Impressions of Health Clubs Based on Beliefs

A study was carried out to understand the outlook of overweight and normal individuals toward exercising at a health club. Results showed that overweight people were more conscious of image and apprehensive about exercising among younger, fitter people. The survey found the intention to exercise similar across both groups, although overweight women were more hesitant about exercising at a club than men or normal weight persons. This study intended to encourage positive health beliefs among overweight people to enhance the intent to exercise.

Apart from weight loss, regular exercising results in reduction in risk of diseases linked to obesity. Sadly, most overweight individuals do not exercise as per appropriate health recommendations, despite being quite aware of the benefits. New resolutions to exercise are most often unfinished. Some exercise programs do not result in weight loss and this may discourage some overweight people. Exercising at health clubs with well-trained staff and good amenities is an ideal way to overcome the obstacles of fear of injury, inadequate monitoring and low motivation. However, overweight individuals have reported feelings of intimidation and inconvenience, among others, in going to health clubs. Hence, this study was carried out to compare the viewpoints of men/women who are overweight and those of normal weight regarding exercising at health clubs.

* The study assessed the behavioral aspects of overweight participants and those with normal weight, based on their plan for action and the influence of their attitude in carrying out their plans.
* Questionnaires were employed that reflected the inclination of participants to exercise twice a week for 30 minutes, in a health club.
* The surveys also covered the inhibitions expressed on cost, environment, company and fears.

Key findings
* While in general obese individuals and those with normal weight had similar views about exercising at a health club twice a week for 30-minute sessions, overweight women were more inhibited about exercising around men than women of normal weight.
* While overweight persons were shier and less comfortable than normal weight persons about exercising, they also had a more positive outlook about the value of exercise, with respect to health. Non-Caucasians were more positive about recommended exercise than Caucasians.
* Younger people exercised for reasons such as “good body image,” while older people exercised for reasons of health and for communal interaction.
* Although intent to exercise and attitude directly relate to each other, overweight people tend to exercise less. In other words, the higher the weight, the lower was the perception of health.

Shortcomings/Next steps
This study did not pinpoint the exact attitude that influenced the intent to exercise. The data was confined to exercising in health clubs and there might be a difference in the attitudes related to exercising in a different environment. Further work needs to address removal of negative perspectives towards exercising at health clubs and directing the efficacy to achieve better social health objectives.

It is interesting to note the comparable pattern in the overall attitude of overweight individuals and those with normal weight toward exercising at health clubs with some exceptions. This reinforces the fact that attitudes are largely dictated by beliefs. As a consequence, a strong negative opinion needs to be changed by repeated attempts over a long duration. Additionally, introducing the environment of a health club in an acceptable manner could induce motivation. The fundamental purpose of such studies is to improve people’s perspectives on health and direct it towards a positive belief structure, eventually leading to better social health.

For More Information:
Attitudes of Overweight and Normal Weight Adults Regarding Exercise at a Health Club
Publication Journal: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, January 2010
By Wayne C. Miller, PhD; Todd A. Miller, PhD; Department of Exercise Science, George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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