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To Exercise More, Get a Gym Membership

Image by Iowa State University.

If your New Year’s resolution was to exercise more in 2017, chances are you’ve already given up or you’re on the verge of doing so. To reach your goal, you may want to consider joining a gym, based on the results of a study from a team of Iowa State University (ISU) researchers.

Duck-chul (DC) Lee, PhD, an assistant professor of kinesiology and corresponding author of the paper, said the study found people who belonged to a health club not only exercised more-for aerobic activity and strength training-but they also had better cardiovascular health outcomes. Those health benefits were even greater for people who had a gym membership for more than a year, Lee said. The research is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“It’s not surprising that people with a gym membership work out more, but the difference in our results is pretty dramatic,” Lee said. “Gym members were 14 times more aerobically active than nonmembers and ten times more likely to meet muscle-strengthening guidelines, regardless of their age and weight.” The results were similar in both men and women.

It’s recommended that adults get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week, such as brisk walking or running. The Physical Activity Guidelines also suggest two days of weight lifting or other muscle-strengthening activities. Despite strong evidence of the health benefits, only half of Americans are getting enough aerobic activity and about 20 percent meet the guidelines for strength training.

ISU researchers found 75 percent of study participants with gym memberships, compared to 18 percent of nonmembers, met the guidelines for both types of activity. The majority of those who went to a health club exceeded standards and spent 300 minutes or more running, biking, or doing some type of cardio workout each week. That adds up to nearly six hours of additional activity, compared to nonmembers.

Gym members overall had a more active lifestyle. Researchers say members were just as active outside the gym and in their daily lives, which combined contributed to better health outcomes.

“By joining a quality fitness facility, a new exerciser will be around like-minded people and have access to professionals who can help them be successful,” said Warren Franke, PhD, a co-author and professor of kinesiology. “Access to quality exercise equipment, social support, and even the financial commitment may help spur someone to continue exercising. Not all facilities are the same, so it’s important to find the ‘right’ fit.”

Researchers said it’s important to note that some data for the study was collected while people were at the gym, which would exclude people who have a membership but are not using it. It is also a cross-sectional study, so researchers cannot directly state a cause and effect.

This article was adapted from information provided by ISU.