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How to overcome gym-barrassment, as 68% of people are 'too embarrassed' to exercise

Shot of a mature woman working out on an exercise bike in a gym
Nearly two-thirds of people are too embarrassed to exercise, a new survey has found. (Getty Images)

If you’re an exercise novice, then working out in public or at the gym can be intimidating to say the least.

In fact, a new survey has found that two-thirds (68%) of adults feel too embarrassed to go to the gym because they don’t ‘fit the profile’ of a typical gym goer.

A further 49% of the 2,000 respondents surveyed by ASICS said they wished they had more confidence to exercise, while 23% of people who don’t regularly exercise said that they are too embarrassed to start now.

A further one in five (18%) of people said they would be too worried that people would judge them when they are working out as they are too unfit.

Read more: How to start working out: A beginner's guide to getting fit for the first time (Yahoo Life UK, 10-min read)

It’s no secret that regular exercise can provide a slew of benefits. The NHS recommends 150 minutes of activity per week, which is just 30 minutes a day for five days.

It adds that exercising can reduce your risk of major illnesses such as a stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, and can even lower your risk of early death by 30%.

African American female athlete in sportswear and sneakers jogging on city street
Running or jogging outdoors is a good alternative to the gym. (Getty Images)

So, if you are wanting to develop a regular exercise routine but are too worried about ‘gym-barrassment’, firstly know that you’re not alone.

"Almost all of the reasons people feel intimidated or embarrassed about exercising, especially in front of others in a setting like a gym, come down to two things: comparing themselves to others and the fear of being judged," Abbie Watkins, Personal Trainer at OriGym tells Yahoo UK.

"Whether this is due to worrying more experienced gym goers will judge your form or lack of fitness knowledge, or the result of low self esteem, the fear of being judged does unfortunately put many people off stepping foot in a gym."

Gyms are for every body

While stepping foot in a gym can be an intimidating feat, especially if it seems like everyone else knows what they are doing, it’s good to remember that everyone there was a novice once, and most gyms are filled with people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels.

Read more: Working out between 7am and 9am is best for weight loss, study finds (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

"One of the best things about the gym is that every single person there is working towards being fitter and healthier, whether that’s by losing a bit of weight or working on reaching a new personal best," Watkins says.

"While it’s easy to feel like you’re being judged by others, especially as a beginner, the truth is that most gym goers are too busy focusing on their own goals to worry about other people."

People sitting on their knees after doing a yoga workout in yoga class. Group of people after yoga session in gym.
Group exercise classes can be a good way to start working out. (Getty Images)

How to start working out

To get started, Watkins recommends doing activities that you enjoy and doing them in a comfortable setting.

"Online workouts and in-person fitness classes are a great way to build your confidence and get familiar with different exercises that you can then implement as part of a solo workout," she says.

"Programmes like couch to 5k are perfect for complete beginners looking to get fitter. One of the best things about running outdoors is that nobody knows how far you’ve run. There’s no need to feel insecure about being a bit sweaty or out of breath, as any passersby won’t know whether you're one minute, one mile, or one hour into a run.

Read more: How much should we exercise? Only one in 20 adults getting it right (Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read)

"Remember everyone starts somewhere, if you wait until you’re good at something to start, you never will."

Overcoming mental barriers

If it’s a mental barrier holding you back, Watkins says setting small but manageable goals can help.

"Focus on yourself rather than comparing yourself to others," she advises. "Surround yourself with supportive friends, find a friend to join you on your fitness journey, or go to group classes."

Try an at-home workout instead

It’s worth remembering that you don’t have to go to a gym or even step foot outside to work out - you can get a complete workout done for free in the comfort of your own home.

woman at home workout
If the gym isn't for you, then there are plenty of at home workouts that you can do. (Getty Images)

"If getting an online personal trainer is out of your budget, YouTube is filled with tons of free home workouts," Watkins says.

Watkins recommends looking for bodyweight or HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts as these often include exercises that don’t require you to buy equipment.

"YouTube even has workouts that are inspired by specific artists or genres of music - the options are endless,” she adds. Try searching for home workouts inspired by your favourite singer or style of music, it’ll be much more enjoyable if the soundtrack to your workout is exclusively made up of songs you love."