When people resolve to lose weight and get in shape, they often think of joining a gym. But gym memberships are expensive and the contracts can be hard to get out of.
“I signed up for Gold's Gym in June of 2012,” Eric of Oklahoma City wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “I used the gym a total of maybe three times. I decided that it was too crowded and cramped at any point that I went so I asked them about cancelling. They said I could cancel within 30 days. I went up to the Gold's on NW Expressway in Oklahoma City and cancelled my membership. There, they had me sign a form stating I was going to be cancelled and that I would still be billed till August.”
But time went on and Eric said he is still being billed.
“It is now January,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, I cannot find the carbon copy of the cancellation I signed. I honestly thought I wouldn't need it since Gold's seems to be a reputable name and company.”
Eric's complaint is not all that unusual and not limited to Gold's Gym. Members of other health clubs have raised similar concerns.
Are there alternatives to gym memberships that will promote health and fitness? Researchers at Oregon State University say there are and you can easily work them into your daily routine. All it requires, they say, is change in your lifestyle and habits – taking the stairs instead of the elevator, raking leaves and doing other yard work, walking whenever possible instead of driving a car.
Small amounts of activity throughout the day, even as short as one or two-minute increments that add up to 30 minutes a day can be just as beneficial as longer periods of physical exercise achieved by a trip to the gym.
“Our results suggest that engaging in an active lifestyle approach, compared to a structured exercise approach, may be just as beneficial in improving various health outcomes,” said Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study. “We encourage people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available. For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone, use this opportunity to get in some activity by pacing around while talking.”
When health is the goal
Will it give you six-pack abs? Probably not, but the researchers say you should see improved health, heading off metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. And like Eric, many gym members find busy schedules interfere with trips to the gym.
The researchers found that 43 percent of those who participated in the “short bouts” of exercise met physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes a day. In comparison, less than 10 percent of those in the longer exercise bouts met those federal guidelines for exercise.
“This is a more natural way to exercise, just to walk more and move around a bit more,” said study co-author Brad Cardinal. “We are designed by nature as beings who are supposed to move. People get it in their minds, if I don’t get that 30 minutes, I might as well not exercise at all. Our results really challenge that perception and give people meaningful, realistic options for meeting the physical activity guidelines.”
What about buying some exercise equipment to use at home? The risk with that, just like a health club, is that you can quickly lose enthusiasm. Go to a weekend yard sale or flea market and you're likely to find plenty of treadmills and barbell sets.
But if you've decided to make a small investment, KMS 8 Business recently opened an online store offering a line of exercise, health and wellness products. It hosts the FitnessHealthAndMore.com blog on the site offering free access to exercise routines, how-to articles, and product reviews.
If you decide to go that route, consider getting a personal trainer to give you a fitness assessment to guide you through your in-home workouts. Usually you can get such an assessment for a one-time fee. The assessment will show areas where you need work and provide a starting point for your fitness planning.
Also, purchase the equipment that is right for you. Don't get something that is just going to end up being a coat rack. You want equipment that you will look forward to using, not something you'll dread.
If you need cardiovascular work, buy a cardiovascular machine. Do you need some strength training? Purchase a Dyna-band or small hand weights. It depends on what sort of equipment you need and what sort of equipment you are going to use.
Naturally, before starting any exercise program that is different than your normal routine, you should discuss it with your doctor.