise packages with a personal trainer for patients struggling to get mobile and fit, or at risk of further ill health and extra cost to the NHS” (10 likes, 2 dislikes, 3 comments).

Driver 3: Fear of being judged – I don’t like my body

Aggregate Narrative

I am worried about my appearance. I have little to no confidence in my body image and don’t like everyone to see me wobble while exercising. I feel it would be helpful if we:

  • replace the glamorised toned and fit public image of those who exercise with a realistic one such as those portrayed in the This Girl Can campaign,
  • offer more weight management programs to help people gain confidence,
  • design swimming and fitness classes specifically for overweight people, and
  • design communication and motivational slogans, such as those used in This Girl Can campaign, specifically designed for people who are not active.

Example evidence and solutions

  • Title: Body image
    “I suspect a lot of people may have problems with their self perceived body image. Our old friend the media still portrays fit and healthy people as young and lithe so, if you’re not, it can be a bit daunting to turn up to a gym and don lycra.” (22 likes, 0 dislikes, 1 comments).
  • Title: Not comfortable in your own skin
    I don’t want people to see my wobbly bits and my thunder thighs bouncing up and down on the treadmill.” (12 likes, 0 dislikes, 0 comments).
  • Title: Private swimming sessions for the seriously overweight
    I really love swimming but haven’t been for years as I cannot face the walk of shame from the changing room and the sidelong smirks and looks of horror as I wobble to the pool. If there were some classes which were specifically for very overweight people where there was no judging, I would be there every day – whatever the time slot and would be happy to pay.” (12 likes, 1 dislikes, 1 comments).
  • Title: Village style changing rooms
    A lot of the local authority leisure facilities have ‘village style’ changing rooms for swimming. This can be very off-putting for people, who aren’t body confident, and for people who just plain don’t want to get changed or shower in the same room as the opposite sex. The village changing rooms tend to be for swimming, but not for the gym – which doesn’t make sense!” (11 likes, 1 dislikes, 2 comments).

Driver 3: Fear of being judged – Lack of skills

Aggregate Narrative

I am not confident in my ability to be active – I simply look stupid when I’m exercising. I often feel that sport is something for people are good at sport. I think it would be help if we:

  • run communication campaigns to change the perception that sport is ‘competitive’ and for people who are good at ‘elite sport’,
  • encourage children, regardless of their ability, to take part in sport from an early age, and
  • encourage those who are not fit to start with small steps to build up their ability.

Example evidence and solutions

  • Title: ‘Being active’ needs to lose its competitive stigma
    “There is often too much impetus put upon elite sport and going to the gym to gain the perfect physique. This is not helped that large sports clubs and leisure centres focus too much on the children who like sport and show some natural ability from an early age. We need to stop judging and criticizing people who are not active to be competitive, but to have fun instead!” (17 likes, 0 dislikes, 6 comments).
  • Title: My son is not confident but also not encouraged at school to be more active
    “In my experience of having a Son who is not very fond of or confident with sports, I’ve found that he is not encouraged enough at School. Children should be encouraged from a young age regardless of ability.  My son feels that he isn’t encouraged because he isn’t very good and this puts him off sporting activities.” (10 likes, 1 dislikes, 4 comments).