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 min read

What is Exercise Anxiety? Don't worry, you're not alone! We're here to help

Many people appreciate exercise and fitness for their health benefits, however, few people talk about the fact exercise can induce anxiety in some people. In this article, we acknowledge this and think about ways to work through this roadblock.

Many people appreciate exercise and fitness for their health benefits, however, few people talk about the fact exercise can induce anxiety in some people. We should acknowledge this and think about ways to work through this roadblock. It is important to do so because exercise anxiety prevents people from exercising and living to their full potential. Here, we will talk about various causes of exercise anxiety and different ideas that may help overcome these sources of stress.

Possible Causes of Gym Anxiety

The big idea behind exercise anxiety, also referred to as gym anxiety, is that it makes people feel self-conscious and have low confidence when faced with intimidating, embarrassing, or awkward situations when exercising. Part of this could be due to various sensations associated with physical exertion that can feel similar to symptoms of anxiety. Some of the most common of these include elevated heart rate and sweating. These out of the ordinary physical sensations can be unsettling to people with anxiety because they fear a panic attack may be triggered. Anxious people tend to be overly attentive to changes in sensation, and constantly check in mentally on personal safety and well being. Another possible cause to exercise anxiety is fear of feeling pain or sustaining injuries. Some individuals fear it will be difficult to stop the pain cycle once it starts. 

Other more common causes of exercise anxiety are related to social anxiety, which is unfortunately effective in deterring people from exercising. People with social anxiety fear they will be judged by others for appearing flushed and sweaty or giving off body odor in the gym. A common fear is the fear of “looking stupid” by not knowing how to use a machine or feeling awkward using a machine right next to one already in use. This anxiety at the gym can also cause people to refrain from asking staff for advice about machines or correct form for exercises. 

There are a multitude of other reasons why people get exercise or gym anxiety. Germs might be a big deterrence from the gym, since everyone shares the equipment. Some worry that working out will make them feel too tired and exhausted to do anything else that day. Another big factor that can contribute to this issue is people feeling like they don’t size up to other gym-goers around them. They get stuck in a comparison of who has a more advanced fitness level or who looks better doing the exercises, and can get discouraged when they don’t think they are doing as well as others around them. 

Possible Solutions

Now that we have acknowledged some possible causes of exercise anxiety, let's go through some solutions to relieving some stressors or factors that can hold people back. Although physical activity has potential for pain with improper form or injury, it typically is one of the best things you can do for your body. The pain sensation itself is not desirable but it is the body’s natural warning system to inform that there is something that needs to be adjusted. If your main issue is pain & form, then switching to a different type of exercise or simply improving form can be your best solution.

When it comes to the fear of working out in public, exercise doesn’t even have to happen at the gym. There are plenty of exercise routines that can be performed from the comfort of your own home or outside. However, considering community-oriented gyms is also a good option. These have members from all walks of life working out and are typically not as crowded. It is the perfect environment to focus on being active rather than changing appearances or comparisons.

Some other gym tips include attending the gym at non peak hours and writing out workouts to complete before doing them. This not only helps you make goals for what you want to accomplish, but you can also add motivational notes to encourage yourself while you are there. Another way to have some extra motivation and encouragement at the gym is to bring a buddy or mentor, definitely someone you trust. They can also help you feel more relaxed and safe so you both can enjoy being active. On the other hand, it could also be beneficial to just focus on the workout plan. This may seem easier said than done but if someone is putting in the hard work, there is no time for comparisons. People also listen to their favorite tunes or watch a great TV show to distract themselves from others around them. 

It is very important to try different types of exercise and take note of what you enjoy most or what feels good for you. Everyone is different, the only thing that matters is that you are active so why not have fun with it! Exercising should be something to look forward to rather than dread. Also, it is key to celebrate all your accomplishments, no matter how small. 

Exercise anxiety can happen to anyone, no matter someone’s size, strength or fitness level, so you are not alone! Keep in mind everyone was a clueless beginner at some point, so don’t give into feelings of insecurity. Before you know it you will be exercising with confidence and having fun while doing it.

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About the Author:

Abigail is a 2nd year student at the University of Texas at Austin studying sports medicine. She's originally from Long Beach, California and loves being active. Her true passion for fitness shows and she couldn't be more thankful to get to share this excitement with readers seeking insight on a variety of health related topics.

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