Getting BIG: Men and the potentially damaging attitudes towards the gym

It is a well known fact that thousands of men across the world have an unhealthy obsession with the gym and bulking. Whether they go with friends or alone, men are typically socialised to be more active in childhood e.g. engage in football and other sports to fit with their gender stereotype. However, the alarming […]

Emmie Foster
19th October 2022
It is a well known fact that thousands of men across the world have an unhealthy obsession with the gym and bulking. Whether they go with friends or alone, men are typically socialised to be more active in childhood e.g. engage in football and other sports to fit with their gender stereotype. However, the alarming rates of men's mental health have skyrocketed over the last decade which can allow us to question whether normalising physical exercise within most boys is causing more harm than good. 

According to the ONS, males account for three-quarters of suicides registered in 2021. Exercising frequently has been scientifically proven to boost endorphins and levels of serotonin which can improve one's mental well-being, however, from this men can begin a toxic obsession with the gym and begin to rely on it for their happiness and boost their self-esteem. Moreover, within the gym itself, there are all different body types which can pose a further negative impact on men’s mental health. Although, one thing the majority of these people have in common is to have an ‘ideal’ body type.

One thing the majority of these people have in common is to have an ‘ideal’ body type

Likewise, for women, men also have a set of unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards. These are based solely on body types and toxic masculinity, the pressure to be an ‘alpha male’ or what is described as ‘manly’. Frequent exercise and having perfectly shaped pecs, abs and back muscles are what is expected of men based on very exaggerated aftershave ads and heavily edited images online which further boosts low self-esteem issues. Thus, there is no surprise that there is a more current rise of eating disorders among men through binge eating disorders, which occurs from the bulking culture within the gym encouraging them to eat mass amounts in order to turn fat into muscle. 

Moreover, the obsession with getting big never ends. There is a constant need to exercise and maintain that physique once you reach the level where you look like a Greek God as such. From being around people that are so-called ‘gym rats’ I’ve noticed that when they go on holiday where there’s an all-inclusive food and drink, many nights out and time to relax, they often feel an immense pressure to get back in shape once they get back into a routine at home or do intense exercise to make up for the break they had. Men may believe this is normal as everyone does it, we all let loose on holiday and try to adjust to how life was before we went e.g. go back to work or university. This is a toxic habit. Many of them are too afraid to admit it or are unaware of their unhealthy and damaging obsessions with the gym and the constant need to maintain such a pristine body image. We all see it but choose to ignore how truly harmful this is. To the men reading this who resonate with this lifestyle - when is enough, enough? 

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