In House Gym vs. Club Membership

Published April 29th in Metrowest Daily News:

In our last column, we discussed the benefits of an employee wellness program, which typically provides opportunities for employees to get the exercise they need to be fit and healthy.

There’s more than one way to work out and be fit, though. For employers who decide to provide a fitness-related benefit, they may choose to add a gym to their workplace. Or they may choose to provide a discount or pay for their employees to join a health club.

Which choice is better?

Pros and cons of an in-house gym

An in-house gym offers convenience and it creates an opportunity for people who work together to get to know each other better by also working out together. Employees may appreciate the opportunity to work out before or after work, so they can avoid rush-hour traffic. And it will take less of their time, since they are working out on-site.

An in-house gym may also be advantageous for recruitment. Potential employees who care about fitness will see the gym as tangible evidence that their employer also cares about fitness.

However, an in-house gym can be costly. In addition to purchasing equipment, employees will probably want to shower before work, so you will need space for locker rooms as well as equipment. Having an in-house gym also creates liability, so you will need to purchase insurance.

In addition, your employees are already spending many hours a day at work and may not want to spend more hours there.

And if the ultimate goal is to have a healthier workforce, an in-house gym may fall short. Even employees who are motivated enough to use the gym, may not be motivated enough to get a full, healthy workout.

Worse still, those who work out without supervision typically have bad form. In a typical gym, that’s the case with about 90 percent of participants. Employees who have bad form will not get the full benefit of a workout and they also have a good chance of injuring themselves.

Think small

The option of subsidizing a health club or fitness studio membership for employees is easier, more cost-effective and may even be of greater benefit to employees.

Some health insurance carriers provide discounts for joining a health club or fitness studio, so subsidizing membership can be very cost effective. And you won’t have to invest in equipment or use valuable space for a gym.

Partnering with a health club or fitness studio, you may even have the option of bringing instructors into the workplace, while also enabling employees to work out at the partner’s club or studio.

Not all health clubs are alike, of course, so you may want to partner with one that best meets the needs of your employees.

Some clubs, especially chains, just offer a room full of equipment. That’s not necessarily the best option. While no one option will be best for every employee, the greatest number of employees are likely to benefit from classes held in small groups. It’s typically the next best thing to having a personal trainer.

In small groups, instructors typically not only instruct and motivate, they also check your form to ensure that you’re working out properly. And because there’s one instructor and many students, the cost of small groups is significantly less than the cost of a personal trainer.

Many people also enjoy working out with others. It can be motivating to be with people who are pushing themselves through a tough workout. If you see others do it, you may also be motivated to do it.

Group classes are typically designed by professionals and are taught by experienced or certified instructors. Classes are designed to provide a thorough workout that typically serves a specific purpose or covers every muscle group.

There are also social aspects to small groups. Participants typically get to know others in their group and may even become friends outside of the gym. They’ll find camaraderie exercising with other like-minded people, some of whom may have fitness goals similar to theirs.

Employees who are having difficulty motivating themselves to exercise regularly or who just need a change from their current routine will likely respond well to the opportunity to try small group classes.

Every employee has different needs, but so does every employer. For some, an in-house gym will be the best option. For others, a relationship with a gym or fitness studio will provide the best fit.

Rita Matraia is the owner of The Core Connection, a boutique fitness studio in Northborough. She is a Certified Stott Pilates Instructor, a Certified Restorative Exercise Specialist, a Certified Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist and a Healthy Foot Practitioner through the Nutritious Movement Center. She can be reached at rita@thecoreconnection.com.

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