Elizabeth Schroeder, lead author of the report and a former ISU grad student, says the study found people who belong to a health club tend to exercise more and see healthier returns.
“From the results, we speculate that you have more options at the health club so you’re more apt to have all that resistance training and weight machines around you,” Schroeder says, “but you also have classes you can take and the social support from others to help you work out, that could lead to more physical activity while you’re at the health club instead of at home.” The study found health benefits were even greater for people who had a gym membership for more than a year.
“A lot of motivation goes into working out, so it’s not just buying the membership, it’s not going to make you work out,” Schroeder says. “There has to be some other internal motivation that’s also going to make you go there which could be as simple as you bought a membership, it’s going to cost you X dollars a month and you don’t want to waste that money.”
While it’s no surprise that people with a gym membership work out more, the differences were dramatic. The study found gym members were 14 times more aerobically active than non-members and 10 times more likely to meet muscle-strengthening guidelines, regardless of their age and weight.
“Even though you have the health club membership, we thought maybe those people would exercise less when they’re at home and not at the health club,” Schroeder says. “You get that mentality of, ‘Oh, I worked out today, I went to the gym so I don’t need to do anything the rest of the day,’ but we actually found that people who had the health club membership worked out or were just as active outside the health club as people without that membership.”
The results were similar in men and women. It’s recommended adults get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week, such as brisk walking or running, along with two days of weight lifting or other muscle-strengthening activities. Despite the health benefits, only half of Americans get enough aerobic activity and about 20 percent meet the guidelines for strength training.