Fitness is Therapy - Read with Caution

Melissa Powex • Thursday 9th February 2017

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Ok – I’m going straight in with the negative.  First point.  Fitness is not therapy. 

I’m starting to see this message being posted across social media and it worries me.  I have spent 10 years working in mental health with incredibly unwell people and please let me tell you, when someone needs to be restrained by more than 5+ people because they are so desperate to end their life or 100% believe that they are being watched by the universe – you take a different perspective on what the world appears to think ‘mental health’ looks like.

I have started to see a pattern in the fitness social media world and this begins with some of the most celebrated social media fitness and wellness people started their fitness journey either not very happy and overweight or not eating and very underweight. 

Having worked with the extremes of both of these body shapes and mindsets in Psychiatric Hospitals – I can assure you, ‘fitness is therapy’ did not fix them.  If anything – fitness played no part what so ever in their recovery.  Instead, support, talking, a different way of thinking, addressing the past, challenging learned beliefs that may not be based in fact - a new focus.  Not just fitness.

I think if ‘fitness is therapy’ can be part of your self-love and finding a happier you, then bloody brilliant!  However - I have seen first hand the benefit of therapy in many forms and I myself have been in therapy and would advocate for people to engage in it themselves.  Therapy provides a space to process your own thoughts and feelings!  The gym can only help you part way through that. 

I believe that therapy and the fitness world share many similarities if you were to look at them in a box (irony intended) – neither is a one size fits all model.  Different therapies work for different people in different ways.  Different workouts work for different people. 

‘Fitness is therapy’ does not help you challenge your views, beliefs and inner demons, particularly when people have become ever increasingly comparative - observing other people’s happy in fitness, travel, eating well, having a best buddy to work out with.  All of these things may cause jealousy, envy, unhealthy habits and a real disconnect from what is important to you as an individual.

When you go through a difficult time – lose someone close to you, experience a difficult relationship, struggle at work – should you use ‘fitness as therapy’ – Maybe? Maybe it is a great place to start to see progress and change if other things in your life are more difficult to address.  Is it going to help you process the changes or difficulties that you think about daily or that burden you about your perception of yourself. 

No it’s not. 

Please help me share this message and if you need advice on how to find a healthy balance of talking and fitness, please get in touch.  

Fitness will not cure what is inside your heart and soul – fitness will not tackle your minds health that will be with you forever.