Olivia Newton-John was on to something when she crooned, "Let me hear your body talk," in her 1981 gym anthem Let's Get Physical. Exercising is more than just a leisure activity; your gym behavior says a lot about you. Take the alpha fitness freaks who crunch their way to six-pack abs at ungodly morning hours. "They may be doing this to keep their minds sharp for the day," says body-language specialist Joe Navarro, author of What Every Body Is Saying. "They are very well-regulated individuals who are dedicated to themselves."
Today, 21 percent of American men and 16 percent of women are likely to exercise on any given day—and for about four hours per week—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Soon more of the U.S. workforce might be motivated to get physical thanks to a growing interest in corporate wellness programs. "I'm hearing a lot of people at my gyms saying their jobs are encouraging them to join a gym to prevent their health-care expenses down the line," says David Barton, owner of an eponymous health club chain.
With this in mind, Bloomberg Businessweek observed 100 people at an upscale Manhattan fitness club from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on a recent Monday. What follows is a breakdown of common gym-goer behavior as analyzed by an expert panel: Navarro; Barton; David Givens, author of Your Body at Work; Patti Wood, author of the forthcoming Snap! Making the Most of First Impressions—and, of course, Newton-John, the former spandex devotee and co-developer of breast self-exam device the Liv.
Other Notable Yet Less Common Gym Behaviors
MUSCLE MILK CHUGGER
Givens: "He's really into himself and his power.
Givens: "Their devices allow them to bring their social group with them."
Givens: "They're fired up to the max. They're probably like that at work."
Navarro: "Unlike dogs, they can't pee and mark their territory so they touch the machines."
WILD ARM SWINGERS
Barton: "They may just be bats—t."