Everyone has something that motivates them to get out of bed and head to the gym. Contrary to popular belief, a new study has found that the promise of a fancy state-of-the-art gym isn’t one of them

After analysing research that showed patients in pleasant hospital rooms had faster recovery times, Professor Ewa M Roos from the University of Southern Denmark expected to see similar results at the gym.

To prove her point, she analysed the results of two groups of people, aged 35 or older and suffering from either hip or knee pain, after eight weeks at the gym. The first group exercised in a fancy gym with beautiful views and state-of-the-art equipment while the second worked out in a bare room in the basement of a 1970s building. There was also a third group, placed on a waiting list and not working out, who acted as a control group

In order to make the study as accurate as possible, none of the participants were aware of what was being tested. Even the physiotherapist supervising the exercise was kept in the dark.

At the end of the eight week period, participants were asked to report their overall and functional improvement as well as their pain levels. They were also tested on aerobic capacity, muscle strength and walking speed to see how much they had improved. Of course, both groups improved in terms of aerobic capacity, muscle strength and walking speed, but the group working out in the bare basement reported feeling better, with greater improvement in movement and pain relief.

Researchers were surprised that the group didn’t seem to have a problem with the dingy appearance of the gym; in fact, they seemed to like it. “They felt at home in the environment and expressed nostalgia because it reminded them of their old school gym,” Professor Ewa M Roos wrote in an article on The Conversation.

“They also felt a stronger sense of fellowship – they were in it together and worked as a team to achieve their goals.”

Meanwhile, the group working out in paradise found all the fancy features to be a distraction. They also reportedly hated the giant mirrors on the walls as they felt self-conscious about their bodies.

Basically, Professor Roos believes it comes down to this: “if you can join a group and exercise in an environment you really like, you will improve your chances of getting fit and of feeling better.”

“And, as our study shows, when it comes to exercising, it really doesn’t have to be fancy.”


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