New Fitness Goals? Join the Library Instead of the Gym

Let your library help you get in shape

Tina Andrews
6 min readFeb 18, 2022


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With the new year comes new goals for health and fitness. The treadmills and ellipticals at the local gyms will start to fill up as new and old members summon fresh motivation from their New Year's resolutions. While you may be tempted to sport a brand-spanking new membership at your local gym, think twice before shelling out your hard-earned cash for sign-up fees and monthly membership dues.

Many people who join a gym in January show up regularly, but their gym attendance starts to fizzle by February or March. On top of that, most don't bother to cancel their membership, thinking the additional monthly expense will inspire them to return there. Unfortunately, we know that doesn't always work. I'll be candid — it took me two years to cancel my gym membership after my last visit. Once COVID hit, and I started exercising at home, I found I preferred it.

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But what if you like exercising in a group or around others getting their swell on? Once again, we call upon the magical powers of your library card to grant you a multitude of opportunities for free health and fitness activities. Let's look at what public libraries around the country offer to help you crush those New Year's resolutions, whether you're looking to achieve a healthy weight, build muscle and tone, increase your flexibility, or release tension from your body.

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Check out your library's collection of fitness books, DVDs, and digital materials

If you walk into your public library and visit the 613.7 nonfiction section, you'll find a slew of exercise books and DVDs. Some libraries even feature the latest health and fitness materials in eye-catching displays, especially around the new year when everyone is looking to get back in shape after a bit of overindulgence during the holiday season.

If you are homebound, snowed in, or prefer to download digital materials, check to see if your library system offers a streaming platform like Hoopla. All you need to do is make a free account using your library card number, and you will have instant access to an impressive selection of downloadable books and videos.

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Borrow health and fitness equipment from your library

More libraries are starting to think outside of the box regarding their collections. In addition to traditional library media like books, DVDs, and digital materials, some are now offering a Library of Things. So, what is a Library of Things? These are collections of non-media materials that patrons can check out just as they would a book. Some libraries offer circulating collections of educational toys, seeds and gardening tools, science kits, musical instruments, and even workout gear.

What better way to try out fitness equipment before deciding if it's worth spending the money on it? Think of all the people with treadmills in their homes that serve primarily as clothes hangers. While you won't be able to check out a treadmill from the library, look at what these libraries provide to their patrons.

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The Smyrna Public Library in Georgia has the Smyrna Strong Collection as part of their Library of Things. Patrons can check out fitness equipment such as kettlebells, exercise bands, and hiking backpacks.

The Lawton Public Library in Oklahoma received a health literacy grant from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. They used it to fund health and fitness programs to help increase physical activity in their community. Some of their offerings include Tai Chi classes through the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative (OHAI) and a Library of Things program where patrons can check out hand weights, jump ropes, light therapy boxes, weighted hula hoops, and a metal detector. They also used the grant to build three bike repair stations around their town since bicycling is popular among residents.

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Get in shape from your living room with your library's virtual fitness classes

The pandemic has helped expand how and where libraries provide programming; many are now offering online programs through Zoom. Register for these free classes right from your library system's event calendar. You don't have to brave the cold or snow to get to the gym for a sweat session. Now there are no excuses for not fitting in your daily workout!

Miami-Dade Public Library System offers the convenience of online health and wellness events. You'll find a variety of classes to help you strengthen, stretch, and relax your body. REV+FLOW Functional Fitness helps sculpt muscles and improve your balance. Destress and increase mindfulness with Falun Gong meditation and exercises, yoga, mindful movement, and mindfulness meditation classes. There's even a Caribbean dance workout class if you're up for something peppier.

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Get your whole family moving with active library programs

Fitness goals aren't just for adults — your kids can get in on the action too! Staying active together is a great way to spend quality time while improving your health. Plus, it's an excellent example for your kids, especially on those days when they'd instead hibernate indoors on their digital devices.

Akron-Summit County Public Library System offers a variety of exercise and wellness programs for kids, teens, and adults. Little ones can participate in the StoryWalk trail in the local park, while their older siblings can explore yoga and qigong classes. Everyone can get fit together in the Build a Body family fitness program. Older adults may enjoy the Tai Ji Quan classes that focus on strengthening muscles and improving balance. And if you're looking to add some Zen to your day, the library also provides yoga and tai chi programs.

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Build a more robust, fitter body at your public library

Whether you're looking to lose weight, get toned, or destress, your public library system has the necessary resources. Join a class for a more social fitness experience, or if you're introverted, you may prefer borrowing fitness equipment to try out in the comfort of your home. Let your library help you make 2022 the year you achieve your fitness goals.

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Tina Andrews

Freelance health and wellness writer, integrative nutrition health coach, former librarian, certified cat lady, hygge enthusiast