How Your Gym Attitude Affects Your Exercise Habits

3 07 2011

By Laura Williams

Despite the well-documented positive benefits of exercise, very few American adults meet the 300 weekly minutes of exercise suggested by the National Institutes of Health. In fact, of all adults trying to lose weight in America, only 30 percent of them meet the suggested guidelines.

Researchers at The George Washington University Medical Center wanted to discover how attitudes regarding gym-based exercise affected overweight and normal weight individuals’ exercise habits.

The Research and Results

The researchers surveyed 1,552 individuals to determine their attitudes and behavior regarding exercisepractices. Researchers used the Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior for the survey. This theory tests an individuals’ attitude toward a behavior, the perceived social pressure to perform the behavior and the ease or difficulty to actually perform the behavior in question. Of the 1,552 individuals, 989 were considered overweight or obese.

Researchers found the following attitudes and behaviors in overweight and normal weight individuals:

  • Overweight individuals had a greater belief that exercise would lead to improved appearance and self-image.
  • Overweight individuals felt more embarrassed and intimidated by exercise, exercising around young people, exercising around fit people and about health club sales people.
  • Overweight and normal weight individuals had the same attitudes regarding exercising with the opposite sex, using complicated exercise equipment, experiencing exercise boredom and overall intent to exercise.
  • The heavier the individual, the lower his perception of health and the more negative emotions he would experience in association with health club exercise—this was particularly true for Caucasian adults.


The Takeaway

The interesting thing about this study is that both normal weight and overweight individuals had the exact same intent to exercise and held similar attitudes regarding gym equipment. The main barriers to exercise in overweight individuals were primarily due to negative attitudes regarding exercising around younger, more fit individuals.

Not only should gyms and fitness centers work to counteract these negative attitudes by planning ways to make overweight individuals feel more comfortable in a gym setting, but overweight individuals should also recognize that there are alternatives to exercising in a gym.

If you’re simply not comfortable working out in a gym setting, you don’t have to ditch exercise altogether. Go for a walk, purchase exercise videos for home use or sign up for training program.

There are numerous exercise options available for people of all sizes and personality types, you just have to find the one you’re ready and willing to stick with.



Laura Williams writes about exercise and fitness for through her regular column “Exercise Science”. She is currently completing her master’s in Exercise Science.




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