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Two Life Time membership cards on a surface.

The COVID-19 crisis has made one thing clear: The more fit and healthy you are, the lower your risk of getting sick — not only from a coronavirus, but from numerous other pathogens.

If there was ever a good reason to join a health club or gym and get in shape, reducing your risk of severe infections like COVID-19 is probably near the top of the list.

1. Getting and staying fit is how your body protects itself.

Your body does some miraculous things. It repairs itself from injuries, combats pathogens to keep us from getting sick, and can move, jump, lift, and think.

But it’s only able to achieve these incredible feats if you keep it fit and healthy. Exercise, good nutrition, and self-care build immunity — and many health clubs and fitness centers offer resources to help you with all of them.

Plus, in terms of COVID-19, which we’re all aware of, the statistics consistently show that those who are healthy are less likely to get the virus. When they do get it, those individuals tend to experience less severe symptoms — and are often asymptomatic.

2. The gym is not your home.

Let’s say you need to do some shopping. You could either shop online at Amazon or Target.com, or go to a Target store. In which case are you likely to spend more money? Going to the store, right?

That’s because going to the store puts you in the mindset of shopping.

When you order online from home, you do so in the midst of other activities — doing the laundry, watching a show, or killing time scrolling social media. It’s no different than going to the gym instead of working out at home.

It’s difficult to let go of everything else at home and to focus solely on your workout with the same sort of intensity you would if you were at a health club or gym. Going to a fitness center puts you in the mindset of working out, so you tend to give it a more concerted effort than you would at home.

If it’s impossible to get to a gym, that’s one thing. If it’s inconvenient or makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s another.

3. A fitness center creates a different circle of influence.

Research shows that behaviors are contagious — we tend to become and behave like the people we spend the most time with.

So if you hang around people who make poor food choices and don’t exercise, you’re more likely to make poor food choices and skip exercise. That’s the case even of those people who are your own family.

When you go to the health club, you’re surrounded by other fitness-focused people who influence your behavior. (Even better if the rest of your family comes along as well.)

Most parents of teenagers understand this principle well: It’s why they question who their kids hang around with. It’s not that they don’t trust their kids; it’s that most parents have enough wisdom to understand the affect others have on their developing children.

Spend time around some people who are healthier and fitter than you are. If you keep going, that won’t be the case for long.

Gyms and Germs

I’ve been in some pretty nasty gyms over the years — rusty steel, dust balls bigger than medicine balls, and more grime on the water fountains than you’d find at the base of a toilet in a public restroom.

Germ-infested fitness centers are the exception, not the rule. In fact, many fitness centers, including Life Time, have cleaning procedures in place that would rival almost any other public space.

That said, avoiding all germs is problematic, too. Your immune system needs to be exposed to some germs in order to stay strong. You don’t need to exercise somewhere that’s as clean as a surgical room.

4. Fitness centers have the equipment you need.

I’ve helped a handful of people figure out what they need for a decked-out home gym — and these were for men and women who’d been consistent with exercise for years. They also had a significant budget to work with.

While two pairs of dumbbells and some resistance bands work as a substitute when gyms are closed or when you just can’t get to the club, they probably aren’t enough for you to see significant fitness gains in the long-term.

To progressively get strong, fitter, and support longevity, the minimum equipment you need includes the following:

  • An Olympic barbell
  • Weight plates
  • A variety of dumbbells (up to at least 50 pounds)
  • A bench
  • A squat rack
  • Resistance bands, rings, or TRX straps

To maintain strength, movement, and mobility, you need to sit and stand, bend over and lift stuff up, press and pull. Exercises like the deadlift, back squat, chest and overhead press, row and pull-up, and some rotational movements form the basis of all other exercises.

To master those movements, you not only need good equipment: You need enough weight that you can continue to increase your resistance as you gain strength.

The next time you go to the gym, consider the space and the cost of the equipment there. You get access to it all and pay less each month for the membership than one pair of midweight dumbbell costs.

A fitness club membership for $30 to $100 per month is more cost effective than spending $10,000-plus for what you’d need in your home to create a well-rounded workout space.

5. If you pay, you’ll be more likely to play.

People don’t value what they don’t pay for. The more you need to stretch your budget to pay for the membership, the more likely it is you’ll use it.

The same goes for investing in a training program or a personal trainer. My hardest-working, most disciplined clients were those who saw their personal-training sessions as a significant expense. Those who could easily afford the service tended to not take their training as seriously.

I understand that a fitness club membership could stretch your budget. Take time to review your monthly expenses to see if there’s something you could eliminate — maybe cable TV, alcohol, or dining out — to put the gym membership within reach.

When you consider all of the money you spend in a given month (beyond food, clothing, and a roof over your head), your body and mind deserve to be taken care of.

Don’t wait for “Monday” or “next month,” or “the New Year.” Your health is too important to wait for the “right” time to get started. Now is the right time.

Keep the conversation going.

Leave a comment, ask a question, or see what others are talking about in the Life Time Training Facebook group.

tom-nikkola-vice-president-nutrition-virtual-training-life-time
Tom Nikkola, CSCS, CISSN

Tom Nikkola is the vice president of nutrition and virtual training at Life Time. With two decades of education, experience, and experimentation, he has come to realize that health and fitness is way easier than most people believe it to be.

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