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Overpriced Gyms Make You Feel Bad

Overpriced gyms make you feel bad. That’s what a recent study conducted by professor Ewa M. Roos, at the University of Southern Denmark.   

The study was considered double-blind and for a duration of eight weeks.  

The physiotherapists working with each exercise group were unaware of the purpose of the study as well as the participants. There were three groups, with 42 people in group A, 40 people in group B, and a waitlist group who didn’t do anything and were called group C.  All of the participants reported to have either had hip or knee pain going into the study. Each participant had their aerobic capacity, muscle strength and walking speed tested before and after the study.

What were the differences between group A & B’s environments?

Group A was put in an overpriced gym.  The gym was modern, had large windows with plenty of sunlight, big wall mirrors, views of nature, and had all of the state-of-the-art gym equipment. Group B was brought to the basement of a 1970s building that was bare and unadorned in any way.

They had a lot of secrecy around the analysis of the results to avoid researchers influencing the results with their beliefs.  

The groups were labeled A and B in the data analyses, and interpretation of the results was agreed on in writing prior to the revealing of which group had exercised in what room.  

After the eight weeks, the participants were asked to report their overall improvement, pain relief, and functional improvement.  The participants reported their testing results and were asked to explain their understanding of their experiences of exercising in the two different rooms.

The finding was not what they expected.

Both groups improved physically about the same, but Group A reported feeling better overall, with more pain relief and greater improvement in function. Why was this?

There was no difference in aerobic capacity, muscle strength, and walking speed between the two groups. Obviously, Group C did not improve in any way whatsoever since they just waited and didn’t exercise (duh).

At the end of eight weeks, the groups were asked how their knee/hip pain problems were.  The answers were contrary to what the study expected to find. As it became clear when the groups were revealed, that the group exercising in the old room reported greater improvement.  Weird.

The participants were shown photos of the two rooms to spark discussion about their impressions.

The people in the old room didn’t perceive the aged appearance negatively. They said they felt at home in the environment and expressed nostalgia because it reminded them of their old school gym.

More importantly, they also felt a stronger sense of fellowship and that they were all in it together, working as a team to achieve their goals.

In contrast, in the new fancy gym room with the large windows, they said there was more of a distraction and participants said that did not feel part of a team.  The large wall mirrors they had weren’t appreciated either. They didn’t like to look at their untrained legs and their often overweight bodies. The overpriced gym made them feel bad.

What to do then?

Take your time in finding the right exercise environment that feels right for you.  Join a group that has similar goals. Finding an environment that you really like will improve your chances of getting fit and feeling better! If you are joining a gym to exercise rather than for other reasons (picking up a date, showing off your bulging muscles or your big butt in your workout pants) then maybe keeping some important concepts in mind will help you with your happiness at the gym.

Exercise isn’t fancy. It’s sweating. It’s working hard and sometimes it’s difficult and even frustrating. Taking your ego out of your workouts will make it more about your improvement while not comparing yourself to others.  Focusing on yourself while working out will make it more fun and you might even find yourself open to meeting some new friends who share your values and goals.

It doesn’t take money, fancy revealing gym clothes, a nice view or lifting heavier than you should to be successful in the gym. In fact, that last one is what causes injuries!  It takes just the opposite. Don’t let your overpriced gym make you feel bad. Pay for the more important stuff, like learning from a trainer how to do the exercises properly. Paying for the cool lighting, the DJ with a stupid name, and fancy decor is pretty cool and all…But hey! Either way, do what is most important to you and it will show in your smile or in your frown.

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