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Is Gym Culture Causing More Harm Than Good?

Going to the gym definitely affects peoples mental health. But is in a positive way or not?


At its core, a lot of ‘wellness’ is just about weight loss. It’s about fitting your body into a certain aesthetic. It demonises delicious foods with lots of calories, and rewards those who do not bow to these ‘unhealthy’ foods. The idea is simply that thin is healthy, and healthy is thin.

We get told that by following the newest wellness regiment you will feel a sense of superiority. That you are on top of the game. And that you fit into a perfect aesthetic. In recent years it has become a trend on social media to be obsessively into fitness and health, and the idea that by not following specific rules that you will become unwell and that your body will not fit into the ideal perfect look or type. Following this people into fitness, wellness, and obsessively become gym obsessed have such strict regiments on food. But is it as well for their mental health as it may be for their body.

Following the recommendation of how you should have a certain amount of calories and protein per day to create or maintain a so called perfect body, some people become so strict with themselves, restricting themselves to certain foods everyday, or forcing themselves to eat more to hit their daily target of calories.

When I personally started my goal to become more fit and healthy, I saw foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. To become a better me, I needed to cut out the ‘bad’ and include more ‘good’. Eating or indulging in a ‘bad’ food was a step back in my eyes. The idea of wellness leaves the opposite to be unwell, which can easily be interpreted badly and can lead to obsession. The obsession to be well, and fit, and healthy, can cause a lot of emotional and physical harm to ourselves. This obsession with cutting off the bad foods can be linked to an eating disorder. Restricting certain foods and being proud of oneself for doing that.

Negative effects

This pressure on people to be fit and healthy and look a certain way, and eat certain things can create unhealthy relationships with food, and body image. Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition where you spend a lot of time worrying about you’re appearance and how you may be perceived. This could mean you don’t think you are skinny enough, or have the right curves, or aren’t muscly enough. Hyper-focusing on exercise and going to the gym purely for the appearance it will have on your body could induce a body dysmorphic disorder, and could take a while to work your way out of this mental state, potentially needing therapy or antidepressants.

Having unhealthy relationships with food could cause someone to develop anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. Eating disorders are more common with those of a younger age, those who wo may use the control of food as a way to cope with feelings and other situations, these could include the way you look, or your weight. The way you look and your weight are all ideas pushed onto people by toxic exercise and gym culture, and to do with the ideal or ‘perfect’ aesthetic look someone should have, and can seriously negatively affect people’s mental psyche. Again, it is possible to recover from an eating disorder with time and resources.

Positive effects

However, some people may say that going to the gym isn’t unhealthy for you mentally, and not only can it improve your physical physique but your mind too. Many people that go to the gym say that going to the gym, and working out works just as well as therapy to alleviate stress or help those with mental health issues. Many people say, getting the chance to work on themselves physically, taking the time out of their day to focus on themselves and their body. It’s a chance to get a clear head and forget about things going on outside of the gym, anything that may be worrying, or upsetting them, and just get some peace of mind. This can be compared to practises like yoga, or meditation where its time to be mindful and not think about any worries.

It has been found that regular exercise can positively impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Going to the gym and engaging in exercise regularly can relieve stress and boost your overall mood. Doing exercise and going to the gym can make you more tired at the end of the day which can improve sleep. This can help maintain cognitive skills, such as attention, learning, and memory. It can decrease the chances of relatively minor stresses and people’s ability to perception the world accurately.

Physical activity pumps up your endorphins which can increase the production of the endorphins, which are the brains feel-good neurotransmitters. It also increases your hearth rate, which triggers norepinephrine, which is a chemical that helps the brain deal with stress easier, and increase blow flow to the brain.


Overall, the gym can increase your mental health and energy levels, but it can also create harmful relationships with food and body image. The key seems to be finding something that works for you and remembering that it’s all about feeling good in yourself, and creating a schedule that is healthy for your mind and your body.

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