The Single Biggest Weight-Loss Hack You Can Do

Where you live in relation to your gym means everything.

If you're apartment-hunting right now, you might want to take the proximity of the gyms in the area into account while scouting for a new pad—at least if you want to be fit, that is.

According to a new study published in Lancet Public Health, living close to a gym, pool, or playing field makes you more likely to be in shape, as does living far away from fast food outlets.

For the study, researchers analyzed the weight, waist measurements, and body fat of more than 400,000 men and women in the UK ranging in age from 40 to 70, using data collected between 2006 and 2010 that included people's home addresses.

On average, people had a fast-food outlet less than a mile from where they lived. And yet, a third of the people in the study had to travel more than a mile to get to a gym. The study did not take public parks or bicycle paths into account.

Compared to those who had fewer fitness center options, people who lived closed to gyms weighed less, had 0.81 percent less body fat, and had waistlines that were almost half an inch slimmer. Compared to those who had fast food outlets closer at hand, those who were further away from these chains also had a waistline that was 0.10 inches slimmer.

Of course, the study is not without its limitations, as it draws conclusions based on data as opposed to a controlled experiment. But the results do point to the idea that living near a gym, and away from greasy food options, can have positive effects on wellness.

"It is likely that communities without the neighborhood resources needed to encourage a healthy lifestyle put their residents at a higher risk of obesity," senior study author, Steven Cummins of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said. "This could be improved by restricting the number of new fast food outlets in a neighborhood and how close they can be to people's homes, incentivizing operators of physical activity facilities to open in residential areas with few facilities, or funding local authorities to provide such facilities."

In America, it seems that people's commutes are even longer than those of their compatriots across the pond. According to recent data, the average American gym member travels 4 miles to get to their workout location, and that number increases for specialized fitness centers like The Barre Code (which averages a 6 mile one-way trip) or the elite health club Equinox (which stands at 5.7 miles).

In spite of this, gym memberships in the United States are apparently growing. In 2016, 57.25 million Americans were enrolled in one of the 36,000 membership-based fitness centers in the U.S., as compared to 32.8 million in 2000.

As with the UK study, data has found that Americans go to the gym more frequently when it's closer to home. Those who have to travel over 5 miles go to the gym only once month, whereas those who only travel 3.7 miles typically go five times or more.

So if your New Year's resolution is to lose more weight or get in shape, and your closest facility is far away, it might be time to move! And once you're ensconced in your new gym, memorize the 40 Best Ways to Keep New Habits to ensure you achieve your weight-loss goals.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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