Chow Line: At gym or elsewhere, exercise is key (for 1/17/10)

Jan 08, 2010


I have a friend who's overweight. I have been trying to talk her into joining me at the gym, but she always finds an excuse. How can I help her realize that she should exercise more?

According to a recent study, that might not be the problem.

In the study, reported in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers from George Washington University compared attitudes of 1,500 overweight and normal-weight adults about exercising at a health club.

Their findings indicate that attitudes toward exercising at a health club are no different between normal-weight people and those who are overweight or obese. In fact, overweight adults had even stronger attitudes than their normal-weight counterparts about exercise improving their health and self-image.

But researchers also found that only 16 percent of overweight respondents attended a health club, compared with 22 percent of normal-weight respondents.

It appears that overweight respondents have more emotional hurdles to overcome regarding joining a health club. For example, overweight people reported feeling more intimidated by health-club exercise and by the staff and the overall environment at health clubs. They also felt less strongly that such exercise would be fun, and they felt more uncomfortable exercising around young, fit people. In addition, overweight women reported feeling more self-conscious about exercising around men than normal-weight women did.

According to the study's findings, it's not that overweight people don't understand the benefits of exercise or that they lack motivation -- it's that they may not have the same comfort level at a gym that you might have.

Obviously, your friend might have her own reasons for shying away from joining you at the gym. Maybe she can't afford the membership fee, or maybe she can't carve out the time.

But if it is the idea of the health club itself that's holding her back, you might invite her to join you in other types of physical activity -- brisk walking at the mall or at a nearby park, for example, or working out at home with exercise videos. Buddying up is key: Research indicates that people with social support are more likely to be successful exercisers.

For more ideas, see the Physical Activity section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, The goal is to get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week -- this will help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer, and improves chances of living healthier and longer.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carmen Swain, program director in Health and Exercise Science in Ohio State University's College of Education and Human Ecology, and Rebecca Nguyen, program manager in Health and Exercise Science.


Martha Filipic


Carmen Swain, Health and Exercise Science, College of Education and Human Ecology

Rebecca Nguyen, Health and Exercise Science, College of Education and Human Ecology

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