Why The Gym Could Be Impacting Your Mental Health

First up, let’s all agree that exercise in general is one of the best things you can do to benefit your mental health. But somewhere along the way, the fitness and health industry has become a bit too intense. For most people the word “gym” or “fitness” instantly conjures up images of ripped abs, perky bums… ‘perfect’ everything.

It’s not surprising that most of the fitness industry is geared up towards selling a specific body image. The body ‘you could have too’… if only you did this workout, drank that shake or ate this protein bar. I get it, across my businesses I sell all three of those things and I know that pushing an image is what ultimately brings in the sales. I just refuse to position my own products in that way because I know that it encourages people to focus on completely the wrong thing, taking them down a rabbit hole of comparison and anxiety.

We need to start focusing on the right things

Let’s be honest, at least part of our motivation for showing up to the gym is because we all want to look good! There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s natural! But the problems begin when that’s your ONLY reason for working out. That’s when you may begin to have an unhealthy obsession about your looks which can lead you down a path to serious mental health issues including anxiety, feelings of low self worth, eating disorders and more.

In my experience training thousands of women over the years and working on The Biggest Loser: Transformed, the key to living a healthy, happy life is to stop focusing on the physical. Take things away from comparison and take the pressure off outcomes. Just focus on building the foundations to a happy, healthy life filled with good friends, regular movement, fresh food and a healthy mental state… the rest will come naturally! This is exactly why all eight of my Biggest Loser contestants have kept the weight off over a year later, something I’m so proud of considering 85 percent of contestants on The Biggest Loser typically regain all of the weight and more.

So, what are the foundations for a happy, healthy life?

It’s so simple. All you need to do is learn to love being fit and healthy. We naturally move towards pleasure and away from pain, so if you love being fit and healthy everything becomes easy.

How do you do that? By finding a way to associate going to the gym with fun and feeling great, not punishment and self judgment.

5 ways to associate exercise with fun and feeling great

1. The right community

These days we’re more connected than ever before but also more disconnected from real, human-to-human relationships than ever before. Those relationships are critical to a healthy mental state, meaning to really love exercise you need to find a training environment where there’s a great community that you really bond with. Whether that be a group training gym you love, a running club, a cycling group, a walking community… whatever it is for you, if you can just find that one thing, you’re most of the way there. Your engagement with exercise will skyrocket… fun movement with your friends by your side is a hell of a lot better than feeling like a shy little mouse stuck on a treadmill surrounded by buffed up bros.

2. Loads of variety

Just like eating one type of food isn’t great for your health, doing one type of exercise isn’t beneficial either. But it’s not just the physical variety that’s important, our brains need variety too. It keeps things interesting and that’s a great way to build a positive association with exercise. If you’re finding yourself having to drag yourself to the gym, chances are this is part of the problem.

3. Movement that makes your heart feel light

There’s no one type of exercise that’s a miracle pill for everyone, we all have unique tastes and it’s about experimenting with different groups, environments and approaches until you find one that you seriously look forward to getting out of bed for! Whether it’s running, dancing, group classes at a gym, or a weight lifting program with a personal trainer, you should leave feeling on top of the world every time.

4. Trainers that match your personal needs

If you’re someone who loves being shouted at, at 6am then signing up for that military boot camp could be just the ticket for you. But if you’re more of a fun-loving gal whose needs are met in a less intimidating environment, find a tribe that literally lifts your spirits every time you walk in the room. A group of like-minded women who are there for you because they love people and their primary motivation is making sure that you leave feeling better than you did when you walked in.

5. Trainers who are creative and know their stuff

Humans love progression, it literally makes us happy! So no matter how cool your trainer is or how much you love them, if they give you the same program month-on-month, don’t update their sessions and put little effort into advancing your knowledge or helping you level-up, eventually you’ll get bored. As the saying goes, you’re the product of of the people you hang around most, so taking the time to surround yourself with the right trainers and community is an excellent idea!

If you’re looking for an uplifting fitness experience, here’s where to find it! The BUF Girls team have just launched their brand new studio in Bondi, Sydney, with a timetable created specifically to nurture women’s fitness needs. Founded by the author of today’s article, Libby Babet, alongside fitness influencer Cassey Maynard and dancer-turned-health coach Sian Johnson, the studio is a welcoming, fun space for women to get their sweat on! There will be 30-minute sessions including base strength, moderate cardio and HIIT training. In addition, the girls will also run longer 50-minute workouts, choreographed to match DJ playlists. You can expect mat-based toning, super fun cardio and signature circuits that mix it up slow with strength moves, moderate cardio and finish with a short burst of HIIT to get maximum results (without overdoing it).

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