Gym Membership Neglect

Signing up for a gym membership may have been your New Year’s Resolution, but if it’s almost summer and you’ve hardly made it in the door, you may be suffering from a case of gym membership neglect.

Neglected gym memberships are more common than you may think, says physical therapist Stacy Ruffing, PT. An average of 67 percent of gym memberships go unused.

“People tend to think that buying the gym membership will get them in the door, and that isn’t always the case,” Ms. Ruffing says. “Beyond time commitment issues, physical pain is a significant reason why people aren’t going to the gym.”

Be Strategic

If you want to be in the minority of people who uses their gym membership regularly, you have to be strategic. To select a gym you’ll actually end up using, Ruffing recommends considering:

  1. Location. “Pick somewhere that is conveniently located,” she says. “It’s easier to make excuses when your gym is hard to get to.”
  2. Price. Choosing a more expensive gym doesn't actually make you more likely to use it. You don’t have to overextend your budget in order to establish a fitness routine.
  3. Comfort. “It depends on what you’re looking for in a gym,” Ms. Ruffing says. “If a more social environment motivates you, consider group fitness classes. You want to pick a place where you feel comfortable walking in the door.”
  4. Have a program. You'll need a plan to stick with.
    “The best advice to make the most of your gym membership is to have a program to start with,” Ms. Ruffing says. “You can collaborate with a physical therapist to make your workout plan more efficient.”

When to Push Yourself

Even after you’ve found a gym that fits your needs, it may be hard to stay motivated. It’s important to know when to push yourself to work out versus listening to your body when an injury or illness requires rest. And, contrary to popular belief, an illness may not put a stop to your workout.

“If you have a cold or mild illness, activity is encouraged, and doing some light exercise is okay,” Ms. Ruffing says.

However, if you have a sports injury or chronic pain, it can be harder to determine when to skip a workout.

“Oftentimes, people don’t want to go to the gym when they don’t feel good,” she says. “However, there’s a difference between discomfort and pain.”

When determining what kind of pain you’re experiencing, Ms. Ruffing suggests asking yourself:

  • Does it feel uncomfortable or am I actually in pain?
  • Is the pain getting any worse?
  • Are there any trends?

If your pain is severe or getting worse, you should modify or see a physical therapist to put you on the road to recovery – and keep your gym membership active.

Stacy Ruffing, PT is a physical therapist at University Hospitals Rehabilitation Services at University Hospitals Concord Health Center. You can request an appointment with Ruffing or any other health care provider online.

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