Why join a gym? ( And how to make the investment pay off)

The medical definition of health is: a state of optimal physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. Many people join a gym because of a real health challenge (e.g. heart disease, high blood pressure or weight loss) or they want “health.” Others come in preparation for an upcoming event or as a New Year’s resolution, and still others come because they realize the best thing they can do for themselves is to invest in their health — not out of fear and not to “fix,” but to invest in their health future.

Once the “investment” decision is made, success at the gym calls for planning. Designing a plan specific to the individual’s needs, goals and body limitations is critical. A flexible plan is key, and it has to be a plan that includes a nutritional strategy. The plan should be, above all, simple and easy to monitor. Include these three key elements in your gym-based fitness and health commitment: cardio training, strength training and nutrition planning.

Cardio training

In plain English, get your heart beating fast at least three times a week. If your physician says it’s OK to exercise seriously, then get your butt in gear. Sweat hard for a minimum of 25 minutes at least three times a week. Don’t skip this part of your plan — as the slogan says, just do it! Use a stationary bike, a treadmill or an elliptical trainer or take a class. Whatever you choose, make it vigorous.

Strength training

Weights are not just for showoffs and body-builders. Keep bones healthy, joints working smoothly, flexibility up and muscle tone healthy; these all benefit from moderate, planned amounts of strength training using weights, bands or your own body weight. Just don’t ignore this important component of effective gym use.

Nutrition planning

Be a health nut, a vegan or even just moderately sensible, but don’t think you can have a successful commitment to fitness without considering what goes into your body every day. The best foundation for effective nutrition is common sense. While having ribs and onion rings three times a week is not a good use of common sense, total denial of “fun foods” is, for most people, unreasonable. In other words, plan what you eat, watch the scale, avoid high-fat foods, monitor your cholesterol and make good nutrition a balanced part of your fitness plan.

Should you use a trainer? Yes, if you want to very-effectively get a plan designed and get on the go quickly and effectively. Trainers aren’t cheap but they are usually smart and can move you ahead smartly, helping you meet your goals in a targeted, safe and sensible way.

Do you have to? No. There is a lot of good info on the Internet and, as we suggest above, common sense and the right resources can get you to your goals!

Dr. Marjorie Dejoie practices physical and internal medicine and is a registered personal trainer at 12th Street Gym. For more information on Marjorie and more than 30 other top trainers at 12th Street Gym, visit www.12streetgym.