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Healthy Weight Center

At the Gym or Elsewhere -- Exercise is Key!

Odds are you have a friend or family member who is overweight or obese. A staggering 66% of Americans are currently overweight or obese. You may want to help them become more physically active and think that they just need more motivation or education about the benefits of exercise.

According to a recent study, that might not be the problem.

Their findings indicate that attitudes toward exercising at a health club are no different between normal-weight people and those who are overweight or obese. In fact, overweight adults had even stronger attitudes than their normal-weight counterparts about exercise improving their health and self-image.

Even though overweight or obese people have stronger attitudes about exercising improving their health and self-image, researchers found that only 16 percent of overweight respondents attended a health club, compared with 22 percent of normal-weight respondents.

It appears that overweight people have more emotional hurdles to overcome regarding joining a health club. For example, overweight people reported feeling more intimidated by health-club exercise, by the staff and the overall environment at health clubs. They also felt less strongly that such exercise would be fun, and they felt more uncomfortable exercising around young, fit people. In addition, overweight women reported feeling more self-conscious about exercising around men than normal-weight women did.

According to the study's findings, it is not that overweight people do not understand the benefits of exercise or that they lack motivation. They may not have the same comfort level at a gym that you might have.

Obviously, your friend might have her own reasons for shying away from joining you at the gym. Maybe she cannot afford the membership fee, or maybe she cannot carve out the time.

However, if it is the idea of the health club itself that's holding her back, you might invite her to join you in other types of physical activity. Try brisk walking at the mall or at a nearby park for example, or working out at home with exercise videos. Partnering up is key: Research indicates that people with social support are more likely to be successful exercisers.

For more ideas, see the Physical Activity section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site (CDC). The goal is to get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week such as walking. This will help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer, and it improves your chances of living healthier and longer.

More information about this study in which researchers from George Washington University compared attitudes of 1,500 overweight and normal-weight adults about exercising at a health club can be found at the reference below.


Miller, WC.; Miller, TA. Attitudes of overweight and normal weight adults regarding exercise at a health club. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, v. 42 issue 1, 2010, p. 2-9.

This article originally appeared in Chow Line (01/17/10), a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2010.

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Last Reviewed: Mar 29, 2010

Rebecca  Nguyen, MS Rebecca Nguyen, MS
Manager of the Faculty and Staff Fitness Program
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University