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Weight may factor into attitudes about health club workouts

December 18, 2009 |  3:39 pm

Gyms will soon be filled with resolution-makers hopping on treadmills and stair climbers in droves to get in shape. But not everyone is so gung-ho about exercising at health clubs.

Hw6g4akf A new study in the January/February issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior reveals some interesting insights into people's attitudes about exercise and exercise intent. The anonymous survey, done online, included 1,552 people, 989 of whom were overweight. The participants responded to questions, theoretically assuming they'd be exercising at a health club at least twice a week for half an hour for the next month. They were quizzed about exercise improving appearance and health, about exercising around younger people, purchasing trendy exercise clothes, being exposed to pushy sales people, and other issues.

Researchers from the department of exercise science at The George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., found that overall, there was no substantial difference in attitude about exercising at a gym among normal-weight and overweight participants, among men and women, and among various age groups.

However, when the data were broken down, overweight women were not as comfortable as women of normal weight exercising around men. That, the study authors point out, may explain the popularity of the women-only Curves chain of gyms.

Also, overweight men and women said they felt more embarrassed when working out; were more intimidated by health club exercise; said that working out around younger, more in-shape people was more uncomfortable; and found exercising in a gym less fun than did normal weight people. However, overweight men and women also felt more optimistic about exercise to enhance their health and self-image than their normal-weight counterparts.

In general, attitudes toward exercise were higher among Caucasians than non-Caucasians, and a higher percentage of Caucasians said they intended to exercise at a gym.

"These results are interesting," the authors wrote, "because the exercise prevalence data show that Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians are much less active than Caucasians."

The authors concluded, "...individual beliefs about health club exercise should be evaluated for each new client."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Vince Compagnone / Los Angeles Times

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