Guilt and Shame: Motivation For Exercise and Gym Attendance?

Photo Credit: & U.S Pacific Fleet

Photo Credit: & U.S Pacific Fleet

Today, I came across this article:

Body image, expectations and attitudes towards exercise is usually a topic for women in mainstream media. However, this article/study examines how feelings of guilt and shame in men affect their exercise habits and gym attendance. These are my thoughts:


"The researchers found that men worried about body fat were more likely than others to undertake spontaneous, unplanned work-outs – and warned that these ‘sporadic’ exercise patterns tend to be difficult to sustain over time."

Sporadic exercise patterns are better than no exercise at all. Some people/trainers may say: there is no harm in feeling a bit guilty for not hitting the gym, whatever gets you up and moving. I generally agree with this. In my experience, many guys need a little kick in the ass to get them started. Whether these exercise patterns can be sustained should be addressed AFTER someone has already started exercising. It is then a matter of habit formation, support systems (friends, family, workout partners) and most importantly whether they're seeing results or not.


"With the recent growth of ‘selfies’ and the return of muscle-bound Hollywood hero icons like Vin Diesel and Hugh Jackman, there’s a real risk that males may be more influenced to attend the gym more regularly and workout to a point where it becomes dangerous or detracts from their wellbeing."

Looking and feeling like Superman is a "real risk" I believe people shouldn't be afraid of taking. How many people do you know where their well-being is being threatened by regular exercise? Please note that many middle-aged celebrities are on some sort of testosterone-replacement-therapy. A guy in their teens, 20s or even early 30s can build a healthy physique and improve their health and well-being naturally. Exercise is also about balance. How can you fit exercise into your life without detracting too much from other areas such as work and family?

For others that have struggled with their body image and their fitness, I urge you not to take the role of the victim. Find a trainer, watch some Youtube videos, ask a friend to go to the gym with you. For the first few weeks, its okay to let the feelings of guilt and shame motivate you to get in the gym, on your bike, in your running shoes; or whatever gets you moving. Those feelings will go away as you start to change your perspective on exercise. A lot of people seem to forget exercise improves mental health as much as it does physically. What starts out as a sporadic exercise schedule will develop into what I hope to be, a healthy habit. 

Thanks for reading!

Link to the study mentioned in the article:



P.S. One of the best articles I've ever written is on habit formation, and how to take advantage of your environment and support systems to reach your fitness goals. This article has a special place in my life as it combines my experiences with science to demystify the motivations and steps required to form a healthy exercise habit. Its all about stacking the odds in your favor.

Check it at my fitness colleague's website: