Gym membership is a good health investment.
Gym membership is a known waste of money for many. The dropout rate is over 80% after one year. However, the ‘non-start’ rate for people who say they are going to work out at home is equally, if not more, dismal.
Gym rats (slang for gym members who spend significant time there) know the keys to staying in good condition. Accountability, variety, social support, convenience, and motivation are the keys to sustaining a long-term commitment to physical health and wellness. A home-gym is limited in offering those elements. However, gym memberships offer them all. Whether the gym facility is exclusive or economical, the benefits are similar.
Social influence in the gym is rampant, and it creates accountability. People watch people. You notice whose muscles are more defined than yours, which makes you crave a higher level of fitness. Someone asks you how many miles you ran on the treadmill, and you prepare to give them a more impressive response next time by running longer. After you go to a class a few times, members start looking for you to show up. You like the attention, so you do show up.
There are numerous ways that social influence plays out in the gym that you can’t get at home. At home, no one knows if you don’t turn on your video in the morning. Even if you turn it on, no one is there for you to compare or share your results. Even introverts can feed off of social influence.
Gyms vary in their equipment and classes offered, but they all offer variety. Moderate cost memberships, such as the YMCA, can include access to specialized sports such as racquetball courts and swimming pools. Planet Fitness, one of the most economical gyms, have tanning and hydro massage beds. I get my $20 worth just in hydro massages each month. I often go in just for that experience after a long run outdoors.
Cross-training is the trend in fitness. No matter how much advertisers try to convince you that a single piece of equipment can fulfill all of your fitness needs, it’s not true. You would minimally need equipment for cardio and a different piece for strength training. Most people do not have room in their home to fit in an adequate gym.
You have to make sacrifices in choosing your home-gym equipment, where the gym experience allows you to try equipment that you wouldn’t want to buy.
For gym rats, the workouts become as much about the socialization as it is the fitness. I was a member of the YMCA for 13 years. Most of my friendships were cultivated at the gym. I also shared my gym membership with my husband and children. Some days my son practiced martial arts while my daughter had swim practice, I was in a cardio class, and my husband was on the basketball court. That’s what earned us their “Family of the Year” recognition that took us by surprise.
Being recognized by other gym rats can be a compliment too. The gym can foster lasting relationships. When you meet a person at the gym, you know you have something you love in common. You can also plan gym dates with your friends to foster bonding, a healthier choice than eating out or going to the bar.
The gym can foster lasting relationships.
If you are unsure about your relationship with a person, invite them to the gym. Gym behavior can tell you a lot about a person. Do they make an attempt to interact with people or are they too busy competing for no reason? Do they put their equipment back after use? The gym is the adult playground. You can make friends there, or take friends there.
A home-gym will save you money on gas, and time. But the convenience of gym membership offers much more. You have no equipment repair, and you don’t have the clutter of equipment near your washing machine or work desk.
You can’t take your home gym with you. You get one home gym, but memberships often come with several local facilities for you to use. In addition, many gym memberships offer national access. You can use their facilities for free when you travel, even when you travel out of the state. National access provides added incentive to keep you in shape year-round, even on vacation or business trips. Without this benefit, you can easily pay $20 for a gym day pass.
When you build a social network, attend a gym that has adequate equipment and classes and easily accessible, that’s plenty of motivation. However, many gyms offer membership incentives throughout the year. T-shirt give-a-ways are classic for class attendance. But some gyms up the ante with water bottles or fancy swag. The fact that someone is keeping track of your attendance may be a huge motivation to begin your gym rat transformation.
There are few excuses for not having a gym membership if you are interested in fitness. There are economical options for as little as $10 per month. If time is an issue, you can choose a 24-hour facility. You can choose a facility with more luxury, including towel service and spa options if you’re about the ambiance.
Making the most of the gym experience
The gym and the at-home workout both require you to make a choice to get involved. Whether it’s the basement or the gym, you have to participate. Use best practices to make the best of your gym membership.
Get your work out in during off-peak hours. If late morning or early afternoons are not an option, go when the doors open. You might be surprised to find your tribe at 5:00 in the morning. Many gyms offer early bird classes as well. Plan to go daily. The more you go, the more people you know. The more time you let lapse between workouts, the harder it is to go.
If you make the gym a daily expectation, missing a day won’t be a big deal. If you only plan to go once a week, you will, sooner than later, miss that day and weeks will pass before getting back to a routine. Take advantage of the classes to relieve the burden of figuring out a routine.
Use the extra space in your house for a library or theatre and sweat at the gym. Make new friends. Try new classes. Treat your body to a new routine and find those muscles you haven’t used in a while.
Crockett, Z. (2019). Are Gym Memberships Worth the Money. https://thehustle.co/gym-membership-cost. Hustle. Retrieved June 20, 2019
Largest Gyms Worldwide by Membership, 2014. https://www.clubindustry.com/awards-rankings/club-industrys-top-100-health-clubs-2018. Business Insights Global. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
Your new year’s resolution: A gym membership? (2017). Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Heart Letter.