Who needs the gym? We were healthier before gyms came along

You can be fit without a membership to a pricey health club
photo: Hilton Disney
I presume it was a gym owner that convinced us a fit and healthy life could not be had without a gym membership.  We responded by subscribing to the idea with gusto, believing that training your heart and muscles required classes, personal trainers, heavy equipment, and fitness associates.  We signed up for gym memberships at an unprecedented pace that did not level off until just a few years ago.

But were we right?

Though many of us found gyms and their offerings exciting, energizing, and inspiring, that hasn't been the case for everyone.  Older Americans felt intimidated.  Obese Americans felt too fat to show up, and ordinary Americans who simply didn't like the gym scene felt destined to a life that falls short of the phrase "healthy and active."

If you fall into one of these three categories, here's one to chew on: Americans were a far slimmer and healthier people before gyms came along.

Gym membership is one path to fitness, but it's not the only one, and it isn't a complete path either.  The fact is, recent research suggests that even the gym goers may be missing out on the health benefits associated with frequent movement, because a burst of activity while good, isn't enough to stimulate a body designed to move throughout the day.

And so there is hope for an active and healthy life that never crosses the threshold of a gym.  Health can be yours if you incorporate activity into your day.  Clean your house with vigor.  Cancel the lawn service and mow your own grass.  Make shoveling snow your cardio and hoof it rather than driving to your favorite restaurant.

If you love the gym keep going, but be mindful of your overall activity level.  A sweat session at the gym no longer grants you a pass to remain sedentary for the rest of the day.

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