To Gym or Not to Gym….

Posted by Lynne O'Malley on 03 Nov 2017 EXERCISE, TRAINING

Personal trainer helping client undertake sit-ups in a gym
Whatever your exercise goal is, the key is finding a qualified REPs accredited exercise consultant or personal trainer who will listen to you. You need to be confident they have the qualifications and skills to provide health screening, base fitness assessments as well as help you with goal setting and design you a programme that works for you!
Last week, I  received a phone call from a lovely woman who had moved cities, started a new job, was enjoying her ballroom dancing and was doing a 25-minute walk to work each day.  Previously an avid gym bunny, she was wondering if what she was doing was sufficient for health and fitness.  What a great question!  Do we really need to go to a gym to achieve health and fitness and well-being?

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans state adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise i.e. brisk walking, ballroom dancing or aqua aerobics, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity, aerobic physical activity, during which you would struggle to hold a conversation e.g. race walking, hiking uphill, or playing elite football.  A combination of these works well.

Muscle strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all muscle groups on 2 or more days a week provide additional health benefits.  Resistance training is great for maintaining muscle mass and bone density particularly as we age.

Perhaps you want to lose 10kg and have a flat stomach.  Along with your regular incidental exercise, you might need some professional advice on exercise and nutrition. The key is finding a qualified REPs accredited exercise consultant or personal trainer who will listen to you. You need to be confident they have the qualifications and skills to provide health screening, base fitness assessments as well as help you with goal setting and design you a programme that works for you!

Look for a REPS (New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals) accredited trainer with the experience to help set “behaviour goals” rather than “outcome goals”.  Neither they nor you can make your body do what you want it to, but you can control `what’ you do, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, choosing to eat slowly and actually savour what you are eating.  You may even end up eating a little less but still feel satisfied because you are chewing and digesting your food better – another step forward in attaining that flat stomach! 

A sense of accountability to someone we trust can help us with sticking to a programme.  If you know someone is waiting, you are more likely to turn up, whether it be at a gym or another exercise location and obviously, you need to feel comfortable with your trainer regardless of experience or qualifications.

According to an American study published in Feb 2017, gym members tend to have significantly higher levels of strength and cardiorespiratory fitness; they are generally more active than non-members.  Additionally gym members had lower odds of being obese, a smaller waist circumference (about 1.5 inches in men and women), a lower resting heart rate – (by about 5 beats compared with non-members) and higher cardiorespiratory fitness (a measure that includes heart strength, lung function, blood circulation and muscle mass).  The researchers concluded that based on the data, purchasing a gym membership would seem a good investment for someone wanting to improve a variety of health and fitness factors.

What if you feel working out in a gym is just not for you – you don’t like the space or the vibe or maybe you just fine it hard to take that first step.  Perhaps you feel intimidated and turned off by the ads online or on TV you may have seen promoting washboard abs and the perfect lycra-clad body?  

The vast majority of us want a space where we feel included and celebrated for our efforts rather than an environment where we feel judged by how we look.  Only 8-9% of New Zealanders hold gym memberships at any one time however, within the Waikato there are many options all with different spaces, faces and services.  Don’t give up!  You will find somewhere that makes you feel like you belong – your tribe.

As our lifestyles become more and more hectic, location and convenience is key.   If your gym is reasonably close to where you work or live, you are far less likely to be one of those members who signs up, pays up and disappears!  

Gyms can be fantastic places for helping us attain and maintain health, fitness and wellbeing.  The fitness industry is full of awesome trainers and nutrition professionals who start every day motivated to change the lives of their clients.  Think of the gym as another tool in the box as part of your long-term health and fitness plan.  We truly are in it for the long haul and it helps immensely if you feel supported, cheered on or nudged along if you fall off the rails.  Perhaps you choose a qualified, mobile trainer who will come to you. Your exercise programme could include outdoor circuits, river walking, or a home based resistance programme.  The sky is the limit - an experienced, creative trainer will tailor a programme to your goals and fitness levels with activities you enjoy - mostly.

Incidental exercise can play a vital role in helping you achieve your long-term health, fitness and wellbeing aspirations.  Whether you just want to feel better and have more energy, fit that airline seat, walk that race or climb that mountain, joining a gym or working with a qualified, mobile trainer can help you get to where you want to go – you might even take up ballroom dancing!

About the Author

Lynne O'Malley

After an extensive career in strength and conditioning, training more than 50 international athletes, Lynne is now a full time staff member at the Centre for Sports Science and Human Performance. She is studying for her Masters in Sport and Exercise Science, her topic 'Women in strength and conditioning – where are they?'