Scientists from the Centre for Obesity Research and Education and the department of kinesiology at Temple University have found that obese women face a significant number of barriers when it comes to exercise including self-consciousness, fear of injury, having minor aches or pains.
"This is the first time we've been able to systematically look at what stops obese women from getting the activity they need," said Melissa Napolitano, associate professor of kinesiology and clinical psychologist at the Centre for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University.
During the study, the research team surveyed data collected from 278 women, both normal weight and obese, enrolled in a yearlong physical activity encouragement study.
At baseline, and at a 3- and 12-month follow up, all participants were administered a questionnaire to determine what factors kept them from getting exercise, including feeling self-conscious, not wanting to fail, fearing injury, perceived poor health, having minor aches or pains and feeling too overweight to exercise.
They found that, at all time points, obese women reported greater barriers to being active than normal weight women.
For obese women, barriers they identified at the beginning of the study predicted how much or how little they would be exercising at the 12-month follow-up.
"These might sound like excuses to some people, but for those who have these aversions, they're real problems," said Napolitano.
She said that tailoring programs to maneuver around these barriers is the key to curbing some of that aversion and improving adherence to a weight loss goal.
"There is an underlying attitude about weight loss, that it's easy if you just eat less and exercise more," she said.
"But if losing weight were easy, we wouldn't have the obesity epidemic we have today," she added.
The research was presented at the Obesity Society's Annual Meeting on Sunday.