Your Feelings Toward Gym Class Probably Match Your Feelings About Exercising

published Sep 9, 2018
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Undrey /

In grade school, everyone had a least favorite subject. Maybe you really didn’t like reading, so English was boring for you. Or maybe you struggled with math and science and felt left behind during those classes. Honestly, did anyone enjoy running the mile in gym class? Sure, sometimes gym gave us an excuse to stand around and talk to our friends, but more often than not, it was awful.

Changing in the locker room was always a hassle and you never really felt clean after gym class, especially if you got stuck running around outside. For most people, gym class stopped being fun when you weren’t a little kid anymore. Apparently, if you hated gym class in school, you probably feel the same way about exercising now that you’re an adult. Which, honestly, is that very surprising?

According to a study published in the Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, researchers found that people who loved gym class during grade school still held the same emotions when it came to exercise as an adult. And vice versa for those of us who didn’t enjoy P.E.

The authors of the study mentioned in their abstract that “the transition from childhood to adolescence is marked by a dramatic decrease in physical activity.” The CDC recommends that children need at least 60 minutes of moderate activity a day, and at least three days of the week, kids should do exercises that are meant for muscle strengthening, such as gymnastics or playing on the monkey bars. But many adults have office jobs that leave them seated at their desk for extended periods of time, if not all day long. This means we have to go out of our way to exercise.

For the study, the authors received approval from the Institutional Review Board to recruit participants from the Amazon Mechanical Turk, which is an internet service whose members complete tasks for modest monetary compensation. The 1,028 participants were English speaking and between the ages of 18 and 45. They were asked in the survey to list their fondest and worst memory from gym class, their current level of physical activity, the retrospective P.E. enjoyment, cognitive abilities, and more.

When people had to report their worst memories, the most common theme that was reported on the survey was embarrassment. According to the study, “embarrassment was attributed to many causes, including being chosen last for teams, lacking perceived competence in the activity or sport, being made to feel incompetent by the PE instructor or other classmates, or embarrassment from injury.”

After embarrassment, the second most common theme was the lack of enthusiasm for the activities in gym class. Participants did not find enjoyment in playing sports and fitness testing. Understandably so, most participants found changing in the locker room unpleasant. Especially when bullying was also associated with the locker room.

The researchers, based out of Iowa State University, found that those participants who associated bad memories with gym class did not have high levels of physical activity. In their responses, they replied that they were less likely to work out in the next few days. But, they note that not every person who hated gym now hates going to the gym, as personalites change over time and aren’t tethered to our lives from middle school.