Aren’t we all used to hearing statements like “the more you exercise, the better it is for you”? While we can’t deny how important it is to stay active, it is equally critical to understand that an excess of anything is bad – and exercise is no exception.
But do we ever talk about the negative sides of obsession with fitness? No, right?
This is why, in this article, we have mentioned everything you need to know about the toxic fitness culture.
Healthy exercise vs. unhealthy exercise: a thin line
Healthy exercises make you feel good in physical, mental, and emotional aspects. They help you achieve positive results in the long run. But that’s not the case with an unhealthy exercise routine.
Below are some of the “too much exercise symptoms” that indicate you’re a victim of a toxic fitness culture:
- You find yourself overdoing it
An average person does a workout for about 30 to 40 minutes. But if you indulge in workout for hours, it is a not-so-healthy sign.
- You think about workout 24*7
Even when you are not exercising, you’re thinking about workout. You think and worry about it and keep planning your workout.
- Missing exercise gives you stress and anxiety
It is normal to take a break. You might have to let go of working out on some days due to travel plans or busy professional or personal work schedule. But if this gives you stress and anxiety, this is a sign that you’re not into healthy exercise.
- It affects your everyday activities negatively
Exercise should have a positive impact on your life. But if it is negatively impacting your everyday activities like academics, work-life, or relationships, you need to reconsider how you practise it.
- You do it even when you aren’t feeling well
If you’re not feeling well – mentally, emotionally or physically and something is still making you exercise excessively, it might not be a healthy sign.
Identifying a toxic fitness culture
Now that you know what differentiates healthy workout from unhealthy one, you might wonder what promotes toxic fitness culture and how one becomes a victim. So, here are a few things that normalise the unhealthy workout routine.
- Addiction with numbers
From your walking speed to your sleeping patterns and everything in between, devices like fitness watches allow you to track many factors that “monitor” your health. While it is good to measure your progress, being obsessed with numbers can prove to be dangerous. As you might feel compelled to boost your numbers every day irrespective of , this can contribute to deteriorating health.
- Believing in fitness myths on social media
Fitness influencers on platforms like Instagram “motivate” you to work out. But the same “fitness gurus“ can make you believe in myths. They will tell you if they can do it, so can you. But not everyone is created equally, and not everyone can achieve that dream-like body. You might not know what goes behind the scenes to achieve that look or fitness level, and it can compel you to engage in unhealthy workouts.
- Obsessing over movements throughout the day
A popular fitness suggestion is to include movements throughout the day irrespective of the activity you are indulging in, such as doing lunges while brushing teeth. While this can be helpful to some extent, it can also make you feel mentally and physically exhausted. It can make you think about exercising 24*7 and indulge in an obsessive lifestyle instead of a healthy one.
- When you start believing that fitness = weight loss
This is the most unfortunate notion. For most people, fitness implies losing weight. They consider weight loss as a sign of improving health – which doesn’t hold true. Losing weight cannot always be a positive indication. Moreover, if your focus is on weight loss and not fat loss, you can lose muscle mass and water, which is not good for your health.
- Overly emphasising on physical aspect of fitness
As the pandemic hit our lives, we have realised the importance of being fit. Moreover, news channels and social media platforms have been over emphasising the message of engaging in physical activities. One thing that has to be understood is fitness is a holistic concept. You need to focus on all aspects like mental health, physical exercises, nutrition, and sleep to be fit. Over-indulging in workouts cannot prove to be healthy.
- Taking generalised statements by non-experts seriously
You must have come across advice from random people asking you to do XYZ to stay fit because it helped someone else. Taking such statements seriously can impact your health negatively. Since every body type is different, the requirements for them differ too and thus there is no one solution that would fit everyone’s requirements.
Coping up with the negative effects of workout culture
If you find yourself being a part of this toxic fitnesss culture, it’s time to prepare for an exit. Following are some tips that will help you:
- Think less about workout
Although not easy, it is important to put the idea of working out on hold for some time. Your focus should be on improving your overall well being by eating a balanced diet, sunbathing, indulging in de-stressing activities, taking proper sleep, seeking genuine social connections, exploring new interests, or practising things that make you happy.
- Stay away from social media for some time
No matter what is ‘hot’ on social media, taking a break from exercise won’t do you any harm. Take a break from checking your feed on social media or following “fitness gurus” who push you to break your limits. It’s time to stop comparing yourself with them, and focus on yourself instead.
- Take breaks, don’t practise every day
If you are a gym goer or indulge in in-home workout, make it a point to take a break at least one day per week. This would give you enough rest for you to relax and your body to recover. For some people exercising on alternate days works well. This way, they stay in their workout routine without getting too consumed into it.
- Seek professional help
Instead of seeking suggestions from your friends or any uncles and aunties, make sure you seek professional help from certified trainers, nutritionists and psychologists. They can help you practice a healthy routine and overcome your obsession.
Addiction to anything is not unhealthy, even for workouts or fitness. If you are a fitness freak, lookout for early signs of compulsive exercising and cope with them when exercise becomes unhealthy. An obsession with workouts can also be life-threatening, so it is important to address them as soon as possible and focus on your overall well-being.
Do you think you’re a victim of toxic fitness culture?