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TALKBACK katie barnes • assistant editor • health club management
everyone’s talking about . . .
fi tness benefi ts
Fitness helps improve our health as well as having social, mental and spiritual benefits. But are clubs
selling these advantages or is there still too much of a focus on going to the gym just to look good?
et’s face it: we live in an of medical conditions such as heart that regular exercise is as effective
image-conscious society and disease, stroke, diabetes and even as medication in treating mild to
the number one reason why some cancers including colon and moderate depression, as well as
most people go to the gym breast cancer. It has also been helping with anxiety-related disorders.
is to look good. For years, health clubs shown to help with conditions such It can also boost brain function in older
have sold fi tness on this basis – ‘get the as osteoporosis, and addictions to adults (see HCM April 09 p44) as well
beach body look for summer’, ‘shape smoking and alcohol. as children (see HCM May 09 p38).
up for your wedding’ and so on. Studies have also shown that Socially, fi tness can be a gateway in
Yet regular physical activity has so regular exercise can add 14 years to to meeting new people and trying new
much more to offer. There’s a wealth your life and delay ageing by up to things, while spiritually, all the above
of scientifi c evidence highlighting the 12 years (see HCM March 09 p59) – benefi ts combine to increase our sense
broader health benefi ts of exercise, particularly pertinent considering our of wellbeing and help us feel at one
providing a compelling argument to be ageing population. with ourselves and our bodies.
‘more active, more often’. Then there are the mental benefi ts, The question remains though: are
First and foremost are the physical which are linked in part to the more health clubs really tapping into all of
benefi ts. The most obvious advantage obvious physical benefi ts: if you these benefi ts, or could they be doing
is in the treatment and prevention look good you feel good. It’s proven more? We ask the experts.
dr john ratey jon johnston
associate professor • harvard medical school managing director • matrix fitness
he mental benefits that come
from exercise are huge. As we “E
lements of the modern fitness
industry emerged from the body-
work out, our mind and spirit improve, building culture, but gym exercise isn’t
and become more capable of dealing just about bulging biceps or washboard
with changes in life. abs. The main benefits for anyone, of any
When we exercise, our brains release age, are systemic – the positive impact of
chemicals that are responsible for our exercise on our internal systems.
moods, which helps us regulate stress Exercise improves the function of
and anxiety. Exercise also helps our the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and
cognitive function and has the added advantage of preserving endocrine systems and burns off stress hormones: studies
mental function as we age. Our self-esteem is definitely greater have suggested stress could a possible major factor in ageing.
too, because of the many chemicals that make us feel better In addition, intense strength training, especially compound
about ourselves – and, perhaps most importantly, because we exercises, cause the release of beneficial hormones, such as
feel we have been the agent of change. Clubs could tap into this human growth hormones and testosterone, which again helps
just by explaining to members what it is they’re experiencing. off-set the physical decline associated with ageing. With our
I don’t know any clubs that emphasise any of these benefits, ageing population, rather than focusing on external appearance,
although some have approached me for advice on how to. Giving we should be promoting inner beauty and exercise’s anti-ageing
new members a copy of my book on how exercise enhances brain benefits. Clubs looking to ‘sell’ these benefits might combine
health would teach them the advantages and give them a reason this with confidence-building programmes.
to keep exercising. Clubs should also help them to lower body fat But the industry is already changing for the better, especially
percentage, as it is bad for the brain in so many ways. Finally, they with the emergence of the trust sector, which heavily promotes
should focus on cardiac fitness: the better the cardiac fitness, the GP referrals. Nuffield Health is also taking a bold stance in its
more stable the mood and the better we perform intellectually.

marketing, rebranding its gyms as health and wellbeing centres.

28 Read Health Club Management online june 2009 © cybertrek 2009
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