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Gym Rat or Gym Obsession: How to Know if it’s Gone Too Far

It’s not a bad thing to want to be healthy.  In fact, getting fit and focusing on your physical, mental, and emotional health is a great way to tackle day to day life.  For those who are looking to better themselves physically or to get in shape, joining a gym is often the way to go.  Spending hours each week sweating out stress and trying to be your best physical self can make all the difference in your life – but it’s important to remember that there is a fine line between being a gym rat and being someone who has a gym obsession.

woman at the gym doing back exercises on a machine

What is a “Gym Rat?”

You may have heard the term “gym rat” in reference to someone who spends a lot of time at the gym, but what exactly is a gym rat?  A gym rat is a person who goes to the gym frequently, if not daily, and is usually recognized by the gym staff and other gym-goers.  A gym rat may or may not have a specific routine, and he or she tends to know the ins and outs of the gym relatively well.  In some instances, gym rats know others who frequent the gym, and are able to tell what type of exercise equipment they work out on the most, who spends a lot of time there, and who is new.

Oftentimes, those who consider themselves “gym rats” are healthy and passionate about fitness, exercise, and their health, as well as the health of others.  They want to look their best and are willing to put the time into taking care of themselves.  Some are offended by the term “gym rat,” while others embrace it.


What is a Gym Obsession?

While some are passionate about fitness, health, and exercise, and can be called “gym rats,” others take that passion a bit too far, becoming obsessed with the gym, exercise, and fitness.  In some cases, this obsession fills up their thoughts and they might spend an unhealthy amount of time at the gym – sometimes several hours every single day.  Those who are obsessed with being at the gym might have a negative opinion of themselves, always striving for perfection, and sometimes even endangering themselves by exercising too often, for too long of periods of time.

Gym obsession is a real thing, and some have often gone on to consider it a disorder.  While going to the gym is a great way to get in shape, blow off steam, or even relax while taking a jog on the treadmill, others find themselves obsessed with it, and spend too much time at the gym.  Here are some signs that you or someone you know might actually surpass the “gym rat” title and are heading into gym obsession.


Always at the Gym

While gym rats might spend a few hours a week at the gym, such as an hour a day, those who are obsessed with the gym and exercising might spend three or four hours there each day, or frequent the gym a few times a day.


Always Being Exhausted

Those who have a gym obsession might appear to be tired, from spending too much time working out and not enough time taking care of their bodies.  This can put stress on their bodies and the body’s systems, causing them to become sick or injured from spending too much time in the gym.


Changing Plans

Those who are obsessed with the gym frequently find themselves changing their plans or planning activities and social engagements around the time they usually would spend in the gym.  For example, someone who is gym obsessed might turn down going for dinner with friends because it interferes with the hours they would spend in the gym.


Bad Body Image

A lot of people who are gym obsessed find that they have a poor body image.  They see an unrealistic version of themselves and strive to perfect it, even if it’s not healthy for them to keep indulging in.  Unrealistic body image can lead to eating disorders as well as over exercising.


What’s the Difference?

The difference between being a gym rat and gym obsessed really lies in the amount of time that you spend in the gym and exercising and how it impacts your life.  If you spend a few hours each week, or even an hour a day, at the gym, it’s not much of a big deal.  Sure, you’ve spent an hour there each day or escaped when stressed, but it doesn’t mean you’re gym obsessed.  As long as you have realistic body image, you take care of yourself, eat correctly, spend time socializing, and don’t let the gym become your entire life, you’re simply a gym rat.  However, if the gym is taking over your life, you might want to look into cutting down a bit and rethinking your personal care and priorities, because it could be becoming an obsession.


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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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