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Don’t Sweat Gymtimidation

Strength Over Workout Anxiety

cropped view of purposeful overweight girl doing arms extension exercise on fitness machine

By John Hand –

What if there was a place a person could go to become better looking? What if this same destination could improve their mental health? Not enough? Okay, maybe this stop had the potential to offer up new friends and even a whole community. Sounds great, right? Now, what if this magical place was a gym? Bang. Chances are half those reading this just stopped.

Despite the many benefits a gym can supply, about 50 percent of Americans are anxious about working out in front of others, according to a recent study. The reasons for the trepidations vary. The report, which surveyed 2,000 people, noted that 17 percent are scared to work out in front of the opposite sex and 15 percent simply are intimidated while performing their exercises.

Unfortunately, anxiety doesn’t even stop for a sizeable portion of those who overcome their reluctance to go into gyms. Almost half of the regular gym rates report they are still uncomfortable working out in front of others, particularly if those “others” are buffed.

These fears hit both men and women, but gym anxiety, also known as gymtimidation, appears to affect women more than men. Not surprisingly, this may have a negative impact on their overall health. Sport England, in fact, found that 39 percent of women over 16 years old are not active enough in gyms or other means to get full health benefits. Men fare slightly better at 35 percent.

Why are racks of dumbbells, row machines and ellipticals so scary? There are lots of reasons and they can vary from person to person. But there are several common causes of gym anxiety. People often feel judged at the gym. This can lead to feelings that everyone is staring at them and judging whether they’re using the equipment properly and if their form is up to snuff. The reality is different. By and large, no one cares what anyone else is doing. People are working out for their own reasons, giving them little time to worry about others.

Another cause of anxiety is comparisons. People tend to worry about how they measure up against others working out around them. Why worry? Everyone is on their own fitness journey and some people have just started earlier. Routine Excellence, which specializes in providing workout guidance, advises gym newbies to simply take pride in embarking on their own journey and to keep focused on what they are doing. Sure, getting in shape takes time and effort. Put in both and the results will come, it notes.

Sadly, another factor that drives gymtimidation is that some people get the sense they don’t belong. This is understandable because large gyms can be intimidating with all their classes, equipment and general sweaty buzz. This is why trainers and old gym salts recommend doing some research before starting and going in with a workout plan. Go to a trainer or experienced associate if help is needed.

There are even easy options for anyone feeling lonely at a gym. The solution is to join a class. Most gyms offer a wide variety. It is a great way to learn some new exercises, meet some new friends and probably reduce overall anxiety.

Ultimately, there are plenty of excuses to skip the gym. Anxiety shouldn’t be one of them.

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