Mental Health & Body Image

How Do You Feel about Your Body?

Amazing? Empowered? Happy? Healthy? Liberated? They’re just some of the positive words our members use for those great days when they feel great about their body. But of course, even at Xercise4Less gyms we don’t always feel happy about how we look. And that has a big impact on our mental health.

We know that a positive body image is key to better “overall well being and fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours”. A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that 20% of adults polled felt ‘shame’ or ‘disgust’ because of their body, while 34% felt ‘down’ or ‘low’ when they considered their body image.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we decided to survey our members and social media followers to get a better sense of how they really feel about their bodies. You can also find out what our head office staff said here!  

So, what did our 526 survey respondents think?

Gym Members of Every Possible Body Shape

At Xercise4Less Gyms everyone is welcome whatever your body shape is and whatever your fitness goals are. Our friendly fitness team and Personal Trainers are there not to judge but to support you whether you’re working towards a body building competition or just want to work off your Christmas dinner. We’re focused on improving your health and well being, for us strong is not a size!

In our survey of a Xercise4Less gym members, we asked ‘how happy are you with your body?’. While almost 35% said they were ‘Not happy at all’, encouragingly over 62% said they were ‘A little happy’ or ‘Mostly happy’ with how their bodies look. That’s very important as our self-esteem can be hit badly by a negative body image and those body image concerns can endure from child to adult and affect both women and men.

 We work closely with our members to motivate them for work outs, so it was interesting to see how often they felt 100% positive about their bodies? Over 40% said they ‘Never’ felt good about their body image while 24% had a positive image of their body ‘Most of the time’ or ‘Half the time’. Just over 10% of our respondents felt positive about their bodies ‘Always’.

What causes those negative body images?

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A Real Concern About Your Body Image

If you’ve ever felt down about your body, you’re far from alone. According to the Mental Health Foundation, almost 70% of teenagers and adults have either been anxious or depressed directly because of their body image.

Our view of our own body is affected in very many different ways, but we are heavily influenced by how our family and friends talk about appearance and by our exposure to unrealistic body images through advertising and social media.

You might think then that taking ‘gym selfies’ would be a wholly negative thing. Our gym members would seem to disagree. Of those who take ‘gym selfies’, most are concerned with positive progression rather than an obsession with how others perceive them. Xercise4Less gym members think gym selfies give them a sense of achievement, make them proud, and instill confidence in their future fitness journey. As for other people taking gym selfies, the members of our gyms feel inspired rather than depressed, “good on them” being the attitude.

Working Out the Best Mental Approach for Your Health 

We can work with you at Xercise4Less gyms to work out how to get the best from your fitness programme but why do our members and social media followers exercise? Simply, the positive feelings that our members get about themselves and their bodies.

When asked how would they describe those days when they were feeling positive? The replies range from “I’m happy I’m alive” and “I’m positive about how I am” to “I am me, what could be better?” or “like I can conquer the word”.  Positive-feeling members also used words like “Strong”, “Confident”, “Glowing” and even “Plumpicious”!

The benefits of regular exercise sound pretty good, don’t they?

A Healthy Transformation with Xercise4Less Gyms

At Xercise4Less we see ourselves as a supportive community of fitness enthusiasts. We provide the motivational support our gym members need as they start their fitness journey or as they continue to transform their body. We understand that being supported is vital because many studies have shown that body appreciation is tied to consistent well being and fewer dieting problems.

There are things however that you can do as an individual to take better care of yourself. If you find that your body image is getting you down, why not speak to a health professional or a friend that you can trust? Or work with one of our Personal Trainers on realistic fitness goals. Take time out too to appreciate the strides that you’ve already made in the gym or look forward to the payoff for joining a People’s Gym. Try to not pay too much attention either to the unrealistic body images presented on social media, on TV or in glossy magazines.

Whether you want to transform your body shape or just have some fun exercising, we are there to support you every step of the way, mind and body.

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Chris Nelson – Transformation Story

Struggling with mobility after sustaining a serious injury, 48-year-old Chris Nelson sheds nine stone in one year and now hopes to do a half marathon to inspire others.

Chris Nelson is a design engianeer working in Newcastle but originally from South Lanarkshire, Scotland. In April 2015, Chris was in a car accident which left him with soft tissue injuries of his spine, neck and lower back. A few months later, in July, Chris fell down a two feet deep sink hole in a park, breaking his left knee, requiring surgery.

“I limped around for over a year afterwards with mobility issues and still experience pain today. My poor mobility led to chronic pain which resulted in significant progressive weight gain over the next few years.

“I was then diagnosed with severe sleep apnoea in 2017 and was prescribed treatment of breathing apparatus.”

In November 2017, at his peak, Chris weighed 23 stone 10lbs. He had a poor fitness level, higher blood pressure than normal and other weight related issues. By the end of 2017, Chris decided he needed to start taking control of his weight and so in January 2018, he began his health and fitness improvement journey in a bid to change his life for the better.

The first changes Chris made involved his diet: “I switched from fried food with buttered toast to healthier low sugar, high fibre wholegrain cereals mixed with dried fruit for breakfast.

“I also made adjustments to lunch and dinner and cut out mid meal treats almost entirely, apart from fresh fruit.”

Chris also gave up alcohol in June 2018. Through making these changes to his diet, eating healthily on a lower calorie diet and with normal daily activity like walking during his lunch breaks, Chris managed to reduce his weight down to 18 stone 5lbs by early July 2018. Chris reached a point where he felt he’d be able to undertake more exercise and so joined Xercise4Less Gyms, enrolled in his first transformation camp and began One-to-One personal training sessions.

“At the age of 48, I joined a gym for the first time to rebuild lost muscle, gain strength and improve my fitness and body shape.

“After just one transformation camp, I lost 15lbs and reduced my waistline around the navel by 10cm!”

At his most recent transformation camp, and with the help of his PT Karl McGuire, he has lost an amazing 32lbs, further reduced his waist measurement by another 10cm and increased body muscle mass by using a mix of cardio exercise and regular weight training. Chris has entered the New Year nine stone 4lbs lighter than in 2018 and feels great, weighing 14 stone 6lbs.

“I’m not entirely pain free from my past injury but many of my other health issues are resolved. I feel a lot fitter, physically stronger and generally happier within myself.

“I couldn’t have done it without the genuine support and expert advice from my PT Karl, he motivated me to work harder when he knew I could but also protected me from overexertion.” “Joining Xercise4Less Gyms, signing up for a transformation camp then PT sessions was one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

Chris now wants to use his experiences to inspire others to make a change to their lives: “The key is just to believe in yourself and go for it, enjoy it and always keep positive. His goal for 2019 is to hopefully sign himself up for a running event in 2019, raising money for a good charitable cause.

“If things improve with my leg, I would love to ultimately enter the Simplyhealth Great North Run in Newcastle.”

Incredible transformation achieved by Chris, massive well done from all of us at Xercise4Less, we are so proud.

Personal Trainer – Ryan Price

Working Out is Essential for Your Mental Health

As we know at Xercise4Less gyms, working out is wonderful for your body. Regular fitness sessions have many benefits from preventing disease and reducing high blood pressure to aiding rehabilitation after serious illness or injury. The endorphins and serotonin released by regular workout sessions also make you feel more energetic throughout the day and, importantly for getting in shape, sleep better at night.

But that’s only part of it. Exercising consistently also has a massive impact on your mental health. Taking some exercise will help improve your mood, and if you’re exercising at a local gym like Xercise4Less, it’ll get you out the house, helping to reduce any feelings of isolation.

One of our top Personal Trainers at the Xercise4Less Darlington Gym understands the importance of this mind-body link from tough first-hand experience. Ryan suffered from two minor strokes in 2016 and had to leave the British Army after a full ten years of service. As part of Mental Awareness Week Ryan would like to share his story of how working out made a real difference to his mental state when he was at a very low point.

Exercise is an Ally in Your Mental Struggle

Ryan struggled with his mental health when he was discharged from the Army on health grounds. “I went from being confident and fit and serving my country” to being “no longer fit to serve.” Ryan was left with a “loss of strength, a speech impediment and nerve problems in the left side of my head”, physical problems that he still suffers with today. Those injuries and the end of his Army career affected Ryan’s mental health considerably, “being told my Army career was over after it was all I’d known from the age of 16 made me break down.” But Ryan didn’t give up.

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How Exercise Can Lead to Improved Mental Health

Ryan took stock and received professional help, having someone to talk to, he “realised I needed to give myself a kick up the back side.” So, instead “of sitting around allowing my mind to go into overdrive thinking negative thoughts, I signed up to a local gym, Xercise4Less Darlington Gym.

Ryan started off slowly with daily training sessions but then “increased to two sessions a day, morning and night, making it part of my daily routine throughout the week and socialising on the weekend.” Three years on and Ryan is “back to the positive, confident, physically fit individual I once was” and now working at the gym where his fightback started, Xercise4Less Darlington Gym!

Exercise is the Best Motivation for Mental Health

Ryan really knows how important physical exercise is for your mental health. “Exercise can definitely help improve your mental health, it will take your mind off things when you are in the zone and training.” Even though you may at first struggle to find motivation, or even staying motivated for exercise in the gym, don’t despair. “I used to question the benefits myself, but after experiencing the positive change it had on my life, I know anything is possible.” Ryan counsels that “you have to believe in yourself. Think positively, find a path you are happy with and stick to it. Making exercise a part of your daily routine helps keep you in a positive state of mind. Think about ways you can make exercise part of your daily routine and lifestyle. Choose something you enjoy and then keep on that path even if you get out of the house to take a dog for a walk.”

Ryan recommends that anyone who has mental health issues use exercise to help occupy their mind and get their life back. He has experienced positive mental health changes from exercising and has overcome minor strokes and mental health challenges. And that’s why Ryan now works as a Personal Trainer at Xercise4Less Darlington Gym, to “help others feel confident and get their lives back”.

Work on Your Mental Health with Xercise4Less Gyms

At Xercise4Less Gyms, like Ryan, we see exercise as a vital part of improved mental health and well being. We see the mental strides our members make every day from working out in a highly energetic Les Mills exercise class or working hard with Personal Trainers like Ryan who help inspire and motivate them on their mind and body journey.

If you’re having problems motivating yourself to get into shape, why not try joining your local Xercise4Less gym? Start transforming your health and fitness today just as Ryan continues to do.

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Full Body Weight Plates Workout Guide

weight plates-upper body workout guide
weight plates-upper body workout guide

Grab a weight plate to build muscle and shred fat with this total body workout from Xercise4Less Gyms. Weight plates exercise sessions should be included in your fitness programme whether you’re ready to join a gym, new to gyms, a casual gym goer or already an experienced gym user. When you exercise at your local friendly Xercise4Less gym with this Weight Plates Workout Guides you’ll soon find yourself accelerating towards your fitness goals.

Weight plate exercises are just as useful for your whole body as a dumbbell session or a kettlebell workout, but you also work hard on your grip strength and core stability, ideal as part of your inclusive exercise plan. Let’s look a little closer at this Full Body Weight Plates Workout Guide.

Whole Body Weight Plate Exercises to Burn Fat and Add Muscle

Start to transform your body and see real results from this Xercise4Less Full Body Weight Plates Workout Guide with the following weight plate exercises:


Weight Plate Squat
Weight Plate Row
Weight Plate Pinch Carry
Weight Plate Halo
Weight Plate Crunch Reach


This weight plates workout has five lifting exercises. Do all the reps for each exercise, then rest for 60 seconds. Keep your abs, lower back and glutes engaged for every rep so your body remains stable and you improve the power transfer between your upper and lower body. If you’d prefer to focus on specific parts of your body, check out our Lower Body Weight Plates Workout Guide or the Xercise4Less Upper Body Weight Plates Workout Guide.

If you find you need help at any stage of this weight plates workout, just talk to our friendly Personal Trainers. Xercise4Less fitness staff are always available to advise or guide you when you need it. Get the full calorie-burn benefits of this workout session with the 4 sets of Olympic bumper plates and 1 Ladies Only Olympic bumper plate set available in your local Xercise4Less gym. Whatever exercise equipment you need to get fitter, Xercise4Less provides it.

Read on for more detailed instructions on how to perform these weight plates exercises correctly.

Weight Plate Squat Full Body Exercises

Jack up your upper legs and hamstrings with this massive full body workout move, the Weight Plate Squat.

Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width holding a weight plate. Place the weight plate between your legs and bend at your hips and knees with your chest up and your weight on your heels. Pause in the bottom position for one second, then squeeze your glutes to get back up.

Do 10-12 Weight Plate Squat full body reps and repeat in 4 sets. Rest for 60 seconds.

Weight Plate Row Full Body Workout

Improve your balance and target your middle back muscles with these Weight Plate Row exercises.

Stack the needed number of weight plates on top of a small weight plate on the ground, allowing you to easily grip the rims. Take a shoulder-width stance in front of the weight plates. Bend at the hip with your knees slightly bent, keeping your back flat. Grab the weight plates from the side and let them hang below your chest, arms extended. Maintain a flat back, pull the weight plates to your chest by flexing the elbows. Avoid jerking the weight plates. Return the plates to the starting position and repeat.

Do 10-12 Weight Plate Row full body reps and repeat in 4 sets. Rest for 60 seconds.

Weight Plate Pinch Carry for a Whole Body Session

Work your forearm muscles and benefit from these Weight Plate Pinch Carry exercises.

Hold a weight plate between your thumb and fingers and walk for 30 metres. Switch arms and repeat the distance. This is one set.

Do these Weight Plate Pinch Carry full body reps in 4 sets. Rest for 60 seconds.

Weight Plate Halo Full Body Exercises

Weight Plate Halo is great for building rotational strength and works your shoulders, biceps, triceps, and back.

Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a weight plate with an outside grip, arms extended overhead. Bend your elbows and rotate your arms to move the weight plate around your head in a circle and down the other side. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch direction; repeat.

Do 8-10 Weight Plate Halo full body reps and repeat in 4 sets. Rest for 60 seconds.

Weight Plate Crunch Reach Full Body Workout

Focus on your abs with this amazing Weight Plate Crunch Reach set.  

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Take the weight plate up over your head, then bring it back over. As you sit up, straighten your arms and push the weight plate up into the air as high as you can. Make sure you elevate your chest and straighten your back at the same time. Then bring the weight plate back into your chest as you lie back down to start again.

Do 8-10 Weight Plate Crunch full body reps and repeat in 4 sets. Rest for 60 seconds.

Join Xercise4Less Gyms for a Full Body Weight Plates Workout

We know how to get you fitter at Xercise4Less Gyms and that’s why we provide all the fitness equipment you need for your inclusive exercise programme including weight plates. Use this Full Body Weight Plates Workout Guide to start your fitness journey or jump start your progress if you’re stuck on an exercise plateau. If you’d prefer to split your workouts, try the Upper Body Weight Plates Workout Guide or the Xercise4Less Lower Body Weight Plates Workout Guide for effective ideas on building muscle and shedding real weight.

No matter what stage of the fitness journey you’re at, ready to join a gym, new to gyms, a casual gym goer or an experienced gym user, at the People’s Gym our friendly personal training experts will guide and motivate you towards the most ambitious fitness goals. Not only do you get the best value gym membership with Xercise4Less, you get a huge range of the latest gym equipment including 4 sets of Olympic bumper plates. You can also use our 1 Ladies Only Olympic bumper plate set in a dedicated Ladies Only gym zone if you want a more private space to exercise in. A Women Only fitness space is only part of our impressive fitness environment. Xercise4Less members get to use a special Spin studio, functional fitness area and a combat zone in all our gyms nationwide. Add in the impressive results of our Body Transformation Camps and Boot Camps, and inclusive group fitness classes including Les Mills workouts and you have all the ingredients needed to supercharge your fitness journey.

Join Xercise4Less Gyms today and work out an inclusive exercise plan including weight plate exercises with our friendly Personal Trainers. Why delay your body transformation, start your energising fitness journey right now!