The Pros and Cons of A Home Gym vs Having A Gym Membership

The Pros and Cons of A Home Gym vs Having A Gym Membership

So you want to get more movement and start progressing toward fresh fitness goals. Now… where do you start? The two main options for working out are joining a gym and doing workouts at home, says Aaron Leventhal, C.S.C.S., trainer and owner of Minneapolis-based Fit Studio. And if you don’t find yourself leaning in one direction or the other, it can be helpful to know the pros and cons of each.

“There are definitely advantages and drawbacks for each, especially if you’re new to fitness or you’re getting back into it after some time away,” he says. “Before you sign up at a gym as your starting point, it’s helpful to take a step back and figure out what might be the best fit for you.”

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Pros and Cons of Joining a Gym

home gym vs gym membership- woman at gym

Because gyms are full of weight equipment, machines, fellow gym-goers, and personal trainers, they can be a top option when it comes to ramping up your fitness. But they have a few downsides to keep in mind, too. Check out these pros and cons:

Con: Cost

Given the affordability of streaming workouts — which usually have per-month or per-year options — home workouts tend to be much more cost effective, especially if you get into the habit of doing classes regularly.

Some gyms might charge $89 per month (or more!), for example, while a streaming workout app like Openfit charges that price for a whole year.

Pro: Camaraderie and Accountability

One aspect of gyms that’s hard to replicate at home is the way you can stay motivated and engaged just by being around other people working out. Of course, you can feel this to some degree with a lively online class — check out Rough Around The Edges for a high-energy group — but it’s helpful to have gym pals who challenge you in person, says Leventhal.

For instance, if he skips his morning workout at the gym, it’s inevitable someone from the group will send him a text asking where he was. Sometimes, he says, knowing they’ll give him a hard time is enough to get him moving.

Con: Vulnerability

For many people, walking into a gym for the first time, even for a class, can feel overwhelming. Leventhal notes that the discomfort is one of the reasons so many New Year’s resolutions sputter out before February, because it all feels too new and too challenging.

“There is something wonderful about working out at home, where you’re comfortable, and a lot of the roadblocks to exercise have been removed,” he says. “A lot of times, working out at home feels safer and less threatening.”

Con: Scheduling and Timing

Spending time at the gym isn’t just about fitting that hour into your schedule, it’s also about travel time, and depending on your gym, you could be spending time looking for parking as well.

If you’re attending classes, you want to make sure to arrive at least 10 minutes early, too, to be respectful of the teacher and other students — and the teacher might run the class long, so that’s even more time to consider.

 

Pros and Cons of Working Out at Home

home gym vs gym membership- working out at home

While the gym might have more options when it comes to equipment, home workouts definitely have numerous advantages. Here are pros and cons to staying in your own space:

Pro: Convenience

No travel time, no getting to class early, no class running over on time, and you don’t have to be there at a specific time — it all adds up to much more convenience with home workouts. Plus, you can choose classes based on their duration. For example, 600 Secs is a series of 10-minute workouts you can squeeze into even the busiest of schedules.

Here’s more for the convenience factor: You can stream workouts to your laptop, phone, tablet, or smart TV. That means you can do them anywhere! At home, in a hotel, outside… the options are nearly limitless!

Con: Motivation

If you’re someone who easily puts off workouts to tidy up the house, answer emails, scroll through social media, or do literally any other task, it may be tougher to get started at home.

But even in that case, you can become more motivated by making your workouts shorter, Leventhal suggests. Commit to doing 600 Secs just two or three times per week to start, for example.

Or, find a streaming platform that has live classes at specific times! You can sign up for live, trainer-led classes on Openfit to help you stick to a schedule and stay accountable.

Pro: Tryouts

Maybe you want to try a workout that’s completely new for you, like Xtend Barre — a cardio mix of Pilates and ballet barre — but it feels intimidating to be a newbie at a gym class. Home workouts are a great option for this, Leventhal says. You can try out a workout or two in privacy without that “new kid in school” feeling.

Pro: Progression

One of the potential challenges of working out at home is lack of a plan, but that’s easily overcome if you do a structured program that has progression built in, says Leventhal.

For example, Yoga52 takes you from beginner to expert over the course of a year (or shorter, if you choose the more condensed calendar). And a more accelerated program like Tough Mudder T-Minus 30 gives you a 30-day program that safely and effectively ramps up your strength and mobility over the course of a month.

 

Mix and Match

home gym vs gym membership- woman putting on shoes

Although there are some situations where you’ll gravitate toward a gym versus working out at home — and vice versa — it can be particularly powerful to combine them and get the best of both, Leventhal suggests.

For example, head to the gym a couple days per week for the social connections, certain speciality classes, a more extensive weight rack, and specialized cardio machines. Then, make home workouts your go-to for schedule convenience, variety, consistency, and structured challenges.

“All movement is good movement,” says Leventhal. “Establishing a home workout routine can be great, especially for beginners, because you can incorporate more activity into every day.”

Elizabeth Millard

About

Elizabeth Millard has written for Men's Health, SELF, Prevention, Runner's World, and several other health and wellness publications. Based in Northern Minnesota (yes, it's just as cold as you've heard), she's also a rock climber, obstacle course enthusiast, and registered yoga teacher. Follow her on Twitter.

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