Expensive Lifestyle: The Great Gym Con

The great gym promise

The great gym promise

The gym is the greatest capitalist con, greater than the casino, and yet so much more acceptable, so much more legitimate. How do they (gym brands) get away with it? The bizarre fascination with the gym – that airless space, the tiresome flexing and relaxing, the determined pointlessness, the feverish generation of sweat – none of which was even conceived before the 60s. It was nothing more than a fad. It has taken fewer than 20 years for the gym to go from an urban fad to the very core of medical belief. Fruit, vegetables and gym: these are now the musketeers of good health. The fitness industry is worth an estimated $40 Billion Dollars (320 billion Rand) growing at a rate of 5% per year and there has been a 63% increase in gym membership since 1999. Yet people remain overweight it doesn’t add up.


South Africa’s gym membership rates have been (and still are) rapidly increasing especially in metro areas but it is interesting to note that it is these areas that are most badly affected by obesity. According to the guardian people in Cape Town are the worst affected with 72% overweight, closely followed by residents of Pretoria (68%), Johannesburg (59%) and Durban (52%). Clearly the increase in gym membership is not directly proportional to a decrease in weight (which is what gyms would have us believe).  The gym is NOT making us thinner!


Billionairres like Sir Richard Branson have cashed in on the Gym Money Scheme

Billionairres like Sir Richard Branson have cashed in on the Gym Money Scheme

One of the reasons for this is that vigorous exercise stimulates your appetite. So a 20-minute run might use up 200 calories, but your hunger won’t necessarily – indeed, almost certainly won’t – restrain itself to that amount of extra food. Well then, use willpower to overcome the appetite (say the steroid filled muscle heads). That might work, except that willpower is like a muscle (or, as Oliver Burkeman described it, “a unitary, diminishing  resource”). You’ve already used your day’s determination going to the gym in the first place: your ability to resist the temptations of your appetite is already diminished, even before that appetite has increased. Some doctors happily cave in regarding the importance of rigorous exercise, but experts on the obesity “epidemic” have been questioning this advice for ages, and rarely recommend anything more demanding than walking and cycling.


Steven Gortmaker, who heads the Harvard Prevention Research Centre on nutrition and physical activity, said this about playgrounds at fast-food restaurants: “Why would they build those? … if a kid plays five minutes and burns 50 calories, he might then go inside and consume 500 calories.”


At times sleeping can seem to make more sense than gym

At times sleeping can seem to make more sense than gym

Studies come out all the time showing that exercise doesn’t make you thin. But gyms have become so central to our idea of what it means to take responsibility for oneself that sensible people write this evidence off as eccentric stuff originating from academic troublemakers. In fact, sensible people should never even see the word “gym” without mentally ending the sentence “stimulates appetite”. They are a good answer for elite athletes with specific muscular needs. Everybody else should just go for a walk, or – if that too seems pointless – take a walk to a particular destination.


Exercise improves health – it’s good for your heart, it has an effect against a number of cancers, but this is not what gyms are selling us, they are saying gym will make your body beautiful. Gyms would get nowhere if they flogged themselves as a long-term preventative measure against future heart attacks. They had to appeal to narcissism: the genius of gym culture was to dress up personal vanity in the disguise of good health, and thereby overcome all the natural, decent reservations we would have had about blowing R600 (Virgin National membership) a month on a beauty regime that didn’t even work.

You can’t expect to drive to the gym, park as close as possible to that gym, get into a lift and exercise for an hour or two and be thinner when you have been sitting at the office for the last six hours. “Bursts of exercise is not the answer; two hours of exercise per day will not compensate for 22 hours of sitting,” says cancer specialist and author David Agus, MD. In fact, sitting for five or six hours a day, even if you spend an hour a day at the gym, is the equivalent of smoking an entire pack of cigarettes. Gym is not the answer to your sagging bottom a change of lifestyle is!  


You’ll should really be ashamed (with your useless Virgin membership cards). There is no more obvious wastefulness than spending money to pump out energy on treadmills, just to force us to consume more energy, none of which has any result that couldn’t be replicated by taking a turn around the block. Never mind the Earth’s resources, we should have more respect for our own resources. We ought to see the waste of our toil in the same terms as wasting food. I’ll only sign up for gym membership if they instate unisex saunas.

That’s our piece and tell them you heard it from Matt “The Rat” Mkhize 

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21 responses to “Expensive Lifestyle: The Great Gym Con

  1. The problem with your line of thinking is you’re not looking at the whole concept behind a gym wholistically. “Gyms do not make you thin” in the same way that eating MacDonalds and KFC doesn’t make you fat, or any other take-out for that matter, yet the media admonishes society against eating take-outs because they presumably make you fat. The problem is the reasoning behind that logic is flawed. You get fat from constantly consuming more calories that your body burns. And you get thinner by consuming less calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight. Gym firstly helps you lower your overrall calorie intact, say you burn 400 calories in a cardio session, that helps you lower your overrall caloric intake

    Gym stimulates your appetite? how so, based on empirical evidence i do not agree with that at all, at the very most people use the fact that they gym as an excuse to overeat or over indulge because they feel that they deserve it, the blame is not on the gym its on the individual for not understanding what is meant by healthy living

    Another point is that the Gym, particulalry weight lifitng in the long run, helps to build lean muscle,and the more lean muscle you have the faster your metabolism,or rather the more calories your body burns in its natural state (when you’re not doing anything) because muscle burns up more calories. In that sense i could say that in the long run gym is actually beneficial in helping people thin out their body fat

    Also take into consideration that just because people sign up to the gym doesn’t mean they actually go there. Even if they do people have been programmed by unrealistic diet programmes and dramatisized adverts that make them expect instant or very quick results.. Unless you’re a genetic anomally, possibly on steroids and your diet is incredibly on point (note i am not saying that only people who take steroids gain muscle and lose fat quickly and i am in no way implying that you have to use anything aside from good nutrition and a good workout programme) that is not likely. Its about patience, “Good things come to those who wait. People should learn to be persistant with what they want. If its a beach body you push your body consistently and mould it to the artistic equivalent of perfection you aspire it to be Which is what the gym is about, its about pushing yourself, growing as an individual being at peace with your body and mind.

    So before insulting the Gym and the virtues its built consider points against your assertion

  2. Thanks for your well considered response. Yes exercise does increase your appetite. A 2007 a study published in the journal of endocrinology suggests that whilst hunger was suppressed during and directly after exercise most people experienced an increased appetite later on and usually ended up eating more than those who did not exercise. So you could go to the gym and lose 800kl of energy but this leads to a stimulated appetite where a person can eat a choc muffin which has 500kj of energy and a mocha with 300kj already your gym session is void. Thats why we have playgrounds next to food outlets, the kids play which leads to a stimulated appetite and a desire for more food. This article is not intended at people living a healthy lifestyle but those who live a poor lifestyle and expect gym to be the the heaven sent answer. I raised the point that sitting for six hours at work and then going to the gym for an hour is still equal to smoking a pack of cigs per day. Gym sell us the notion that go to the gym and get a great body, but while gyming is great for your heart without a change of lifestyle gym will do nothing to reshape your body – Mat Mkhize

  3. I have to say I really appreciate your knack for digging up THE weirdest & most outrageous nonsense out there. I totally disagree with the point that its pointless going to gym.

    The point is that there is evidence (empirical & medical) that shows that going to gym has benefits both physically & psychologically.

    I will however concede that gym alone is not the solution; it is one element of an aresenal of interventions that help the individual attain a level of physical well being. If one can not reach the gym it might be a god idea to take up a sport that they enjoy & play a couple of times a week. I will admit that I find it a waste that people would pay so much money when there are facilities in one’s own community that would enable them to be active.

    So rather gym than not, if for no other reason than to go check out lovely looking female executives.

    • Thanks for the comment Mjo,” I will however concede that gym alone is not the solution; it is one element of an arsenal of interventions that help the individual attain a level of physical well being.” I totally agree with that line, my problem isn’t with the physical environment known as the gym but rather what gym brands have positioned themselves as. The gym has branded itself as the ultimate beauty recipe, go to the gym and you will look sexy, but this is not true without a change of lifestyle from the concerned individual. You can’t be sitting all day, gyming for an hour and then expect that you will be on the cover of men’s health in no time absolutely not!

  4. I get these type of comments all the time. #13 actually made me laugh aloud. This is funny but sad. I own several blogs, and on some of the older ones I’ve completely given up trying to moderate them.

  5. My brother suggested I might like this website. He was totally right. This post actually made my day. You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

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