Men’s Hidden Fears Fuel Gym Attendance

Men’s Hidden Fears Fuel Gym Attendance

Men’s hidden fears about body fat are fuelling gym attendance, according to a recent study.

Psychology researchers say that men who go to the gym are often motivated by feelings of guilt and shame rather than a desire to build muscle.

Out of 100 men surveyed in order to find out their motivations for heading to the gym:

  • Nearly 60 per cent of the men listed health and fitness as their primary reason.
  • Just 16 per cent said they were motivated by their appearance or that they were working on amateur body building.
  • Eight per cent said training or competing was their main focus.

The men also responded to a series of statements about body image and motivation, which revealed that men with concerns about body fat were more likely to undertake spontaneous, unplanned work-outs.  Whilst it’s great to see that we’re taking steps to tackle excessive body fat, these ‘sporadic’ exercise patterns can be difficult to sustain over time.

Researchers say the findings raise questions about how the ‘ideal body’ is portrayed in the media. In today’s age of the ‘selfie’, it’s easy to see how men compare their own bodies, to those they see on social media every day. And it’s often this comparison that drives both men, and women to improve their own physique.

The research results could help health and fitness professionals to improve gym attendance, by focusing on pro-active goal-setting and personal targets, rather than body image.

Dr Keatley, a specialist in the study of complex patterns of behaviour and motivation, said: “Coaches, trainers, and even ‘gym buddies’ need to be aware of individuals’ motivations and reasons for attending a gym.”

“Spontaneous gym goers are more likely to be motivated by guilt, shame or pressure, so it’s important to turn this around and place a focus on positive feelings of achievement and pride, fostering a long-term healthier behaviour change.  Anyone can be affected by what they see online, the social cues images can give, and the popular conceptions of an ‘ideal body image’.”

For Personal Trainers, it’s more important than ever to keep up to date with the latest fitness trends, but also to fully understand a client’s reasons for working out.  Many individuals exercising regularly may not be aware of the risks, or even danger they pose to their bodies. They may be exercising too rigorously, too often, or with the wrong technique. Not only can this lead to burnout, but it can also affect the results, leading to demotivation and disappointment. It’s a vicious cycle that can easily be broken with the help of a qualified fitness professional.

Personal Trainers don’t just plan fitness programmes. A great Personal Trainer is a coach, motivator, cheerleader, mentor and role model. So as men take to the gym to tackle the shame they feel about their bodies, it’s up to us as fitness professionals to understand what they want to achieve, before giving the support, guidance and motivation to get there.

If you’re thinking about becoming a Personal Trainer, speak to the Focus Training team about our latest courses coming to a venue near you.

The study is published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
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