She won’t hear any disagreement from psychologist Tracy Sbrocco, director at the Uniformed Services University Center for Health Disparities in Bethesda. “I work with overweight and obese people who moan and groan about the gym membership they never use,” says Sbrocco, who tries to steer her patients into setting more attainable exercise goals than the perennial loser of “going to the gym every day.”
Not to say that large gyms don’t work for many of their members. (Just look at the numbers: 59 million Americans visited a health club in 2011, more than 51 million as members.) Sometimes you’d rather work up a sweat solo, or do your own specific routine. Plus, many Washington gyms have busy schedules that make studio offerings seem paltry.
But if that approach has flopped for you in the past, chances are it will again. Sbrocco often suggests sampling as a way to find a kind of fitness that you enjoy enough to keep doing — maybe that’s yoga, or Zumba or even walking. “You work all day doing things you often don’t want to do. So you don’t want to spend another hour doing something you don’t want to do,” she says.
You also probably don’t want to spend a lot of extra money, and one drawback to paying a la carte is that the costs add up fast when drop-ins are often $20 or more per class. Even in Washington, where gym memberships can top $100 per month, someone working out once or twice a week at boutique gyms can end up shelling out substantially more cash.
“But it’s far less expensive than a personal trainer,” notes Kate Arnold, who owns the Bar Method studio in downtown Washington and is set to open another outpost of the national chain in Bethesda this month. “Our teachers know how to push you individually, and you get inspiration from the group.”
Stakelin, of DC Fit Crasher, says her health is worth it. Besides, she says, the variety and personalized attention are worth the extra cost. “You get what you pay for,” she says.
And with gym memberships, that might not always be the case. Stefano DellaVigna, an economics professor at University of California at Berkeley, published a study showing that most people choose gym membership over pay-as-you-go programs, but — based on their attendance — they would have saved money if they’d paid for each visit individually.
But the problem with paying per visit is that it provides an economic deterrent to exercise.
DellaVigna’s solution? Multi-class packages purchased in advance. “You’re saving money but not disincentivizing yourself,” he says.
Sounds like a good start to a New Year’s resolution.
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Hallett edits the Fit section of Express.
Also at washingtonpost.com Read past columns by Hallett and Lenny Bernstein at
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