What motivates you to attend the gym? Many people find workout inspiration from its proven health benefits, weight loss assistance, increased muscle mass, the freedom to eat more, and paid membership fees. We think men hit the gym to get more bulky muscle, but new research questions that belief.

The study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, shows that men's gym attendance is fueled by hidden fears about body fat, shame, and guilt more than a desire to build muscle. Researchers from the U.K. and Australia discovered that a man’s perceptions of personal fat predicted how frequently he would go to the gym.

"This study is important in showing that whilst they may be more unlikely to admit it, body dissatisfaction and dysmorphia can and do affect males as well as females, and therefore should be investigated fully,” said Dr Keatley, a specialist in the study of complex patterns of behavior and motivation from the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln, U.K.

This conclusion was reached after participants answered a self-report questionnaire about attending the gym and completed a second test, which evaluated their non-conscious motivation. All 100 men had a slightly elevated body mass index (BMI) and said they work out for around an hour, two or three times a week.

Almost 60 percent of the participating men listed health and fitness as their primary reason for attending a gym or fitness activity.

"Spontaneous gym goers are more likely to be motivated by guilt, shame or pressure, so it's important to turn this around and place a focus on positive feelings of achievement and pride, fostering a long-term healthier behavior change,” Dr Keatley explained. "Anyone can be affected by what they see online, the social cues images can give, and the popular conceptions of an 'ideal body image.' With the recent growth of 'selfies' and the return of muscle-bound Hollywood hero icons like Vin Diesel and Hugh Jackman, there's a real risk that males may be more influenced to attend the gym more regularly and workout to a point where it becomes dangerous or detracts from their well being.”

Source: Caudwell K, Keatley D. Running Head: Attitudes And motivation In Gym-Attending Males. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2016.

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