Brits admit to being ‘clueless’ about what they’re doing in the gym

Over half of gym-going Brits (55%) admit they don’t know what they’re doing at the gym, and many just copy what someone else is doing, according to new research out today from Nuffield Health.

The new research provides an insight into why people can quickly lose momentum and renege on their New Year’s resolutions; almost half (46%) of those joining a gym have no specific goal in mind and, of those that do, nearly three quarters (74%) don’t set a deadline for achieving their goals. 

With New Year gym visits set to peak this week, we conducted the study of 2,000 current or past gym goers to highlight how people can get more value from their investment by getting a personalised evaluation and workout plan, providing structure, support, and help in setting goals.  

Helen Skelton – TV presenter, mother-of-two and fitness enthusiast - is helping us raise awareness of the importance of a personalised approach to fitness.  She said, “Wellbeing is so individual, it just makes sense that everyone needs a plan that is built around them and their needs.  Copying someone else’s workout in the gym is not only likely to prove ineffective, as it hasn’t been tailored to you, but it could also result in injury.” 

“You can waste time in the gym, or you can use it wisely. Every person’s body is different so will respond to exercise in slightly different ways and it will depend on their goals.  My training plan for the marathon was very different to when I cycled to the South Pole, and when I wanted to get fit again after having my children. A Health MOT can help identify the best exercises and frequency to help people reach realistic and achievable goals. Without this, people can not only waste time and money, but also lose motivation.” 

Understanding your workout

The survey also revealed nearly two in 10 gym users admitted to ‘making it up most of the time’ (18%) and feeling ‘largely clueless’ (17%) about how they should be working out, with almost a quarter (23%) being too embarrassed to ask for help. The lack of direction is such that one in five gym users (20%) have even followed someone else’s workout because that person seemed to know what they were doing or looked good physically.

People surveyed also demonstrated a lack of basic knowledge of the key measures that can be used to personalise a more effective workout plan with six out of 10 (65%) not knowing their body mass index (BMI) and seven out of 10 (75%) not knowing their resting heart rate.  To track progress, body fat percentage can be a useful indicator, but nearly 9 in 10 (88%) of those surveyed did not know this figure either. 

Members of our gyms receive a free Health MOT, which includes looking at resting heart rate, aerobic fitness, blood pressure, cholesterol, waist to hip ratio, existing injuries and sleep levels among other indicators, all of which can be used to plan a bespoke fitness programme based on a person’s goals. Progress is measured and workouts reviewed at quarterly follow-up Health MOTs.

The survey identified some marked regional differences in gym time and workouts, where: 

  • People in the South East are the most focussed on exercise at the gym, spending the lowest percentage of time doing other things like socialising. But Londoners are one of the most likely to spend more time at the gym doing things other than exercising like chatting, listening to music or watching TV
  • Gym users from Yorkshire & Humberside are the most likely to report feeling ‘largely clueless’ about how they should be working out
  • In Scotland,  gym users are the most likely to carry on with an exercise/on a machine because the person next to them started before them and was still exercising 
  • Wales had the highest number of people who hurt themselves at the gym because they didn’t know what they were doing 
  • West Midlands had the highest number of people admitting to using the same free weights as the person before them as they didn’t know what weights they should be using 
The mental challenge

However when it comes to health and fitness, it’s not just the physical that’s important; it’s also the psychological ‘readiness to change’ that can affect performance, and therefore achievement, at the gym. 

Tim Hipgrave, our Cognitive Behavioural Therapist , says:  “One of the reasons we tend not to start, or stick at, making change is that it can take effort and we have quite vivid imagery that encourages us not to do them.  For exercise, we may think it will be too cold when we go outside for a run, or it will ‘hurt’ a lot.” 

To counter this, Tim advises people to use positive visual imagery and think about: 

  1. The positive changes you would notice if you kept to your resolutions 
  2. How you feel after making these changes
  3. How you might feel at important occasions when you have made changes
  4. What people might say when they notice the changes
Studies have shown that using imagery techniques as above can increase the motivation to attend the gym and frequency of attendance. 

Give it a try

We are offering a free 1 day trial of its gyms around the country. Download a voucher here. In addition, all gyms will offer a free taster Health MOT to non-members during a special event 20-21st January.

Last updated Monday 8 January 2018

First published on Monday 8 January 2018