Working Out at Home vs. Joining a Gym: Which Will Get You Better Results?

Benefits of joining a gym or working out at home.
The new year has begun with a new opportunity for making your fitness goals happen. Sticking to your fitness goals is going to take some planning. You may be finding yourself weighing the benefits of joining a gym and working out at home. As a personal trainer and fitness instructor, I spend a lot of time in the gym and love what it does for me and my students. That said, belonging to a gym isn’t for everyone and you may find that it’s more effective for you to work out at home.

Consider Time to Exercise

If you already have a gym membership, you know that getting there takes time. For most of us, the time spent traveling and stashing our belongings is nearly equal to the time spent on the gym floor. If you’re already strapped for time, joining a gym to get in your daily workout, isn’t always going to be a realistic option. Additionally, with the short days of winter and unpredictable weather, it’s good to have an indoor option. Working out at home can help you exercise when time is short and help you stick to your plan.

Crowds at the Gym

While a large gym may offer a variety of equipment, January marks the busiest season of the year for these businesses. During peak times, you’re likely to find yourself waiting for equipment and limited to 20 or 25 minutes per session. Additionally, the business model of your average gym is based on selling more memberships than the capacity of the gym can truly support. If you are looking to join a gym, be sure to visit the gym during the times that you anticipate using your membership. Also, look into wait times for equipment, parking capacity, and crowds on the weight lifting floor.

Specific Training Regimens

With capacity and usage limitations, joining a gym may not be the most effective use of your time in meeting specific training goals. Endurance training sessions typically extend beyond 45 minutes, a duration that will not be allowed in most gyms during the peak seasons. Even an intense interval session (with warm-up and cool down) is frequently closer to 30 minutes. A limit that is frequently higher than the 20 minute equipment limit enforced by most gyms. If you want someone to follow along to then working out at home may not be the best option. However, you can set-up YouTube and other videos and follow along at-home.

Machine Quality and Maintenance

All of the increased traffic can certainly take its toll on the equipment at the gym. We’d like to be able to count on our members to clean up after themselves and to treat the equipment well, this is not always the case. Be sure that your gym has adequate cleaning supplies available to members. And remember to wipe down your equipment before and after use. You’ll also want to ask about the how often equipment is maintained or the age of the fitness equipment. This will help you know you won’t spend your workout with a belt that is slipping or an unbalanced elliptical.

Privacy of Your Workout Space

Privacy can also be a tremendous benefit to working out at home. While some people may be comfortable working out in front of others, many feel self conscious. A home workout provides the privacy from everything from the workout, showering, meal prep before or after the workout. Additionally, owning your own equipment allows for a greater level of familiarity and customization of equipment. On some pieces of fitness equipment, you can set up individual users (including multiple family members), allowing the console to be quickly customized to your training goals and individual profile. You will also be more familiar with your preferred settings and use of the equipment, versus changing machines during each workout.

Accountability and Community

So what about the perks of investing in joining a gym? A gym can provide accountability, especially if you are participating in a personal training package or small group training environment. If you feel that this is important for you, you may want to consider adding on a personal training package through a local personal trainer or gym. Most fitness facilities will provide non-member rates for personal and small group training sessions. This may be an effective supplement to your working out at home. Additionally, there are pieces of fitness equipment that will fit every budget. And in comparison to a joining a gym, you will recoup the cost in 6-12 months.

Variety and Options

The variety of training options and equipment can also be a big perk to joining a gym. You can also establish an effective program working out at home that addresses strength, cardio, and flexibility with a minimal investment in additional equipment. Bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, squats, and sit-ups, with or without the use of additional weights or resistance is sufficient enough to build strength. You can design a basic program yourself using one of our suggested programs. Or exercise with a personal trainer at a frequency that fits your schedule and budget for a customized program. Most trainers will be completely comfortable designing a program that you can complete working out at home.

Cost (Including the Hidden Ones)

Finally, as you research your options, recognize that many gyms include only the basic benefits in their standard memberships. Personal training, specialty classes, and any other offerings can come at an additional fee. Your best bet might be to individually purchase the services that you are likely to use to complement your home fitness plan (like a yoga class or small group personal training session). Paying for these sessions and combining working out at home may give you the best value. About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.