Time To Talk Day: How The Gym Can Improve Your Mental Health, Self Confidence And Build Community 

The link between mental health and exercise is nothing new – studies have proven the benefits time and time again, and millions of people around the world hit the gym as a way of managing their stress and anxiety, and improving their self-esteem.  

With Time To Talk Day on the 2nd of February focusing on how we can open up conversations around mental health to support one another and ultimately change lives, PureGym are highlighting just how much the gym can improve your mental health and help to open up these conversations.  

PureGym have spoken to Hull gym member Emma, TikTok fitness influencer Sydney Cassidy (@sydgrows) and Sophie Brock, PT and Assistant Manager at PureGym Manchester to see how the gym has benefitted their mental health, and what advice they have if you’re wanting to see if exercise can do the same for you.   

“I feel much more confident and happier in myself”  

Exercise and hitting the gym is a well-documented way of improving your self-confidence and self-esteem, as Emma can confirm: “Aside from the physical benefits of training, I’ve noticed the powerful change it has made to my mental health. I had anxiety and depression for several years but now I feel much more confident and happier in myself.  

“When I go to the gym, even for a short session, my mood instantly improves, and I have more energy to face the day. Lifting weights is a great stress reliever for me and has given me so much more self-confidence. It’s helped me to become more mentally resilient too – I know that, with practice and patience, I can do really hard things when I put my mind to it.”  

Building up a consistent exercise regime is the best way to give yourself a boost of confidence. As you set and then achieve different personal goals, you’ll be able to pause and give yourself a pat on the back, knowing that you’ve achieved something great. Not only will you be able to run, row, lift, cycle, push and pull faster, further, and heavier than before, but you’ll definitely feel a difference in yourself too.   

The level of camaraderie and support that you can find is just unmatched”  

Similarly, Sydney joined her local gym at the end of 2021, in a bid to help ease her anxiety and overthinking during a particularly low point in her life. Since then, she’s gone on to become a fitness influencer with over 300,000 followers, undergoing a huge mental transformation and now regularly posting helpful videos that inspire many more women, and men, to feel less nervous about entering the gym:

“There’s something about overcoming a challenge or achieving a goal at the gym that gives you this kind of mental toughness and resilience to tackle whatever it is you’re dealing with outside of the gym. Your stress levels are lower, and your head is clearer. I really could not even begin to explain how impactful going to the gym regularly can be for an individual.”  

Despite struggling with gym-timidation at the start of her journey, as more than half of people do, Sydney has also found common perceptions and stereotypes of the gym community to be far from true:

The friends I’ve made and the interactions I’ve had at the gym have completely transformed my confidence and the way I think about myself.”  

This sense of community is something that PT Sophie also says is great for our mental health: As we know now more than ever, feeling isolated can have a negative effect on many aspects of our mental health, from loneliness to lack of motivation. Regular gym sessions are not only a way to keep you active but can also help in creating a routine and adding structure to your day, along with being with the presence of other gym goers, even if from a social distance.”  

Top Tips for Using The Gym To Support Your Mental Health  

The gym can be daunting, and for many people taking the first few steps out onto the gym floor can be a huge mental challenge in itself. With this in mind, Sophie, Emma and Sydney have shared their top tips on how you can break into a gym routine and use exercise to strengthen yourself mentally as well as physically.  

1. Book onto one of the tours of the gym as soon as you can  

From her own experience, Emma suggests booking onto a gym tour or induction as soon as you sign up for your membership:

“you’ll be shown where everything is and that means when you come back you know exactly where to go first and how to use and set up the machines.”   

Not only will you have better knowledge of how to use each machine, but you’ll also know where they are in the gym, helping to reduce the time you spend on your workout and therefore making it feel like a less daunting task.  

2. Go with a plan for your workout  

Emma explains that pre-planning your workout can also be really helpful when starting out:

“Whether it’s something you’ve decided on yourself, using 4 or 5 different bits of kit, or one from the PureGym app or another fitness program, knowing where you’re heading next and combining this with the information from your tour or induction will get rid of the ‘lost’ feeling you may have on the gym floor.”  

3. Record your training and set goals  

It can be hard to be motivated to hit the gym all the time, and this in itself can play havoc with your mental health – but setting yourself small challenges and goals can help to get you up and moving. Sophie explains:

Long term goals are great, but rather than looking at the end picture, focus more on the short-term and set yourself a smaller, less overwhelming goal to start with – one that can be achieved in a shorter amount of time. These objectives will feel a lot more achievable and can be an excellent way to get yourself back on the right track. It gives you something to strive towards and reasons to feel genuinely proud of yourself.”  

Emma also recommends making a note of your workouts, either in a book, on your phone, or in an app to track these goals, as well as give yourself a boost when needed:

“it’s amazing to look back and see how much stronger or faster you’re getting week after week!”  

4. Remember that everyone was a beginner  

Although it may feel like everyone else in the gym is a committed gym buff with impressive strength and skills, it’s worth remembering that they too would have been a beginner once as well. Sydney felt much the same on starting her gym journey and stresses the importance of not letting this stop you from learning new things:

“I had massive imposter syndrome about using certain parts of the gym and felt that because I didn’t know much as a beginner, that I would be taking up too much space – which is completely not true!”  

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  

One of the biggest takeaways for any new gym-goer that wants to use exercise to benefit their mental health, is to not be scared of asking for help. Again, this may be something that you struggle with, but Emma adds:

“Whether it’s a trainer or just another member, everyone is always happy to help – to show you where something is, to tell you how something works, or to spot you.”  

If you know people that already use the same gym, Sydney recommends training together until you feel comfortable:

Training with friends that are confident using all of the equipment and areas of the gym is really helpful too. They really helped ease my anxiety and I remember getting them to walk me through how I would set up machines and racks etc so that when I came alone I’d feel much more self-assured.”  

Make this week the week you improve your mental health by starting your own fitness journey. Learn more about PureGym HERE.     

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