Is going to the gym after a breakup the best way to move on?

Pump in the iron, do that extra set, but only do it for yourself.

13 June, 2024
Is going to the gym after a breakup the best way to move on?

Breakups are tough, especially if your ex was a great partner (otherwise kudos to you for not having a toxic partner in your life anymore). Naturally, you’re going to experience a host of emotions and would do anything to feel happy and confident once again. And in trying to do so, most people find themselves heading straight to the gym. But is working out the best way to cope with your feelings? And why does it feel so addictive after a point? Where does it all go wrong? Read on to find out. 

First things first, don’t do it to make your ex feel jealous

The most important thing here is to get your priorities and motivations straight. If you’ve been dumped, don’t go to the gym just so your ex can see you and realise what they’re missing out on. Imagine how you would react if you found out your ex didn’t even see the gym selfies you posted on social media. There goes your gym motivation. All you’re left with after this is sadness and anger because you didn’t get the attention you were hoping for. Going to the gym will make you a better version of yourself, so make sure it’s all for the right reasons.

Why do people go to the gym after a breakup?

You crave the feel-good hormone

Being with your partner makes you feel good about yourself, releasing endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones. These are also released during activities like eating delicious food, having sex, or working out. Because these hormones are beneficial, the body and mind seek these activities more. However, another hormone to consider is cortisol, the stress hormone. When activated, cortisol causes the body to tighten and increases the heart rate, preparing you for stress. When you’re going through a breakup, the mental and emotional pain you feel triggers the release of cortisol.

The same happens when you workout; your body releases cortisol in response to physical stress. The difference is that when you exercise, your body gets fitter, and you’re in a much better position to control and stimulate the hormone. This helps you manage stress better. Over time, your body adapts and begins to enjoy physical activity, eventually making it a habit and an integral part of your lifestyle. 

Gives you a boost of confidence

If your ex left you, it can leave you questioning your worth and wondering what went wrong. Working out is a great way to regain your confidence. You'll look better, carry yourself better, and feel empowered by the positive changes. Making self-improvement a priority will quickly boost your confidence.

It's a healthy distraction

Working out, as compared to other activities, allows you to focus and be in the present. Your attention is shifted from the negative to the positive where you focus on the present and stop looking back or forward—thinking about a future that never happened—and will start being mindfully in the moment. You just won’t have the time or any energy to think about the person who broke your heart because your attention will be on completing that last rep. And it’s a much better distraction compared to drinking, gambling, or just wallowing away in a tub of ice cream (too much of a good thing is always bad).

Gives you a sense of time and purpose

Realising the amount of time you have at your disposal is one of the first things anyone who’s heartbroken goes through. Use this time to focus on yourself and take the first steps towards a healthy lifestyle. Remember, change is a good thing because it helps add structure (as workouts have a start and end point that you have to complete in a certain amount of time) and purpose to your life as you reduce and replace any negative feelings. 

You get to meet new people

Naturally, people tend to isolate themselves from friends, family, and colleagues. However, it becomes easier to bond with people (in this case strangers) who share the same interests. For all you know, you might just find your next partner there (take things slow please). Bonding with people over a common interest will provide you with a sense of belonging and companionship that you could certainly do with in these tough times and foster a new support system in your life. 

Remember to balance things out

If the goal is to come out of that slump, only working out isn’t going to help. A well-rounded method is needed. People think that they’re going to work out and feel better. But what happens when you don’t feel good after working out? You need other aspects to come into play as well. A balanced approach—that includes physical, emotional, and social strategies is the most effective way to heal and move on. This includes pursuing your hobbies, interacting with your close friends and family who are part of your support system, and even going to therapy, which will play a crucial role in healing and moving on. 

Inputs by Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai, and Sherene Aftab, psychologist & founder Serene Hour Counselling and Career Advice Consultancy

Lead image credit: Netflix

Also read: Steps to heal and move on from your breakup

Also read: Just went through a messy break-up? Here’s what not to do