Why using a fitness club is more important than you think

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Circuit_081516_0032The healthiest things you can do for yourself are to exercise regularly and lead an active lifestyle: The physical, emotional and spiritual benefits have turned even the most rooted couch potatoes into believers!

For those not inclined to self-motivate when it comes to breaking a sweat (you know who you are) and even those who never miss a workout, a fitness club membership is a great way to stay on track. And it can make your exercise program even more enriching.

From swimming pools and low-impact cardio equipment to classes designed specifically for older adults, fitness clubs are full of variety and camaraderie, and they’re not just for the 20-somethings anymore.

Fitness clubs have a lot to offer

Nothing will sink your workout routine faster than forcing yourself to do a workout you dread. Fitness centers are full of diverse ways to burn calories and build muscle. From cardio and weight machines that let you watch TV while you exercise to group classes like yoga, swimming, dancing and cycling. Using different machines and varying your workout also helps you work more muscles, which improves results and the quality of your workouts.

Support and motivation

Fitness centers are usually full of people. Some love to exercise and others drag themselves there for all the right reasons. Being surrounded by other people in the same boat can inspire you to work harder, try new equipment, and to keep coming back. And fitness professionals are on-hand to answer questions, help you learn to use equipment properly, and show you how to perform exercises safely.

Most fitness centers open early and close late, so even the busiest early birds and night owls can fit in a workout. Bad weather = no workout? Nope! Snow and ice, thunder and lightning, negative wind chills or triple digits; no matter what extreme weather wrecks your outdoor workout, conditions are always perfect inside the fitness center. And maintaining consistency will ensure you sustain your results and healthy habits, rain or shine.

Attending group classes is another great way to switch up your routine and to meet new people. Many fitness centers offer SilverSneakers classes designed specifically for adults of all fitness levels. Classes range from cardio and strengthening to yoga and water-based exercise, and many groups organize social events outside of class. Before you know, it you'll actually be looking forward to taking classes with your new friends

People need people! Being socially active boosts your emotional health, cognitive function and immune system, and it can help you live longer. And if you socialize at the fitness center, you'll improve your physical health while you're at it. Making friends at the gym can also motivate you to get there and enrich your life outside of the gym.

Showing up is half the battle

Many people are awesome at starting an exercise program, but actually sticking to the program is easier said than done. Boredom, lack of motivation, temptation, distractions, doubt, fear, laziness, too busy, not seeing results, the television set. There are a lot of reasons (and excuses) people have for skipping their workouts, and a fitness membership can be an effective way to debunk them all.

One study from Indiana University found that about 43 percent of people who start a workout program alone drop out, but that number drops to 6 percent among people who exercise with partners. Workout partners will help you show up!

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Benefits that transcend the gym

Sometimes a fitness membership is more than a pass into the gym. SilverSneakers includes health club membership at no cost to the member. But if the gym just isn't your thing, you can still reap the rewards! Walking groups and classes held outdoors or at recreation centers and other community locations allow members to work with professional instructors outside of a fitness center, and to connect with other people their age. You can meet other SilverSneakers members (and potential hiking, golfing, or tennis buddies, if that's more your style) at organized social events and on Facebook. Before you know it, your workout buddies will become your new gardening or card club, too.

Keep your eye on the goal

The list of benefits associated with regular physical and social activity goes on and on: Build strength and increase flexibility; reduce your risk of depression and many other chronic diseases; strengthen bones; prevent falls; increase life expectancy; prolong independence; enjoy day-to-day activities more, make new friends.

But you can’t revel in the benefits of regular exercise unless you exercise regularly.

So, why does all of this matter? Because regular physical and social activity leads to a higher quality of life and, for some people, a fitness center is the right place to find both. Yes, you can get fit and healthy without a gym membership but it might just make it a little more fun.

Find out if you're eligible for SilverSneakers, the fitness benefit that's  included with many Medicare Advantage plans. CHECK YOUR ELIGIBILITY