Is This the Year to Join a Health Club?
By Leah Lancione
“Oh no,” you say. “Not again. Not another plea to make a New Year’s resolution involving diet and exercise!” OK, I won’t do my usual spiel about how your food choices affect your health, both short- and long-term, and how adding daily exercise (at least 30 minutes) can improve your overall well-being and prevent illness. So, I’ll just help you decide whether it’s time to join a health club since you already want to exercise more or better.
According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (www.fitness.gov/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans), the Department of Health and Human Services issued “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” in 2008 to recommend exercise for folks by age groups. The 30 minutes a day recommended for adults 18 to 64 can include daily activities that involve exerting energy—from walking the dog, cleaning the house and doing yard work to other routine chores. These chores, however, may not be enough to raise your heart rate, burn sufficient calories, increase flexibility or tone and strengthen muscles. Not to mention that some people find it hard to break out of a mostly sedentary lifestyle. Therefore, joining a health club might be just the ticket to escape your comfort zone to get healthy.
If you find it hard to get inspired by exercise every day, let alone weekly, a health club can provide motivation. If you join the gym and sign up for a class—say, aquatics programs sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation, tai chi or yoga—you will feel more obligated to continue the program if you know your instructor or classmates are expecting you. Another option is hiring a personal trainer to specifically design a workout program tailored to your age, fitness level and preferences. A trainer will surely enhance your strengths, help you improve your weaknesses and inspire you to move with a purpose and push yourself each visit. Not to mention, a personal trainer will explain and demonstrate how to use each piece of strength and cardiovascular equipment safely and to the fullest.
If you think that joining this Winter, like all the usual folks who make New Year’s resolutions to get fit and crowd all the gyms for a couple of months before dropping out is a waste of money, it’s not. In an ABC News interview, Tim Keightley, the executive vice president of operations for the popular health club chain Gold’s Gym, said December and early January is a perfect time to join at a discounted rate. “You actually get a better deal in December going into early January,” he said, even though gyms are most crowded this time of year. So why not get yourself into the groove now before the foot traffic increases? Just think of how good it will feel to work off all those extra calories from holiday sweets.
Another reason to join a club is to find a partner or a group if you don’t already have a workout buddy to make your workout time enjoyable. If taking a brisk walk or popping in a fitness video at home sounds boring, joining a group or signing up for sessions with a personal trainer will eliminate that excuse for not exercising. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine says “group exercise provides us with an opportunity to feel young again and be physically active with others.” When you’re exercising in a group you will receive encouragement as well as laugh, sweat and even moan a little to upbeat music right along with everyone else.
An added bonus to joining a health club is that members form lasting friendships outside the gym class walls. If your gym has the full range of amenities like most, there’s more to experience with your new workout buddies than just the exercise programs. Many have juice or oxygen bars, saunas, a swimming pool and hot tub, a racquetball court, tanning beds (something I don’t recommend) and boutiques with workout gear. Who would’ve thought joining a health club would include all these amenities to share with your new pack of “gym rats.”
Trust me, you will feel empowered when your strength, balance and coordination, agility and overall fitness is improved. In all probability, if you keep your commitment and take advantage of all the resources available to you at the health club, you will see results you didn’t expect. Hey, it’s worth it to at least take advantage of the free trial offers available to find out if it’s time to join.
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