Wait — Is It Actually Worth It to Join a Gym?

A new study helps to answer the question everyone asks themselves this month.

It’s that time of the year when everyone’s asking the question: Should I join a gym? And this question is probably forcing you to ask yourself the question: But wait, will it be a waste of my hard-earned dough? To help you make up your mind, Iowa State University conducted a study, published in PLOS ONE, to see just how much healthier gym members — gym members who actually use their memberships, that is — are than those without gym memberships. The short answer: Much. 

The researchers compared data from gym members (some of the data was collected at the gym, which means it mostly applies to gym members who actually use their memberships) versus non-gym members, and specifically looked at the cardiovascular health of both groups. They discovered that gym members were a whopping 14 times (!!) more aerobically active than non-gym members and 10 times more likely to meet muscle-strengthening guidelines, regardless of their age and weight. Duck-chul Lee, assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and co-author of the study, notes that being more active in both of these arenas leads to better cardiovascular health. As Lee said in a piece outlining the studies results, “It’s not surprising that people with a gym membership work out more, but the difference in our results is pretty dramatic.”

The government’s Physical Activity Guidelines suggest that adults take part in 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of strenuous aerobic exercise every week. They also encourage two days of strength-training activities per week. Iowa State researchers found that 75 percent of the gym members involved in the research met the requirements for both aerobic and strength activities, while only 18 percent of non-gym members got the suggested dose of exercise. Andddd to top it off, the research showed that the bulk of gym members in the study actually surpassed these exercise goals throughout the week. (Get it, guys.) Naturally, as the study authors outline, moving more leads to all sorts of perks. Think: smaller waist size and better cardiorespiratory fitness, to name a few.

The point is, if you’re trying to move more this year (#goals), this research suggests joining a gym could dramatically increase your activity level — as long as you actually go.

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