Is a Gym Membership Right for You?
Many people commit to setting and meeting health-related goals in the new year, but does carrying through on achieving a “new you” necessitate a gym membership? An estimated 40 percent of Americans make New Year resolutions, but 80 percent of them fail by February. For gyms, this translates to large profits at low attendance rates and less overhead costs. While a gym can provide individuals with a clearer path to better fitness, there are important considerations to ensure a gym membership is the right route to satisfying results.
Fitness-focused consumers should reflect on the motivating force driving them toward an active lifestyle. The reasons for working out vary from person to person. Where one individual’s determination to work out is fueled by a combination of the health and mental benefits associated with exercise, another individual might be lured to the gym to avoid feeling guilty for not using their gym membership. This is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and the former trumps the latter in the long run. An extrinsically motivated individual uses their gym membership itself as a motivator and therefore exercises on a conditional basis of negative reinforcement – “if I don’t go to the gym, then I will feel bad about paying for something I’m not using.” An intrinsically motivated individual exercises because they want to meet a personal goal they set for themselves with no strings attached; they are more likely to be consistent with and derive greater satisfaction from their workouts.
A gym offers the equipment and community conducive to better physical fitness, but is it the be-all end-all of a more active lifestyle? Those in the market for a gym membership should consider if an alternative method of working out would be just as effective. For example, a garage or storage room can be converted into a makeshift gym with a set of free-weights, a fitness mat, jump rope, and a body-length mirror (i.e. to practice proper form). Free weights are versatile and allow a greater range of motion than a gym’s bidirectional strength training machines, while jumping rope at a moderate pace can burn as many calories as running on a treadmill. Additionally, exercising at home will save gas, money and time, resulting in workouts that feel less rushed at less cost.
Exercise is integral to improved personal health, but so is a healthy diet. This is especially relevant for individuals resolved to losing weight. “Weight loss is triggered when an individual consumes fewer calories than they regularly intake, resulting in a caloric deficit,” says PIH Health Family Medicine physician Mehwish Khan MD. “It may be easier for someone to consume less calories for weight loss than to burn the same amount through exercise.” For individuals struggling with weight issues, cutting calories through diet can be a preparatory first step on the way to more regular physical activity and deciding if a gym membership is a necessary expense.
Ultimately, reaching a conclusion about whether or not to commit to a gym membership is contingent upon a number of questions that each individual should contemplate. What motivates them to get active? Could they acquire their desired results with an alternative workout method? Will their diet hurt or help the benefits they receive from working out?
Read PIH Health’s other Healthy Living Online blogs covering fitness and diet for more information that can help you answer the above questions. If you have weight loss or other health-related concerns, you can find a PIH Health physician and schedule an appointment at PIHHealth.org/Find-a-Doctor.