Gyms offer a number of benefits, both practical and psychological. But there are a few caveats to consider before taking the plunge.
Few could afford to buy the variety of equipment that gyms typically offer. Multi-station weight machines are just the beginning. Most gyms have treadmills, stationary rowing equipment, stretching bars, etc.
Many have tennis and racquetball courts, occasionally even squash and Jai Lai courts. Jai Lai is that fast-paced Spanish-origin game played in a racquetball-like court with a curved racket, only much faster. In addition, some gyms offer swimming pools, saunas and even rock-climbing practice walls.
Unless you’re a multi-millionaire you couldn’t begin to duplicate the space or the gear.
Then there’s the expertise you’ll find at a gym – both from the trainers and the other members. Gyms frequently have professional trainers on staff that can answer just about any question you have. They provide weight-training guidance, health tips and even dietary advice.
Gym members are sometimes more knowledgeable than the professionals. People dedicated to optimal fitness often take the time and effort to study the field. You’ll find fitness fanatics, aerobics instructors and medical doctors among the clientele.
Apart from the equipment and assistance, gyms offer an opportunity to socialize during activities that can be pretty boring. Few people think a treadmill is the height of excitement and watching TV while walking can deaden your mind as you tone your body.
You’ll make social contacts, get encouragement and have the chance to psych up into a regular routine in a way that is hard to duplicate at home.
But gyms sometimes have a common set of drawbacks.
Gym membership can be expensive. Most offer different payment plans – per visit, per month, per year or lifetime. Per visit is usually pricey, though it might be a good option if you’re just visiting a city. Per month is often the best value, but prices can still be between $30 and $300 per month. Many will offer a trial membership, either free or at a reduced rate for the first month.
Of course, no price is a good deal if you don’t go. And going to the gym can begin to seem like just one more duty among more pressing obligations. Many people in contemporary society lead extremely busy lives and finding time to go to the gym may well end up near the bottom of a long list.
Gyms can be messy. Most gym members are conscientious about wiping down the equipment, but it only takes a small number to spoil a gym for the majority. Alert staff can help keep those occasions few and far between, so look for a gym with staff that care.
Gyms can be unhealthy. Mingling with lots of people in a hot, humid atmosphere can encourage the spread of colds and other air-borne or contact-spread diseases. Showers are particularly prone to this since you usually have to touch the controls.
Only the individual can weigh the pros and cons and reach a final decision about which are most important. Unless you are lucky enough to find the right one the first time out, try a few on a trial basis before committing to anything long term.