This may surprise you, but the average age of a gym user is currently 40 years old and rising. Many non gym users often imagine gyms are full of nubile young things flinging weights around and looking fabulous in tiny clothes. However this is far from the truth. In reality it’s a haven for the middle aged man and woman who are struggling through endless BodyPump classes
and pounding out the miles on the treadmill.
The question is why? Isn’t middle age the time when you spend time at home in front of the TV with the family, do a bit of DIY on the weekend and a spot of gardening for exercise? The answer is a resounding "Hell no!"
As a middle aged avid gym user myself I know the reason why. I DO NOT WANT TO GET OLD.
In a society obsessed with youth, selfies, abs and bubble butts, I for one am not ready to leave the party and age gracefully and I am not alone. Sky high divorce rates have created an enormous pool of forty something singletons (myself included) and we want to look good.
Couples starting family later and later mean losing the baby weight (mums and dads alike) at a later age, and increasing life expectancy means we want to stay fit and active for as long as possible.
Ironically, within the same age group, the non gym users are amongst the most unhealthy. High obesity rates, heart problems and Type 2 diabetes are real issues for people in their 40s.
The difference between the gym and the non gym users is most striking when we look at fitness age
. This is a measure based on factors such as body fat, lean muscle mass, leg strength, mobility and flexibility. The gym users all had lower fitness ages than their real, chronological age - so even though they are in their 40s their fitness age puts them in their 30s. Conversely, the non gym users, although only in their 40s, often had fitness ages in the 50s or even 60s.
So why is this important? It sounds like made up nonsense to make gym users feel more smug right? Wrong! Fitness age is the best measure to judge longevity. Far more accurate than chronological age. Although I admit it does come with some smugness.
But beware the midlife crisis! Although there is no doubt that regular exercise in your 40’s is great for longevity, there are pitfalls. Rushing out and signing up for a triathlon may not be the good idea it seems, the same goes for the charity marathon or the 100 mile bike ride. Extreme endurance exercise is not the same. It puts enormous pressure on your body. It can lead to fatal heart damage, sacrificing lean muscle mass and reduced leg strength, all vital components to your fitness age.
So it's best to follow both the advice of Nike - Just do it! and at the same time The Eagles - Take it easy!
And right there I just gave my age away.