Mental Health

Solutions For Gym Anxiety

Gym anxiety is real, but it should not hinder your fitness journey. If you’re feeling anxious about heading to the gym, it’s time to overcome it. Here are some tips on how to get over gym anxiety.

By URLife Team
02 Feb 2024

It is not uncommon for individuals to experience feelings of anxiety, intimidation, or embarrassment when engaging in gym activities. Especially for young women who want to get in shape post-pregnancy or someone who has recovered from an accident, the idea of returning to the gym may cause concerns about how others perceive their physical appearance or abilities. Additionally, the fear of lacking familiarity with equipment operation and the potential judgement from fellow gym-goers can contribute to these anxieties.


Unlock insider access to the best movement plans for free! Sign up today. 


Related story: Gym Start-Up Manual: 5 Fitness Terms You Should Know


What is Gym Anxiety?

Gym anxiety, commonly referred to as "gymtimidation," is a prevalent phenomenon that can impact individuals across various demographics. This issue has become particularly pronounced with the return to gyms following the period of home workouts during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Various specific concerns may fuel gym anxiety, ranging from worries about crowded spaces, hygiene considerations, the availability of preferred machines, to discomfort in communal areas like locker rooms. The unease associated with dressing alongside unfamiliar individuals is another aspect of gym-related anxiety.

These feelings of apprehension are not isolated occurrences, as evidenced by the prevalence of anxiety disorders, the most common mental health disorders. According to a 2023 study published in the American Psychiatric Association, nearly 30 per cent of adults experience anxiety disorders at some point, characterised by the anticipation of future concerns. The manifestations of these feelings often include muscle tension and avoidance, further emphasising the psychological impact of such anxieties. It is crucial to recognise that if one has ever encountered such sentiments, they are not alone in grappling with the challenges posed by gym-related anxiety.


Related story: Common Mistakes People Make At The Gym


Factors That Trigger Gym Anxiety

You’ve been thinking of hitting the gym for some time, but you find yourself hesitating before taking the final step. The mere thought of everyone showcasing six-pack abs, effortlessly lifting heavy weights, and exchanging triumphant high fives adds to your anxiety about being judged. 

Here are the top reasons why people get gym anxiety:

  • Social Anxiety and Fear of Judgment: Many individuals avoid going to the gym due to social anxiety and the fear of being judged by others. Concerns about one's physical appearance, fitness level, or workout techniques can contribute to a reluctance to engage in gym activities.
  • Lack of Familiarity with Equipment and Workouts: A significant barrier to gym attendance is the lack of familiarity with exercise equipment and workout routines. Individuals may feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the variety of machines and exercises, leading to uncertainty about where to start or how to use equipment properly.
  • Crowded and Uncomfortable Environment: According to a 2023 report by the American Medical Association, the perception of a crowded and uncomfortable gym environment can divert people from attending. Fear of waiting for equipment, navigating through a densely populated space, or concerns about cleanliness and hygiene may contribute to a reluctance to engage in regular gym sessions.
  • Time Constraints and Scheduling Challenges: Busy schedules and time constraints are common reasons for avoiding the gym. Balancing work, family, and other commitments can make it difficult for individuals to allocate dedicated time for regular workouts, leading them to opt for more convenient or time-efficient alternatives.
  • Financial Considerations: The financial aspect of gym memberships can be a significant hindrance. Some individuals may avoid joining a gym due to the perceived high costs associated with memberships, especially if they believe they can achieve their fitness goals through alternative and more budget-friendly means.


Related story: The Absolute Worst Things To Do At The Gym


How To Deal With Gym Anxiety

Individuals with social anxiety may be particularly susceptible to encountering anxiety in the gym setting. While gym-related anxiety is a common occurrence, its presence has the potential to disrupt one's enthusiasm for exercising and sustaining physical fitness. There are some strategies for addressing social anxiety within the gym environment. It can include the regulation of negative thoughts, fostering self-assurance, implementing gradual exposure techniques, seeking external assistance, and exploring alternative fitness options.


1. Manage your thought process

Therapeutic interventions for social anxiety disorder encompass the management of negative thought processes that perpetuate anxiety. 

Example Negative Thoughts

  • "Everyone is staring at me. They must think I'm fat and out of shape."
  • "I feel so anxious, I can't get through this workout."
  • "What am I doing here? I don't belong here; I can't do this."

Using a method that involves analysing the evidence supporting or refuting a given thought assists in challenging and ultimately replacing it with a more realistic and constructive alternative. This approach proves instrumental in coping with social anxiety by addressing the impact of thoughts on emotions and behaviours.

Corresponding Realistic Thoughts

  • "Everyone is focused on themselves and their own workout."
  • "I can do this. Keep counting the reps and do my best."
  • "I made a goal to get in better shape. I am working toward that goal."

This cognitive restructuring process aids in fostering a more positive mindset, thereby contributing to an enhanced sense of well-being during gym-related activities.

2. Build self-confidence 

Recognise that your confidence will naturally burgeon as you engage in regular exercise, leading to improved physical fitness and activity levels. The positive correlation between physical activity and confidence underscores the importance of consistent exercise in bolstering one's self-assurance over time.

  • Invest in gym attire that instils confidence, aligns with your preferences, and facilitates ease of movement during exercise. The psychological impact of wearing clothing that makes you feel self-assured can significantly contribute to a positive mindset during gym sessions.
  • Anxiety often stems from the unknown, and proactive measures such as research or seeking assistance can foster a sense of comfort, reducing anxiety. Alleviate intimidation by researching gym equipment in advance, and gaining familiarity with their functions. Alternatively, accompany yourself with a friend knowledgeable about gym equipment. 

3. Take a company or partner with you

Exercising with a friend establishes a level of accountability. Knowing that someone is counting on your presence can motivate consistent attendance and foster a sense of commitment to fitness goals, reducing anxiety related to performance expectations.

  • Exercise with a friend to get a familiar and supportive presence. The companionship can serve as a buffer against feelings of isolation and apprehension.
  • Friends can introduce variety into workout routines, making exercise more enjoyable. 


Related story: The Boom of Medical Gyms


4. Explore the gym 

Gradual exposure to the gym environment can be instrumental in alleviating anxiety and building confidence. Commence by researching various gyms and progressively familiarising yourself with the surroundings. 

  • Begin by simply walking around the gym to familiarise yourself with the layout and equipment. This step allows for a non-intimidating introduction to the gym environment.
  • Extend greetings or engage in small talk with a fellow gym member. 
  • Join group classes like Zumba or yoga, with the latter being particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with anxiety.
  • Wear headphones and listen to music or audiobooks during initial visits.
  • Opt for off-peak hours initially to minimise exposure to large crowds.

Join fitness class with UR.Life


5. Get professional help

A personal trainer possesses the expertise to demonstrate the proper usage of exercise equipment and instruct on correct form during workouts. The tailored assistance provided by a personal trainer serves as a valuable resource for individuals seeking a supportive and educational approach to enhance their gym. 
Learn orientation, proper usage and correct form on gym equipment. This familiarity reduces anxiety related to unfamiliar machinery and promotes a sense of competence.
Trainers provide positive reinforcement and constructive feedback, fostering a supportive and encouraging atmosphere.


Related story: How To Choose A Personal Trainer


While experiencing gym anxiety is a common phenomenon, it is crucial to recognise that, in certain instances, it may be indicative of a more profound issue, such as social anxiety or another anxiety disorder. If feelings of anxiety restrict one's capacity to engage in desired activities, such as going to the gym and participating in workouts, seeking guidance from a medical professional is paramount.

To overcome gym anxiety, utilising a fitness app can be a valuable resource to enhance the overall experience. Incorporating a fitness app into one's gym routine emerges as a practical and empowering strategy. If you're looking for a reliable fitness companion, consider exploring UR.Life App, designed to seamlessly integrate into your fitness journey, providing guidance, motivation, and expertise at your fingertips.

Moreover, fitness apps often come equipped with curated workout plans suitable for various fitness levels and goals. This feature not only adds structure to individual fitness regimens but also ensures that users engage in exercises tailored to their capabilities, fostering a more positive and confidence-building experience. Users can access a wealth of information on nutrition, wellness tips, and progress tracking, creating a holistic approach to health. 


Download the UR.Life App 

For Android


Unlock insider access to the best movement plans for free! Sign up today. 


Follow Us On Instagram