Gyms seem to be a necessary staple of society. Like the grocery store. Used by millions, and often referred to as a fitness centre. We go there to become fit and healthy.
If fitness = health, then gyms must be good for us, right?
Turns out there are quite a few downfalls relating both to the gym machines, and the overall environment of a gym. Some of the drawbacks may be brushed off, but others are certainly worthy of consideration. Before we get into the negatives, here’s the fantastic thing about gyms: They help people achieve and maintain fitness.
In life, it’s important to keep the main thing the main thing, and there’s absolutely no denying that gyms are a tool for people to help them achieve their body image and fitness goals. I’m all for any method which motivates people to get in shape, especially if their shape is causing major health risks. That being said, it’s not the treadmill which is causing waves of concern in popular health discussions.
Before we get stuck in, just think how much healthier our mentality would be if we didn’t feel the need to pay money EVERY month to join a club where we are on display and constantly comparing ourselves with others. Then have to buy special clothes and cram our big, muscular or perhaps floppy behinds all into one sweaty room where we vigorously excrete our toxins onto machines used by many before us. And all this just in order to maintain our health and feel good about ourselves. The truth is, gyms are just not necessary for a good workout, no matter how convenient they may seem.
Why gyms are not that great for us
They can cause muscular imbalance
By misusing, overusing or repeatedly using a machine which is designed to target only one particular group of muscles, (which is the purpose of most gym machines), we may think we are gaining strength when in fact we are building the mass in one area which could cause other areas to buckle under the weight. This is often a problem when focusing solely on body image, instead of overall stamina and strength.
Gym machines don’t prepare you for strength needed in every day life
Building muscle mass and strength in an unnatural environment does not prepare your body for every day situations, outside of the gym environment.
Personal trainer, Diery Prudent explains: “If I put you on a gym machine, and have you lift 35 pounds in one plane of movement, I don’t know if you can lift that same amount of weight if it were on the ground in front of you, in the form of a small child.”
He continues, “Gym machines aren’t going to be able to replicate the muscles you need to change a tire when you get a flat, or pushing a baby stroller with one hand and carry a bag of groceries with the other hand.”
Gym machines fail where wholesome exercise prevails
Diery, founder of prudentfitness.com has formulated a holistic back-yard style of training, which everyone can benefit from. Unsurprisingly, he’s not sold on the idea of using gym machines to target specific weaknesses, because muscles don’t work in isolation in the real world. “If it’s an imbalance to one specific muscle, what about all the muscles around it?” he asks. “What about the muscles on the other side? If you’re isolating one part of the body to correct that imbalance, how is that going to get the whole unit to function as a whole?”
Most gyms are teaming with high amounts of potentially harmful bacteria
Most gyms will (or should) disinfect equipment and surrounding surfaces at the end of each day. (Ideally this should be done a few times per day, like public toilets. But, no one wants to hire the staff.) If your gym does in fact wipe down equipment (a lot of them don’t), then the cleanest way to get your reps in is to be there first thing in the morning. Getting in your workout at the start of the day theoretically should mean minimal chance of cross-contamination. Key word: should.
A new study by fitrated.com found some gym machines to have 350 times more bacteria than a public toilet. They took samples from 27 pieces of gym equipment at three different gyms. 31% of the bacteria they found were antibiotic resistant strains, and were placed in the very harmful category.
A staggering 41% of the bacteria they cultured, called gram-positive cocci, are the most common cause of skin infections and a frequent cause of pneumonia and septicaemia.
Over 70% of the total bacteria found were potentially harmful to humans. Yikes! But to be fair, if you pack a room full of a lot of different sweaty people, maybe even unhygienic (let’s just face facts here, a lot of people still have poor hygiene), then it’s going to create the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.
Exercising in your own home, local yoga studio where you bring your own mat, or out in nature (if the weather permits, of course), is always going to be far healthier for your respiratory organs and your skin. If it can be avoided, why choose to inhale stale air during a heavy workout when you could be out in the open? And this does not mean go jogging or cycling by the side of a busy road. That is also not good for your lungs, with all those poisonous fumes that all those vehicles are chugging out. Those toxic chemicals end up in your blood stream. Not exactly the road to health we’re looking for.
Gyms are kind of gross, even potentially harmful and definitely unnatural. They are not needed or even recommended to achieve a balanced workout, and we certainly don’t need to pay a membership fee for us to be fit, healthy or sexy. Something to think about, right?
Here at The School of Natural Health Sciences we have been training holistic therapists since 1997 and we aim to keep our students and readers on the right track to wellness. If you’re interested in learning more about the muscle groups and how they interact with the corresponding parts of the body, check out our Anatomy & Physiology Course. Perfect for any body who loves their workout! Or maybe our Sport & Exercise Nutrition Course would suit you better?