We all know that we should be doing some form of exercise, and we’ve heard and read lots about it this week because it’s National Diabetes Week.
This is a favourite topic on Motherpedia too, but in this article we try to assist with just one aspect of exercise – should you join a gym and what should you look for.
Do I need to join a gym?
No-one needs to join a gym to exercise regularly.
Your body offers the cheapest equipment available, and spending a little money on other items can deliver great gains. For example at home, you needn’t worry about how you look to others or whether you’ll have time to make it to the gym. And the sums saved by not paying for a gym might be put to good use elsewhere, whether that means monthly bills or tennis lessons for the children or affording something that the household needs.
But that doesn’t mean that joining a gym doesn’t have its benefits. Here are some of them.
- While gym memberships can be costly, spending that money may be an incentive to use the gym regularly and get your money’s worth
- Classes offer companionship and a safe way to learn technique (provided that the classes are geared toward your ability level)
- Most good gyms offer a wide range of equipment, so you can try out a variety of strength training machines and exercises
- New equipment and a changing roster of exercise classes can keep you challenged and interested in working out
- Often, personal trainers are available for weekly appointments or short-term overhauls of your routine
- Some gyms offer a post-workout sauna, or spa that can be a nice time to relax (but it may also be an opportunity to reduce costs).
Before deciding whether a gym is right for you, consider your preferences and needs. Ask yourself some questions:
- Do you prefer to work out alone or with others?
- How far must you travel to the gym, and are you likely to make the trek?
- Do the gym’s hours of operation work well for you? A home gym offers greater flexibility - you can exercise at midnight or 5 am if you wish, but consider whether family interruptions might interfere with a regular workout.
If you decide to select a gym, look for the following:
1. A good match between your goals and the facility
I know many people who join a gym at a five star hotel in the city which they attend either before or after work. The benefit is that it’s easy to do to, or from, work as part of a routine. However, plush surroundings and a wide range of amenities can cost more.
Consider what you really will use - classes, trainers, or just equipment - and ignore the rest.
Do, however, choose a gym that’s well equipped; a variety of strength training machines and exercise classes allows you to mix up your routine and avoid boredom. And having plenty of equipment can mean no wait, or at least a shorter one, when the gym is busy.
Also, be sure that the strength training machines fit you and that resistance is easy to adjust. Because most machines are made with men in mind, this is especially important for women.
Take advantage of the fact that many commercial gyms will let you try their facilities for a few days or a week before making a commitment. There are many styles around today, from large, national franchises through to much smaller studios offering personalised training but not the whole hog of a personal trainer. There are also some facilities that are focussed only on women clients.
Make sure you would feel comfortable at the gym during the hours you would normally go.
If you’ve had an injury in the past, or have a health issue, you may be best joining a gym that is part of practice such as a physiotherapy practice.
2. Well-trained staff
Expertise in teaching people to use strength training equipment and free weights is essential. Ask about staff background and training. Most personal trainers in Australia will display their credentials and certification.
Ask whether staff members can perform CPR if necessary.
Find out if any trainers frequently work with people of your age, level of fitness, and health status.
If you regularly take medications, ask if they know how that might affect your ability to work out.
Naturally, a friendly, helpful staff is a plus.
3. Cost that fits your needs
Check out community centres, Police clubs and universities as they often have adult memberships at reasonable prices.
Some health care plans offer members discounted rates at specific gyms.
Working out only during off-peak hours can cut costs.
Some facilities also let you choose to forgo certain amenities, such as a sauna, spa and shower room, or certain classes, for a discounted rate.
4. A well-maintained facility
Before signing a contract, check to make sure that the gym keeps its equipment in good working order.
Ask current members if machines are frequently out of order and how long it takes for broken equipment to be repaired or replaced.
Also, note whether the public spaces and locker rooms appear clean and well kept.
There are many alternatives for exercise. The important thing is that you try to get at least 3-5 hours a week, depending on your age and lifestyle. Not only does it have health benefits such as reducing the risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease or osteoporosis - but you really will feel better after about 1-2 weeks regardless of your age.
If I, or personal trainer Amanda Ferguson, can help you in anyway with your questions, please leave them below or email Motherpedia for us.