Gym culture is taking over social media, and the consequences of unrealistic workout plans, health advice, diets and before and after pictures on social media are causing many to feel unwanted in the fitness world.
Health fads have always been a thing, but gym culture has taken over social media. Whether it is counting calories or intense weight lifting schedules, many find themselves stuck in toxic gym culture. Gym culture encourages individuals to push themselves to their limits.
People can hurt themselves or others without even knowing it. It can also take a toll on someone mentally, as gym culture focuses on people’s insecurities, encouraging judgment and excluding those who don’t look the part.
Getting buff takes constant work, many months and tons of dedication. While we should celebrate others’ progress in the gym, we can’t compare ourselves to each other. One person's workout plan can have a completely different effect on another person’s body.
This tendency to compare creates opportunities for unhealthy habits. Often, someone who has a rapid weight loss or muscle gain also engages in dangerous behaviors like eating disorders or steroid use.
Getting lean in a short period of time isn’t good for our bodies, as they do not have time to catch up with the physical changes we experience. Increasing muscle mass in short windows of time is not a long-term solution.
These dangerous behaviors are products of toxic gym culture. Steroid use can cause hair loss, acne, severe mood swings and even cancer.
While a beginner in the gym can see fast results, the muscle gain starts to slow as the person gets more in shape. This allows our body to recover correctly. Taking steroids messes with this balance.
Restrictive eating and calorie counting do have results, but those results make us feel worse. This extends to individuals who hyper focus on their protein intake, carbohydrate to fat ratio, and their total calorie loss in the gym.
Only eating “clean” or going full Keto may work in the moment, but restricting our bodies so much only hurts us in the long run. Many of these quick fixes are meant to maintain that “perfect” look.
Gym culture also changes the reason why so many of us workout. Instead of focusing on bettering our health and challenging ourselves, gym culture turns fitness into a competition and a way to judge others.
A common reason people get in shape is to get back at an ex, prove others wrong, or to get in shape for other people. Fitness is about ourselves, just one of many ways to practice self care.
Moreover, gym culture encourages others to look down upon those who don’t workout. Some people choose to not workout because they don’t enjoy it, while others can’t because of health reasons.
It’s a personal preference, and any decision shouldn’t be judged. The focus on doing what is best for the individual has been shifted into doing what looks best to other people.
Finally, gym culture gate-keeps others from getting in shape in the first place. Whether it be home workouts during quarantine or running as a form of stress release, each person has to start somewhere.
Gym culture perpetuates toxic attitudes towards individuals who are “worthy” of getting in shape. It’s about style over substance; a person must look the part.
Worse, this problem extends to which type of people deserve to workout. While each student at Tech has a gym membership built into their tuition, once we leave college, we have to start paying for our own memberships if we choose to workout.
This can be expensive, ultimately forcing those who can’t afford memberships to choose to workout at home or not at all. Many gyms also have low diversity rates, instilling even more fitness gatekeeping.
White people have more opportunities to get in shape than any other group of people, effectively segregating gyms. Fitness should be about getting better together, not forcing people apart.
Every person deserves the opportunity to feel safe, accepted and appreciated in the gym. Gym culture hurts many people on their way to feeling better by focusing on insecurities, creating a judgmental atmosphere and excluding anyone who doesn’t look the part.