Want to improve health? Get a gym membership

29 January 2017

If your New Year's resolution was to get fit in 2017, you may want to get a gym membership.

A study from a team of Iowa State University researchers has found that people who belong to a health club not only exercise more - for both aerobic activity and strength training - they also have better cardiovascular health outcomes.

"It's not surprising that people with a gym membership work out more, but the difference in our results is pretty dramatic," study author Duck-chul Lee said in a statement. "Gym members were 14 times more aerobically active than non-members and 10 times more likely to meet muscle-strengthening guidelines, regardless of their age and weight."

The results were similar in both men and women, and health benefits were even greater for people who had a gym membership for more than a year.

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It's advised that adults get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of energetic aerobic activity each week, like brisk walking or running. The researchers found 75 per cent of study participants with gym memberships, compared to 18 per cent of non-members, met the guidelines for both types of activity.

Gym members overall had a more active lifestyle, with those involved in the study showing lower odds of being obese, a smaller waist circumference and a lower resting heart rate.

Read more: People who post gym selfies on Facebook are narcissists, science says

In response to the study results, lead author Elizabeth Schroeder notes while most people join a gym to lose weight, the findings demonstrate the many benefits of exercise.

"Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for individuals in the U.S.,” she stated. “As our paper shows, a health club membership is associated with more favourable cardiovascular health. I hope the results help people be more active, potentially at a health club where they can easily perform resistance exercise, and see that exercise may help prevent cardiovascular disease."

It’s important to note that some data for the study was collected while people were at the gym, which would exclude people who have a membership, but are not using it.

The full study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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