Responsibilities and Fitness: When Dedication Impacts Mental Health


Over-dedication to responsibilities and fitness may be impacting your mental health, as experts say people who don’t make time for leisure may find it leads to less happiness, depression and higher levels of stress.

People who view leisure time as unproductive may be impacting their mental health

Researchers from the Ohio State University have concluded that people who view leisure time as unproductive and wasteful may find it leads to less happiness, higher levels of stress and depression, according to their new research, Ohio State News reports.

The study found that people who believed leisure to be wasteful enjoyed leisure activities less. The more they felt that leisure time was wasteful, the lower levels of happiness they had, while having higher levels of anxiety, stress and depression. This was true whether it involved exercising (active), watching TV (passive) or hanging out with friends (social), or meditating (solitary).

The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology last week.

The researchers said such mindsets were hard to change and, therefore, a new approach may be needed for people who find leisure wasteful, such as thinking about ways leisure activities can be connected to productive ways or can serve long-term goals.

How an over-dedication to fitness may impact your mental health

There are certain mindsets that often develops in fitness enthusiasts. One is the “no pain, no gain” or “go hard or go home” way of thinking. Another is the “no rest days” where you exercise one muscle group while another is recovering, but you don’t miss the gym and take days off from exercising.

But psychologists warn that such behavior can be detrimental to your mental health. Such attitudes, taken to the extreme, can be a form of self punishment rather than a positive place where exercise is joy.

In an article from Psychology Today, Stephanie Roth-Goldberg, LCSW-R, CEDS, calls such mindsets “toxic fitness.” She advocates that we ask ourselves how exercise makes us feel. Are we excited or filled with dread? Do you feel better after exercise or does it change your mood to one of grumpiness and fatigue?

Roth-Goldberg also recommends asking yourself these questions: Are you exercising to prove something to yourself or others? Are you exercising in order to earn the food you eat or burn calories?

If you are too tired exercise, you need to honor that, Roth-Goldberg says, your body is trying to communicate what is safe. She recommends stopping and modifying your movement if something is hurting.

Roth-Goldberg also commends Olympic gymnast Simone Biles for stepping away to put her mental health first, calling it a new precedent that all professional athletes and weekend warriors should follow.