Cardiovascular disease, a condition largely preventable with a healthy diet and exercise, is the number one cause of death in the U.S. And yet, did you know just 18% of Americans have gym memberships?
If you’re part of the 82% who don’t go to the gym, a new study says you should consider joining because of the dramatic effect gym membership can have on your heart health.
While it’s obvious that gym members probably exercise more, how much more exercise they get compared to a non-member is astonishing: they engage in 14 times more aerobic activity, are 10 times more likely to meet strength-training guidelines, and a large majority even exceed standards and exercise an extra 6 hours a week.
Compared to just half of Americans who get sufficient aerobic activity and 20% who do enough strength training, it’s no surprise that gym-goers tend to have narrower waists (by about 1.5 inches), a lower resting heart rate (about 5 beats lower than those without gym membership), and higher measures of cardiorespiratory fitness, which includes heart strength, lung function, blood circulation, and muscle mass.
Knowing all this, why wouldn’t you want to join right away?
Finding the Right Fit
Not all gyms are the same and not everyone’s needs are the same, either. Which type is right for you?
Traditional Gyms/Fitness Centers. Many gyms offer a variety of exercise options in one facility, including cardio equipment, strength and weight training equipment, fitness classes, personal training, and even pools.
Facilities like the YMCA are diverse, accessible, and offer fitness options for the entire family, including children and teens.
24 Hour Gyms. With busy schedules or non-traditional schedules, finding time to go to the gym can be difficult. But gyms like 24 Hour Fitness, Planet Fitness, and Anytime Fitness offer flexibility by being open at all hours. They generally offer all the amenities of the traditional gym.
Women-Only Gyms. Single-gender gyms catering to the ladies are gaining in popularity, as they offer a less intimidating and more supportive environment for self-conscious exercisers. While many are smaller than traditional gyms, they may offer equipment and programming designed to appeal to women, and staff are usually all women as well. Some of the more well-known facilities include Curves and Total Woman.
Specialty Gyms. Some workout facilities specialize in a specific type of workout, like yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, cycling, dance, and CrossFit. They tend to be smaller and class-based, with varying levels of intensity and fitness levels. Many are high-energy, set to uptempo music. The cost is often higher than traditional gym memberships, but many offer single-class or membership/package deals.
Whatever your preference, it’s never too late to start working on your health, especially your heart health. Membership in a fitness facility can help you find motivation, accountability, and success.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.