Why do gyms have mirrors?


Man lifting weights in front of mirror


Mirrors in gyms can be intimidating for both fitness newbies and seasoned pros. They’re the extra pair of eyes watching when you’re holding that awkward squat. For anyone with low body confidence, they can also be a reminder of everything that you don’t like about yourself.

So why do gyms have mirrors? 


Mirrors Make a Room Lighter

Mirrors create a feeling of space and light in buildings where windows or outdoor access may be limited.  Gyms can be below ground, inside shopping centres or retail park units and may not have adequate access to large windows or external space. The gym floor must be well lit so that people can exercise safely. Mirrors reflect light and are often used to enhance light levels in areas or corners of the gym that need brightening up.

Mirrors in Gyms Help Improve and Maintain Form

If you’re exercising without a trainer or a partner, then it can be difficult to tell if you’re doing it right.  Form is important in fitness: it helps us maximise our efforts and it reduces the risk of injury but if you can’t see what you’re doing then how do you know if you’re doing it wrong or inefficiently?  Over time, you should work to improve your form without the need for a mirror but in the meantime, it’s a useful tool in ensuring that you’re exercising properly. Mirrors can benefit everyone: from strength training and cardio right through to barre and yoga. 

Mirrors Make Classes Look Bigger

Mirrors can also make class sizes look bigger than they are.  Quite often, you’ll see this in spinning classes.  It helps create a feeling of community and anonymity during exercise: you become part of a pack.

Mirrors Help Track Changes in the Body

You’re always going to get posers in the gym standing in front of the mirrors admiring themselves, but mirrors aren’t really about indulging vanity (not always, anyway).  They’re there to help you see the changes in your body as you go through your fitness journey. Mirrors help us track our progress.  Beginners often look to weight scales as indicators of success but mirrors can help us to spot changes sooner.  Most of us don’t have floor-to-ceiling mirrors at home so the gym is an opportunity to look for the increased definition, fat loss or fitness change in those early-to-mid stages of training.

Mirrors are also used for selfies in gyms and it’s easy to criticise this as vanity but it can be a great way of tracking your progress and inspiring others. 

The Case Against Mirrors

Some instructors believe that mirrors are bad for form.  They’d argue that relying on visual confirmation means you’ll never grow out of using a mirror to check. Mind muscle connection is hugely important in later stages of training and that may be harder to achieve if you’re overly focused on watching yourself.  Aim to use the correct form without the need for a mirror for an instinctual process rather than a passive viewing exercise.  Beginners should use mirrors until they’re comfortable and confident they’re doing their exercises correctly.

And not all gyms have mirrors.  You won’t find them in cross-fit gyms because cross-fit is focused on creating strength and endurance rather than how the body looks. Cross-fit gyms will often make use of the wall space, too, which doesn’t leave much (if any) room for mirrors.

Some gyms remove mirrors because they’re an entry barrier for those at the start of their fitness journey. Mirrors can be triggering for people with body issues or low-self-esteem.  You’ll find that some female-only gyms won’t have them at all. Other gyms will have sections of wall space for mirrors but leave other areas mirror free.   

Some gyms don’t use mirrors because they say it creates a sense of ‘voyeurism’ which is a feeling of being watched.  This can be distracting and off-putting. It’s hard not to keep looking up at yourself or other people when you’re working out.

Mirrors in a Home-Gym

You might not have considered adding a mirror to a garage or at-home gym but it’s worth having one available.  You don’t have to put it on display or leave it uncovered but it can be useful for double-checking your form and for motivating yourself whenever you don’t feel as if you’re making enough progress.  If you’re just starting a new exercise regime, then mirrors can be a helpful way of making sure you’re contracting, moving or aligning properly and safely.

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