BRAIN FOOD: It'll never fly - The Gym

Picture a windowless room filled with heavy-duty machinery whose straps and metal rods bear a resemblance to torture devices. Sweat rises, forms a malodorous mist overhead, then slowly condenses down the walls. It's no place to pass five hours a week, especially not half-clad. Spending £40 a month to pedal a bike that goes nowhere may sound crazy, but nearly 10% of Britain's adult population belongs to a fitness club, and the term 'club' is an obvious part of the appeal. Being a member of a club, any club, has long been a status symbol for the professional arriviste, even if the fetid gym is a far cry from the civilised gentlemen's club or the local tennis club. The gym as a status symbol took off in the 1990s, as boozy lunches became corporately unacceptable and intensive marketing by the big chains - David Lloyd, Fitness First, LA Fitness - made membership a necessity for the modern sophisticate. Membership has doubled in the past five years, and in 2002 the fitness industry earned an estimated £1.6 billion in fees, though the number of new clubs opening is diminishing. Saturation point?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

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