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What’s Keeping Folks From Hitting The Health Club

While most Americans (91 percent) believe exercising at a health club would improve their overall health, only 18 percent of those surveyed actually belong to a health club, according to the results of a survey.

The survey explored the behavioral barriers that prevent Americans from exercising at a health club. The survey, sponsored by The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) was conducted among a representative sample of the online U.S. population.

The health and financial consequences of sedentary lifestyles are startling, the IHRSA said. From 1987 to 2000, the direct medical costs associated with physical inactivity more than doubled — from $29 billion to nearly $76.6 billion. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two-thirds of American adults do not engage in regular leisure-time physical activity.

"Why don’t more Americans join? What’s stopping them? What needs to change so more people can make physical activity a routine part of their daily lives?" was a question posed by John McCarthy, association executive director. "Understanding why most Americans don’t exercise is the first step in helping most Americans to exercise. We must understand the barriers to increased physical activity and act now to counter the health crisis our country is facing. Somehow, we must make the cultural shift from a sedentary to a more physically active society."

It’s not surprising that lack of time in today’s fast-paced world is a leading issue of concern among survey respondents. As many as 42 percent of respondents say that exercising at a health club at least twice per week for 30 minutes for the next month would interfere with their other priorities, compared to only 34 percent who say it would not.

Of particular interest, though, is the finding that nearly half of married Americans say their spouse or partner does not think they should exercise at a health club at least twice per week for 30 minutes for the next month — whereas only 34 percent say their spouse or partner think they should. The same for those respondents with children: A full 50 percent say their children do notthink they should exercise at a health club at least twice per week for 30 minutes for the next month — whereas only 19 percent say their children think they should.

Just as unexpected is the finding that fewer than half of Americans — only 40 percent — say their doctor thinks they should exercise at a health club at least twice per week for 30 minutes for the next month.

"It’s extremely surprising that although regular physical activity is such a fundamentally important component of good health, so many people don’t understand that their doctors want them to exercise—and only a minority of Americans feel they have their family’s support in establishing healthy lifestyles," says McCarthy.

"If we are to help more people build exercise into their daily lives, we must provide the social support and positive reinforcement that Americans need to change their lifestyle behaviors," McCarthy said. "That’s why IHRSA is leading efforts to increase public awareness of the health and ‘feel good’ benefits that exercise brings through a number of consumer health initiatives."

As part of an annual Get Active America! program started three years ago, a wide variety of health clubs nationwide offer health-focused programs in the month of May and open their doors for free for several days. The goal is to make it easier for Americans to exercise and to help them build regular exercise into their daily routines.

I Lost It at the Club!, a fitness industry weight loss initiative coordinated by IHRSA and established in 2005, engages current and future club members each January in a fun, collaborative effort to lose weight, while helping them focus on living longer, healthier, more productive lives.

The IHRSA is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers.

For more information on The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, visit

© 2007 Health Resources Publishing