Lifestyle experts often suggest that a healthy and active lifestyle does not require a health club membership. They are absolutely correct. There are countless ways to stay active without ever seeing the inside of a health club.
But the existence of widespread options should not undercut the intrinsic value of belonging to a health club. For many folks, it is the best - and sometimes only - practical option. For others, it is a wonderful complement to their other physical activities.
Certainly, a health club membership is not right for everyone, and the industry must continue to improve its outreach to folks who may be intimidated or feel unwelcome at a club. It's also critical for lifestyle experts to stress the importance of every individual finding activities that will lead to sustainable healthy habits. But I think that health clubs may be a better option than many folks realize.
So, here is my case - in a nutshell - for making a health club membership a key component of a healthy lifestyle:
Location is often a major barrier to physical activity. A lack of sidewalks, poorly lit streets, and a fear of crime are all common factors leading to decreased physical activity. A health club offers the opportunity to exercise safely in a well-lit and monitored public space, usually regardless of the time of day.
The risk of injury is inherent to physical activity. Health clubs provide resources for ensuring safe exercise, including the broad availability of fitness professionals to answer specific questions. Furthermore, an injured health club patron is likely to receive timely care from club employees and/or emergency medical personnel.
Health clubs can be pricey, no doubt. But there are also inexpensive options that offer all the basic benefits of a health club. When compared with the monthly cost of cable TV, cell phone service, or even coffee, a health club membership can be a very accessible option.
For many people, pursuing a variety of physical activities is key to keeping up the habit. Other folks want fun activities or high-energy classes. Most health clubs offer ample opportunities to find activities that match members' preferences.
Friends Don't Let Friends Be Sedentary
Behavioral research tells us that our lifestyle habits are highly influenced by our social networks. An individual plugged into an active social network is more likely to be active. When an individual joins a health club, the individual is increasing the number of likely social contacts with active people, which may increase the likelihood of the individual sustaining a healthy and active lifestyle.
Surely, health clubs must continue to evolve and find ways to connect with folks to create sustained healthy activity habits. At the same time, I think many folks would be surprised by the welcoming and accommodating nature of their local health clubs. What are some ways that health clubs could attract more folks to be physically active?