The benefits of joining a gym: from improving heart health to becoming part of a community

Why go to the gym? There’s so much to gain, you’ll keep coming back for more. Here are a few reasons why.

Exercise is good for us – it improves heart health, protects against many health conditions and can even help us live longer. But with so many ways to incorporate exercise into daily life, why join a gym? A gym membership is a great way to either get into or return to exercise. Although it might feel daunting to start with, gyms are usually friendly, welcoming spaces where everyone comes together with one common goal – to improve their health and fitness. And there are many more benefits – here are just a few.

three men talking in the gymCredit: Shutterstock / PeopleImages.com – Yuri A

Variety is the spice of life

A unique benefit of the gym is the variety. Where else can you take your pick from a range of cardio and strength training equipment? Even if you are lucky enough to have a home gym, you’re unlikely to have the full range of equipment. Some of the equipment on offer in a gym may include:

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Cardio machines

  • treadmills 
  • rowers 
  • elliptical or cross-trainer 
  • stairmasters 
  • exercise bikes 

Strength machines

  • chest press machine 
  • shoulder press machine 
  • lat pulldown (a weighted cable machine that works the back) 
  • seated row  
  • leg press 
  • leg extension 
  • hamstring curl 

Free weights

  • squat racks 
  • barbells and plates 
  • dumbbells 
  • kettlebells 

Functional fitness equipment

  • slam balls (heavy weighted balls that you can throw to the floor or against a wall) 
  • resistance bands 
  • TRX (suspension training straps for full body workouts) 
  • Swiss balls (larger, light-weight balls often used for balance work or rehab) 
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It improves our heart health

Cardio exercise is great for improving the overall function of our heart and lungs. Not only is this good for reducing inflammation, protecting against high blood pressure and heart- related illnesses, it also makes day-to-day activities easier. Using the cardio machines in the gym can really give an added boost.  

If you want to find it easier to climb the stairs, a stairmaster is a perfect piece of equipment to use.  It works like a continuous staircase, and you can adjust the pace and intensity as you climb. It works all the muscles of the legs and glutes and is a great cardio workout. 

If you’re trying to get 10,000 steps a day and it’s pouring with rain, head to the gym to walk or run on the treadmill.  

Woman using a punch bagCredit: Shutterstock / Dmytro Zinkevych

It tones our muscles and keeps us strong

Preserving muscle mass is important as we age, because it protects against osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, and protects our joints. Additionally, skin can lose elasticity and, if we’ve also lost muscle, it can then appear to sag.  

Dean Zweck, product development manager at Total Fitness, says the solution lies in strength training. “It’s common for people to use exercise to help them look toned, but to do this you need to have some level of muscle development. To help achieve this, it’s important to do an element of strength training, whether that be body weight exercises or lifting weights in the gym.” 

Using the strength machines in the gym is a great place to start with this. As your ability and confidence improves, and you see the benefits of strength training, you might like to branch out into using some of the free weights listed above or working with a personal trainer to achieve your goals. You could even follow one of our gym workouts. However you do it, it’s worth trying to add strength and resistance to your routine.  

“As you start to build muscle, you will notice that your strength begins to improve too,” Zweck says. “Building up your strength can help you during your day-to-day life, from simple tasks like keeping up with the kids to walking up the stairs.” 

It improves balance and coordination

“Your muscles are also important, as they help to support your balance,” Zweck says. “Balance is an integral part of our daily lives, both when we’re in and out of the gym. It’s essential for reducing the risk of injury and helps the body stretch, improving posture and coordination. 

Building strength and muscle around your joints, such as your glutes and quads, will help to stabilise your hips and knees and ultimately improve your balance. This is extremely important as you age, as not only do your muscles help you stabilise, but they also add some cushioning should you slip, which will help to protect you further.” 

Once you’re confident in basic strength training patterns (such as squats), try adding in some balance work. You could try to master a single-leg deadlift, where you balance on one leg to pick a weight up from the floor, or perfect walking lunges – holding dumbbells as you walk forward in a lunging motion.

The gym can increase confidence and improve mental health

“Building muscle, increasing strength, and seeing the weights you lift increase, session by session, can also have a profound effect on your mental health and is bound to boost your confidence,” Zweck adds. 

“This will build your self-esteem throughout all areas of fitness, meaning you’ll be inclined to keep it up, and set regular goals that challenge you.” 

Exercising can feel hard at first, and you won’t always feel motivated to do it, but you can be disciplined. By making it a non-negotiable habit, you’ll gradually notice results. In turn, those results will make you feel happier and inspire you to keep going. You’ll walk a little taller, feel a little brighter, and smile a little wider. What could be better than that? 

three ladies high fivingCredit: Shutterstock / PeopleImages.com – Yuri A

The gym can help you lose weight

“Muscle is around three times more metabolically active than fat, meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn,” Zweck explains. “This is why it’s important to focus on achieving muscle definition first, as this will help you to lose weight and will leave you happier with the results.” 

Zweck advises two to three full body strength training sessions a week. These might be bodyweight exercises only, a class using weights like Body Pump, or a session on the gym machines. Adding regular cardio exercise also ensures your heart and lungs are getting a workout too. With so much on offer, it’s best to try as much as you can to see what you like best and, of course, combining exercise with a healthy diet always works best if weight loss is your goal.  

Friendship and community

On a personal note, I think one of the biggest benefits of the gym is the community. It can be nerve-racking to sign up for a gym membership, and it takes courage to walk through those doors for the first time.  

But it’s my experience that once you’ve taken that first step, a whole new world opens up. You’ll begin to see the same people, especially if you go on regular days or times, and they’re only too happy to help you out, answer questions or share their tips and advice. After all, they were once in your shoes. 

Being active and social is good for our health. Whether we’re there to improve our squat, work on our mental health, or take a walk on a treadmill, a friendly hello or a short chat can really lift someone’s mood and improve their day.  

Often gyms have their own community too. Sponsored sports events, themed days, quizzes, book clubs, coffee mornings – the gym offers a lot more than just workout machines.  

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Becky Fuller

Written by Becky Fuller she/her

Published:

Becky Fuller is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, specialising in strength and conditioning for over 50s. Becky’s focus is helping people to become stronger both in body and mind, and to move well without pain. Becky also has many years’ experience working as a freelance journalist, writing for a wide variety of publications such as Screen Rant, Geek Feed, and Daily Actor. She also regularly reviews theatre productions for UKTW.

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