Does the thought of starting a fitness routine or hopping back into an abandoned one incite doom, stress or apprehension? Exercise anxiety is a very real thing.
Raffi Bilek, a licensed therapist and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, said a common reason that people get nervous about heading to the gym is because of social pressure to look a certain way.
“It’s often an impossible ideal to attain, or at least it certainly seems that way. And that fear of failure can contribute to anxiety over even getting started,” he explained.
Grace Dowd, a licensed clinical social worker in Austin, Texas, added that exercise anxiety can stem from people worrying that others will judge them while they work out, from feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of fitness options, from setting unobtainable goals, and from body image issues.
According to Dowd, exercise anxiety can manifest in a variety of ways ― physical symptoms such as a fast heartbeat, sweaty palms, nausea or lack of appetite, as well as mental symptoms like excessive worry, rumination and imagining the worst-case scenario.
And the condition is common. “From my experience, I can say that anxiety is the main reason that keeps people from going to the gym or starting a new exercise routine,” Dowd explained. “The irony is that exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety.”
So how do you fight the stress and worry associated with embarking on a new fitness routine? Try one of these expert-backed strategies.
Take time to discover the right workout routine for you.
“Exercise anxiety is many times created by negative thoughts related to fear of failure, embarrassment and fear of pain or injury,” explained Cindy Radovic, the clinical director of emergency and inpatient mental health services at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Maryland.
There are unlimited opportunities to overcome these feelings, but Radovic noted that you have to first be kind to yourself and do what feels...