BETHESDA, Md., June 28, 2014 — Overweight and unfit Americans know they are fat. They must, because memberships to gyms and fitness centers have reached 54.1 million, which represents a 6.4% year-over-year increase for the past five years.
Yet, this increase in gym memberships has not correlated with a decrease in the percentage of overweight and obese Americans. Those numbers continue to grow. According to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, roughly 69.1% of American adults 20 years and older are overweight or obese, an increase of almost 15% in 2 decades.
Weight loss is not easy nor is it cheap. Not every American can afford a gym or studio membership considering the average cost of gym membership hovers around $55/month. Yet, even those who can squeeze fitness into their budgets are not maximizing their return on investment:
- 30% of the monthly cost of gym memberships is wasted.
- The average gym member only goes to the gym twice each week.
- An astounding 67% of Americans with gym memberships never go.
So why are Americans giving up on their weight loss journeys?
The answer lies within the individual. Far too often, we unknowingly sabotage our weight loss efforts before we even take our initial yoga or spinning class or lift that first kettlebell. Rethink your fitness journey by considering the following:
1. Don’t let cost deter you. Instead, look into free or low-cost options that fit your budget.
The idea of adding a new budget item to your current financial responsibilities can be daunting. With the increase in the cost of healthy food, childcare, gasoline, and housing, most Americans can not afford a gym membership. Fortunately, in today’s health-conscious society, there are many cost-free and low-cost options to getting fit.
- Talk to your HR director. The majority of employers offer health and wellness discounts to local fitness centers, gyms, yoga studios, and martial arts centers. These benefits change frequently, so be certain to sign up and be alerted to internal HR newsletters and announcements.
- Contact your mayor’s office or city’s community center. More and more cities in the United States are becoming active and hands-on when it comes to improving the health of their communities. Since the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign was launched in 2010, hundreds of cities across the country have taken up the challenge to fight childhood obesity while also educating parents. Find out if your town has a “Let’s Move” program and ask to receive a copy of your community center’s calendar of activities and events. Your tax dollars are helping to pay for these offerings. Take advantage.
- Check for meet-up groups in your area. From running, hiking, and biking to Tai Chi, karate, and yoga, there is a meet-up group for every interest, and they are often led by knowledgeable and passionate fitness enthusiasts in your community simply interested in meeting new people and maintaining their motivation.
- Barter with a friend or acquaintance. Everyone has at least one friend or family member who is already fit, active, and experienced. Consider offering your fit friend a service matching your area of expertise in exchange for a one-on-one training or workout session.
- Login to fitness. From free Youtube instructional videos to free apps, options are available to suit your fitness, diet, and lifestyle goals. Search the internet using terms specific to the style or type of exercise you prefer. For fun and interactive apps, search specifically using terms such as “fitness” and “weight loss” in the app store of your choice.
2. Don’t use just the scale to measure your success. Instead, focus on the all-over health and wellness benefits that come with losing weight.
When we begin a weight loss program, we have tunnel vision. We set out with a single goal: lose weight or else. When we don’t see an immediate drop in the number staring back at us on the scale, we judge our efforts as failures. When we do this, we lose motivation, self-doubt creeps in and interferes with our progress, and our desire to get up and move and eat the right things dwindles.
To combat this, we must shift our thinking away from the scale. Despite the scale not moving immediately in the beginning, there other areas of our health and general lifestyle that benefit almost instantly and continue to improve and transform our lives with each day we remain committed:
- Increased energy and vitality
- Increased focus and productivity
- Increased friendships and social life
- Increased confidence
- Decrease in blood pressure levels
- Decrease in cholesterol levels
- Decrease in appetite and cravings
- Renewed feelings of self-worth and value
- Renewed interest in being happy and staying that way
To measure all of these areas of progress, consider completing a personal health and wellness inventory with the help of a trainer or health coach. If you enjoy writing, keep a reflective journal that captures your daily mood, progress, and activities. The more you understand, appreciate, and realize how your new routine affects every area of your life, the more inclined you’ll be to remain active before, during, and after each workout.
3. Don’t get stuck in a routine or take someone’s word for it. Instead, stay true to your personality, conduct your own experiments, and remain open to new workout options.
Just because a certain style or type of exercise worked or did not work for your best friend or co-worker, does not mean it will work or not work for you. Experiment until you discover your special niche and keep your personality in mind.
Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you prefer solitary exercise or group activities? If you like groups, do you prefer large or intimate group settings? What about music? Is music essential to set your mood or do you prefer quiet and less chaotic spaces?
Nothing is worse than signing up for a gym membership and then discovering you stepped into the twilight zone. Not enjoying, getting annoyed by, or becoming bored with your fellow workout partners or routine will destroy your motivation. It is not uncommon for us to join the gym that is most convenient or that has gotten the best rating only to discover it is not the best fit for our personal needs.
Visit several gyms or studios before dedicating yourself to a monthly payment plan. Many centers and studios offer introductory trial periods at a fraction of the cost of their standard rates. Gym owners want your business, but they also want their clients to be happy. They understand that there is no one-size-fits-all facility, which is why many offer workshops for first-time visitors. Take advantage of them.
Even after finding and settling into a gym or studio you love, consider taking a class or workshop at a different facility on occasion or setting up a space in your home to supplement your regular workouts. Establishing a home-based practice is liberating and makes it harder for you to make excuses for not working out and staying fit.
4. Don’t forget to reward yourself. Instead, celebrate the small victories in new ways.
Setting your goals and rewarding yourself for meeting them keeps you self-motivated and encouraged. It also instills self-reliance and increases your independence. You become empowerment and soon realize you are 100 percent in control of your body, health, and well-being.
Unfortunately, most Americans are conditioned to celebrate milestones and accomplishments with a party of cake, ice-cream, and other rich foods. When it comes to celebrating weight loss and lifestyle changes, rethinking how we celebrate is essential. Otherwise, all that hard work put into shedding the pounds is ironically negated while celebrating all that hard work.
Consider celebrating in new ways, like planning a trip to a park or museum or area attraction you have always wanted to visit. Or participate in a local 5K run, walk, or endurance challenge. Establishing a reward system like this sets a new standard of activity level in your life and challenges you while still having fun. Plus, it allows for guilt-free indulgences of treats like cookies or cakes or even that microbrew you have been avoiding while trying to lose weight.
Another option is to reward yourself with small purchases like a new piece of clothing or a book or tech gadget you have coveted for a while.
Good luck on your journey to fitness and health.