INTRODUCTION Although the benefits of physical activity and exercise are widely acknowledged, many middle-aged and elderly individuals remain sedentary. This cross-sectional study aimed to identify the external and internal barriers to physical activity and exercise participation among middle-aged and elderly individuals, as well as identify any differences in these barriers between the two groups. METHODS Recruited individuals were categorised into either the middle-aged (age 45-59 years, n = 60) or elderly (age ≥ 60 years, n = 60) group. Data on demographics, anthropometry, as well as external and internal barriers to participation in physical activity and exercise were collected. RESULTS Analysis showed no significant differences in the total scores of all internal barriers between the two groups (p > 0.05). The total scores for most external barriers between the two groups also showed no significant differences (p > 0.05); only 'cost' (p = 0.045) and 'exercise interferes with social/family activities' (p = 0.011) showed significant differences. The most common external barriers among the middle-aged and elderly respondents were 'not enough time' (46.7% vs. 48.4%), 'no one to exercise with' (40.0% vs. 28.3%) and 'lack of facilities' (33.4% vs. 35.0%). The most common internal barriers for middle-aged respondents were 'too tired' (48.3%), 'already active enough' (38.3%), 'do not know how to do it' (36.7%) and 'too lazy' (36.7%), while those for elderly respondents were 'too tired' (51.7%), 'lack of motivation' (38.4%) and 'already active enough' (38.4%). CONCLUSION Middle-aged and elderly respondents presented with similar external and internal barriers to physical activity and exercise participation. These factors should be taken into account when healthcare policies are being designed and when interventions such as the provision of facilities to promote physical activity and exercise among older people are being considered.