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Crisis drives adults to join gyms

Exercise researchers have revealed that most adults start working out at the gym following a crisis or major turning point in their life.

A study by Victoria University researcher Associate Professor Bob Stewart conducted interviews with adults who had recently joined gyms into their motives for joining when they did.

“The results not only reveal that gyms are an important step for transitioning people from sedentary to active lifestyles, but also confirm that critical incidents, epiphanies and turning points are often key to making that step happen when it does,” Associate Professor Stewart said.

Of the 10 individual case studies, eight respondents explained how critical incidents had driven them to finally join a gym. Two of the incidents - and consequent epiphanies and turning points - centred on serious illness and injuries, two arose out of a family trauma, three revolved around emotional distress and one case focused on bodily deterioration.

Six of the eight respondents who cited critical incidents also noted that prior to the incident occurring they had little interest in using gyms as places for improving fitness and well-being.

“These findings demonstrate that gyms are no longer the preserve of muscle builders and fitness fanatics,” Associate Professor Stewart said. 

“They are increasingly used by ordinary people to not only maintain their quality of life, but also rebuild their bodies and repair their minds. And so as spaces for both physical rehabilitation and mental rejuvenation, gyms play a crucial role in sustaining healthy communities.”    

He said while there were many studies into the motives for why people joined gyms to work out, few studies took a temporal perspective by inviting gym users to explain why they had taken the step at the time they did.

‘The significance of critical incidents in explaining gym use amongst adult populations’ was published in the latest issue of Qualitiative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health.

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