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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Aberdeen chapter.

How the Gym Improved My Mental Health

The gym. A daunting place for many. And if you are one of these people; someone who wants to start at the gym but is too anxious about the environment, I am here to tell you that there is nothing to be scared about. Here is my experience:

For most of my life, I was unhappy with my weight and how I looked. My self-esteem and body confidence were at an all-time low, and I didn’t have the best relationship with food (but that’s a topic for another day). All of this took a huge toll on my mental health, I felt miserable. At this stage in my life, many of my days were overcome with tears and self-scrutiny, I honestly felt disgusted with myself. It’s safe to say that I was in a TERRIBLE place mentally. That is when I decided to speak up and get some help.

I was referred to a counsellor to help with my body image issues and the anxiety that came along with it. Unfortunately, I felt like their advice was just not what I needed. (Please remember that this is my personal experience, and if you are dealing with any mental health issues, please seek the help you require, and that works for you.) My counsellor’s advice was to remove all the mirrors from my house so that I would stop obsessing over my looks – well I’m sorry but my mum had just got me a really expensive vanity mirror the previous Christmas, so that wasn’t happening. I was also advised to have cups of tea and go for walks. And yes, while those things are nice, walking in public wasn’t exactly something I felt comfortable doing, especially not alone. I felt like these counselling sessions weren’t helping me achieve anything. I felt like I wasn’t taking any real steps to change. Therefore, I decided to stop attending my sessions and do something about it myself. At the end of the day, it’s my life; I am in control.

In September of 2022, I sent an enquiry to a local personal trainer who was taking on 1 to 1 client. I heard back almost immediately, and she could start working with me a few days later. So, this was it: a new beginning.

Every Thursday morning before school, I would go to my pt sessions. It was there where I found my confidence in the gym as I was guided through different workouts. My trainer Siobhan made me feel extremely comfortable and listened to any doubts or troubles I may have had, while still pushing me to do my absolute best. By having a personal trainer as a gym newbie, things don’t feel as scary, as there is a friendly face there to guide you. If you have any questions, they get answered. If you’re unsure of a piece of equipment or exercise, it gets explained and demonstrated. I started to feel so much better about myself and my abilities. And my confidence grew and grew as I would go to the gym myself on other days of the week.

Weeks turned into months and I, along with others, could see the changes in myself – not only physically but mentally as well (I still do notice the changes.) My energy increased, my skin became clearer, and I became more confident in myself and my body. My life became so much better.

Flash forward to today, and the gym is still a place where I spend most of my time (I do take my rest days of course.) This place that I once found extremely scary and nerve-racking is almost a second home to me now. I love it, which old me would’ve thought was a crazy thing to say. While I’m there it’s like I’m in my own little world, where I get to focus entirely on me. A few years ago, the main thing that stopped me from stepping foot in the gym was that I was scared people would look at me and judge me. But I’ve come to realise that isn’t the case. Everyone is in their own little worlds, focusing solely on themselves. Starting at the gym and having a personal trainer to help start me out has caused me to have a whole new mindset and I am forever grateful for that.

Since starting the gym, I’ve also begun to lead a whole new lifestyle. I go for walks every day, my eating habits are so much healthier, and my mood has improved significantly. I enjoy living now, which for a while, I thought living was just tolerable.

Emma Nicol

Aberdeen '27

Hi! I’m Emma, an aspiring Journalist from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. Writing (and reading) is something that I’ve always felt a connection to, and I hope that comes through in my work.