Only 15% of Americans Belong to Gyms: How You Should Work Out

There's a reason why this gym is empty ...

Although half of the U.S. population exercises at least three times per week, only 15% belong to health clubs. Are health clubs failing as a place to get fit?

Many people feel that the best way to get in shape is to join a gym. But are they right? According to the New York Times, only 15% of Americans currently have a gym membership and most who have one don’t actually go! A whopping 90% of people with health club memberships stop going regularly within 90 days of joining.

Clearly, forking over $25 to $100 per month isn’t working … so what does?

Think About Your Lifestyle

Does slipping on a pair of sneakers and heading out the door seem a lot easier than dressing up in fancy fitness duds, trudging across town, and fighting for a treadmill? Take an honest look at your lifestyle and think about how fitness can easily fit into it. The greater the barrier to exercise, the less likely you are to do it.

Do What You Like

Maybe you think you should be a runner but you actually hate it. Why torture yourself? Pick an activity that you enjoy. Maybe golf isn’t the highest calorie burn, but if you ditch the cart you’ll be walking as well as de-stressing (unless you golf like me!) and that can go a long way to living a healthy lifestyle.

Develop Accountability

Personal trainers and group exercise classes that you pay for (think yoga) can help hold you accountable. If you have to pay whether or not you go, then you’re more likely to go so you’re not wasting money. My studio has a 24-hour cancellation policy for exactly this reason. When I first started, I didn’t enforce it, but once I started to lay down the law a whole heck of a lot more people started show up for, and thoroughly enjoying, their sessions. That was a big light bulb moment for me.

Think Outside

There is some great research about how outdoor exercise can be very calming for the body as well as invigorating. Running on back country trails will provide you challenging uneven terrain, hills to navigate, and a beautiful setting. Sounds a lot more fun than slogging away on a treadmill, doesn’t it?  Think of activities that you could do outside once or twice a week, everything from walking in the park to kayaking, volleyball, hiking, rock climbing, etc. You’ll challenge your muscles and lift your spirit.

Have Two or Three Go-To Exercise Routines

When time is rushed, or you just don’t feel creative, have two or three “no excuses” workouts you can do. This could be a quick free-weight circuit, a fitness DVD you can just pop in, or a quick run/walk through your neighborhood after dinner. Have some auto-pilot workouts that might not be stellar but will keep you moving and far away from couch potato status.

Variety, Variety

Of course if you do the ho-hum exercises all the time you’ll quickly get bored, your body will plateau, and you’ll bail on working out altogether. Add some variety to your workout routine. Try something different on the weekends when you have more time. Do a workout “date” with a friend or your sweetie. Take a class in something you’ve always wanted to try (trapeze, anyone?).  Mixing up your workouts will keep you energized, stronger, and can even prevent overuse injuries. Plus, it’s totally fun!

Do Activities Close To Home

If you’re going to join a health club or take a group exercise class, choose a location as close to home as possible. It’s a fitness industry secret that 80% of members come from a five-minute drive radius of a facility. The other 20% come from a five to ten-minute drive, and almost no one drives more than ten minutes to get to a gym door. Whatever fitness activity you participate in outside of your home, make sure it’s easy for you to go; that way you’ll be much more likely to stick with it. I even recommend joining the “not as pretty” gym close to your house over the “super fancy” gym further away.  A treadmill is a treadmill; as long as the gym is clean and the customer service is good, pick the closest one to your house.

Let me know what you think about my suggestions. Have you found a strategy or combination of strategies that work for you? How often do you mix up your routine? Share here and let’s get the discussion going. For more great ideas, check out the FitStudio.com website. They’ve got a lot of experts, exercises, and links to equipment to get you on your way.

Cheers,

Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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2 Responses to Only 15% of Americans Belong to Gyms: How You Should Work Out

  1. Aidan February 15, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Some great tips there Lisa. I find that paying a monthly gym membership hols me accountable on its own, I just couldn’t square paying for something I never used.
    Another thing I would say is that exercising at home is a great addition to anybody’s day. It is possible to build in some push-ups and sit-ups into any daily schedule (or indeed myotic crunches if you are on a 4 hour body mission).
    I have a jump rope too which I plan to take on anywhere where I am not able to access a gym, talk about feeling your heart beat. I saw some great youtube videos with skippinr rope routines.
    My own personal philosophy is to walk anywhere I can even when cycling is faster (I only drive if there is absolutely no choice). When you walk you can do so much. I learn languages but you can listen to music or audio books or even just think, nothing better.

  2. Julie Ann February 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Great summary of what it takes to stay on track. So many women think it is all about sheer willpower. When they don’t stick to their plan, then they think they are a failure.

    That is so not the case. It usually means that the workouts were not fun or not the right match for the person. Variety is key especially in the beginning. Try out different things until you find one that is fun.

    Don’t be afraid to look stupid. Laugh at yourself and keep on going. Everyone has to start somewhere. Before you know it you will find a few routines or activities that fit your life and your interests.

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