Wait, There are Unhealthy Reasons to Workout?

Working out is widely accepted as healthy, no matter what. However, that is not always the case. In fact, there are some situations where exercising might not be a healthy choice at all.

By Brit Guerin, LMHC

Content warning: weight loss, over-exercise, disordered eating

 

Working out is widely accepted as healthy, no matter what.

 

However, many are surprised to learn that is not always the case. In fact, there are some situations where exercising might not be a healthy choice at all.

 

When you are sick, exhausted, or injured, you should pump the breaks on exercise. Further, there are a lot of underlying psychological reasons to carefully consider when choosing to exercise or not.

 

Motivations to workout that are counter to physical and mental health are often subtle, but can be damaging long-term.

 

Here are some potentially unhelpful reasons to workout:

  1. You feel guilty about what you ate
  2. You are trying to burn calories to earn food later
  3. You are trying to lose weight fast
  4. Your workout is a means to punish your body

If you feel like your motivations to exercise are deeply seeded in guilt and shame or that you feel stressed out when you miss a workout, I highly recommend working with a licensed therapist who understands disordered exercise.

- Brit Guerin

Let’s pause. 

 

Notice how you feel in your body when you read these reasons. If it’s triggering to you because you often have these intentions, you are a normal human being. 

 

Most people have these intentions because diet culture and toxic fitness culture is considered the norm. 

 

Be kind to yourself. Keep reading and see how you might be able to shift your intention behind exercise.

 

If you feel like your motivations to exercise are deeply seeded in guilt and shame or that you feel stressed out when you miss a workout, I highly recommend working with a licensed therapist who understands disordered exercise. You might also try to back off of exercise on your own and add in more gentle movement like walking and restorative yoga.

More Helpful Reasons to Workout

 

So, what are more positive reasons to workout? You might choose to workout because:

 

  1. You feel sluggish and could use an energy boost
  2. You are working on your strength, flexibility, balance, or endurance
  3. You want to do something fun with your family
  4. You want to reconnect with a friend over a walk
  5. You want to get outside 
  6. Your body is tight from sitting all day
  7. You have a goal (i.e. running a 5k) that you want to accomplish
  8. Your lower back starts to hurt when you are sedentary
  9. You need some time to get out of your head and into your body
  10. Exercise is a good stress reliever

 

Now, notice how you feel in your body when you read this list. Again, it’s not to judge yourself, but to offer kindness and see if you might begin to shift your narrative. 

 

Over time, your relationship with exercise may become more nourishing, and thereby more helpful in the long run.

 

Exercise isn’t unhealthy in and of itself. It’s the potential underlying self-degrading thoughts that we want to challenge. 

 

Your body is awesome and movement is a wonderful way to celebrate your body.

Brit Guerin (she/her) has combined experience in both fitness and mental health. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, ACE certified Health Coach, as well as an ACSM Exercise Physiologist. She is using her holistic approach to health by creating a wellness center in downtown Raleigh called Current Wellness. Using Intuitive Eating and a Health at Every Size approach, she works with clients specifically who want to heal their relationship with food and befriend their body.

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