Skip to content

7 ways to overcome exercise anxiety

Why do I get exercise anxiety when I workout? 

It’s totally normal to feel nervous when you try a new gym or exercise routine. But if you feel anxious just walking into a gym, then workout anxiety may be to blame. In fact, our research shows 49% of women have felt negatively judged when working out. The biggest fear factors in the UK? 34% of women worry that others will think they don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t ‘look attractive’ when working out.*

It may seem insignificant, but not only can exercise anxiety stop you from reaching your physical potential with your weekly workout plan – it can make you skip the gym altogether. So what can you do about it? Ahead are 7 tips to beat exercise anxiety nerves and boost confidence.

1. Go prepared

Take advantage of your gym’s free induction – ask questions and take notes. From where the water cooler is, to the difference between cardio machines to how the lockers work. These small, seemingly insignificant details can take up headspace when you’re unsure of your surroundings. Plus, gym staff are trained to spot newbies – don’t be shy to ask questions and recruit their help. Day one? Write down your routine and take it with you. Go over it a few times before you arrive and familiarise yourself with every tricep dip, plank and core exercises so you know exactly what you’re doing. This takes away an element of the unknown so you feel more in control.

2. Hit your 30-minute workout off-peak

Keep your calm and pick quieter times at the gym to avoid the crowds. This is especially helpful if you feel self-conscious and prefer solitary workouts. If off-peak isn’t an option, take your workout outside. Laps around the park, press ups against a park bench, strengthening core exercises against a wall – there are heaps of ways to get active, in the great outdoors.

3. Try a demo video

Worried you don’t know what you’re doing? Online videos are one of the best ways to cross-check your form or check if your core exercises are the right – from the comfort of your own smartphone.

4. Headphones

Block out external distractions and stay motivated with music and sweatproof headphones. If high-energy music isn’t your thing, switch it up and try an audio book or podcast. It’ll give you something else to focus on – other than the exercise anxiety in your head.

5. Exercise at home is a game-changer

If you can’t face the crowds – just yet – boost confidence by practicing with exercise at home. It’ll help you and get comfortable with the kinds of reps, sets and moves you’ll be doing when you do hit the gym. Invest in resistance bands, a padded mat and use your phone as a guide – no matter how small your space, your at-home gym awaits.

6. And breathe…

Exercise is proven to reduce anxiety. In fact: being active regularly causes chemical changes in your brain which can have a positive effect on mood, self-esteem and self-control. Taking control of your breath can really help to calm your mind and slow down your thoughts. Five breaths in, five breaths out, repeat for three to five minutes. Better yet, try a meditation or mindfulness app to get you motivated.

7. The more you go, the easier it gets

Our latest research shows that 25% of women avoid exercise all together because they feel intimidated by the gym*. A trick to help combat the fear? Practice. Have a clear idea of what you’ll be doing at the gym. The more you familiarise yourself with the space, its machines and your action-packed full body workout routine, the easier it becomes to step through the doors and get the workout you want.

Exercise anxiety and “gymtimidation” is a real thing and can really impact your active life. From choosing to exercise at home to being prepared for when you do hit the Crosstrainer, these tips will empower you to feel less stressed and in control of every workout.

* Sure commissioned independent research with OnePoll in September 2019, with 2,000 UK women 18+.

More Sure