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3 Signs Your Gym Isn’t Mental Health Friendly

We know there’s a link between mental health and exercise…but what about mental health and where you exercise?

Columbia University’s Columbia Daily Spectator recently published a satire about how there’s definitely not a link between the university’s “sad underground gym” and mental health on campus.

Again, it’s a satire — but it raises a good question:

How important is your gym’s “vibe” to your mental health?

My personal opinion is that a gym’s environment probably isn’t detrimental to one’s mental health; however, if a gym’s environment is particularly crappy, it probably doesn’t do much to help boost a person’s mental health, either.

About a year ago, I spent some time working in a co-working space. There were tons of benefits I loved: a light and airy work space spacious enough for privacy but with opportunities to network; super fast WiFi; lots of lockable storage space; a fully equipped kitchen for meals, snacks, and mingling; unlimited free coffee from a local roaster. Additionally, the building was located one block from downtown so I could easily quick lunchtime errands or grab a bite with friends.

Sounds great, right?

Well, it also provided free, 24-hour access to the building’s gym. With this gym came a carpeted floor, four papered and windowless walls, and a random assortment of cardio exercise machines that may or may not work depending on the day. What didn’t come with this “gym” (I think at this point we can use quotations, right?) was any semblance of a ventilation system.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that I used this gym exactly twice. Using this gym wasn’t bad for my mental health, but it wasn’t helping anything, either.

So, how can you tell if your gym isn’t doing you any favors, and beyond obvious reasons like stale air, broken equipment, and harsh overhead lighting?

1. You Dread Going to the Gym for More Than the Usual Reasons.

I think most people dread going to the gym sometimes. Even the most dedicated gym rat can get a little unmotivated from time to time! Usually, though, the reasons range from general laziness to insecurity to just wanting to spend your time doing anything else — all of which you’ve probably gotten over by the time you finish your workout.

What doesn’t fall into the category of “usual reasons” for dreading the gym is pretty much anything you can’t change without joining another gym. For example, if you always feeling stuffy and overheated due to an inadequate air and ventilation system, well that’s definitely a reason to dread going to the gym and it’s not something you can change yourself.

2. You Spend More Time Trying to Workout Than Actually Working Out.

There’s only one working treadmill, the free weights stop at five pounds, there’s always a line at your favorite elliptical.

Obstacles that turn a 45-minute workout into a two-hour ordeal are enough to turn anyone off hitting the gym.

3. You Leave Feeling More Stressed Than You Arrived.

You’ve probably seen this on Facebook or Instagram at some point. It’s true, isn’t it?

The same can be said about your gym: it’s not doing you any favors if you genuinely regret going.

Talk to me! Does your gym contribute to your mental as well as physical well-being, or is it time to start looking for a new place to workout?

3 Signs Your Gym Isn’t Mental Health Friendly

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind, Unleash Your Creativity, and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2019). 3 Signs Your Gym Isn’t Mental Health Friendly. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 12, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Oct 2019
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