December 15th 2006
Gym membership not just a way to keep in trim
A University of Manchester researcher says the huge growth in the popularity of health clubs and gym membership is down to the human need for kinship and not just a way to keep fit.
Professor Nick Crossley, from the School of Social Sciences, spent three years studying the world of gyms to shed some light on the activity to which 14 per cent of the population are now involved - according to a 2002 citizen's audit.
He said: "Gyms are almost as popular as trade union membership at 16 per cent of the population, double that of church/religious membership - at seven per cent and over four times greater than membership of environmental, animal rights or women's groups at three per cent each.
"As they are now a significant form of association and social membership in the UK why has this social trend passed us by?
"My research has shown that its popularity reflects the fact that going to your gym is more than an effort to lose some weight.
"Many people are unhappy about their weight but do not join a gym. But on the other hand, many young slim, fit and healthy people do.
"I have found that gym-based friendships, learning experiences and feeling better about yourself are an important part in this trend as well."
He added: "Some people join a gym but leave after a few weeks, but it's the people who stick at it who get the most from these other aspects.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there's a whole group of people who have met their wives and partner at the gym.
"Clearly, many aspects of gym-work and gym-life remain unexplored.
"Specifically, it would be interesting to know why many people drop out of the gym after a few weeks and what distinguishes them from long term gym-goers."
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Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
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