The Self-Defeating Logic of Gym Memberships

I belong to a local gym.  I’m supposed to go there to exercise.  I pay $40 a month for the privilege, but I would estimate that I actually get to the gym twice a month.  This failure to find the necessary time to work out is by itself a self-defeating, exercise-discouraging proposition.  By equating exercise with a third-party gymnasium, do we undermine our very notion of healthy activity?  Should not getting to the gym = not exercising?  Here are some ways to correct this fallacy of inherent defeat.

If you conflate healthy physical activity with a time and place that is not readily accessible, you unwittingly place a firewall around succeeding.  For example, I worked until dinnertime last night, had to run home (drive in a car, that is), and take care of domestic duties for the rest of the night.  By the time I might consider going to the gym it was already 11:00 PM.  Therefore yet another day of physical inactivity because there was simply no way to fit in the 1-1.5 hours needed to execute a trip to the local sweat house.

Are we exercising less because of this faulty logic?  Like other activities we outsource, ultimately there is a loss of efficiency and joy.  Look at cooking.  For some people making dinner is just too time consuming.  They rely instead upon take out, half assembled meals, or processed food.  The food infrastructure in the fridge collapses – no garlic, no basic ingredients, rotten milk… so that when a quick meal is desired, it actually takes more time to find an edible assortment of ingredients that could pass as a meal.  Better to cook your own food most of the time, and keep a healthy, steady supply chain coming from the grocery store.

Exercise does not have to entail purchasing a right to machinery, group psychology, and a physical location separate from the rest of your daily life.  As this Wall Street Journal article shows, some boutique gyms are charging upwards of $30 dollars for an individual class, with no coupons or discounts.   Outrageous and expensive.

Here are some ways that you can get the cardiovascular benefits of exercise during the day, without settling in to an unhealthy lifestyle that can’t find the large chunk of time needed for the gym.  Several goods apps and websites exist that demonstrate home exercise routines using no equipment other than your own body.  My favorite is a free site called Darebee, which has countless exercise routines and videos to demonstrate proper techniques.  For a while I was doing these exercise almost once a day, sometimes scattered in between patients, or at night after the manic clock of efficiency can be turned off.  Some of these exercises like the burpees may have contributed to a groin pull I sustained, so remember your age and realistic fitness level!  Just go for a walk once a day, anytime, anyplace.

Taking the stairs, getting up and walking around the house/office at least 2-3 times per hour, and even fidgeting at your desk can help immensely.  One study found measurable benefits to circulation by tapping your toes and moving your feet up and down while marooned at a desk all day.

The gym is also covered in germs.  I heard a recent podcast, can’t recall the source, that described a recent study showing more harmful bacteria on the average free weight than on the average toilet seat!  Always wash your hands at the gym, and long pants seriously recommended.  But I digress…

So in summary, if you are in a busy, time-contrained phase of life, the old habit of equating “getting to the gym” with “getting exercise” is flawed.  It will actually make you unhealthier and more frustrated and defeated.  To maintain that gym membership as the only avenue for working out is a modern fallacy.  Instead, stay active as much as possible during the day, from fidgeting to stretching to walking to running.  If you can make it to the gym, that’s awesome and I must admit that I am jealous.  There are surely a lot of reinforcing psychological benefits to group exercise, as well as having access to better equipment.

On your mark, get set, stand up and move around a little!  Inspiring.

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