For over a decade, I have run an in-home personal training company and simultaneously taught group exercise classes in commercial and corporate gyms. Extensive experience working in both scenarios has taught me there are benefits and drawbacks to working out in either location. I decided to ask some additional trainers to weigh in on gym versus home workouts, and here's what they had to say.
Pros to Working Out at Home
It Doesn't Cost You Much. Peter O'Shanick, NASM-CPT, agrees: "Exercising at home can save you time and money, and the variety of bodyweight/yoga/band-and-dumbbell workouts out there will keep you occupied and sweating as much as any group exercise class could." You can find videos for in-home workouts and equipment-free workouts, and you can invest in inexpensive equipment to set up a home gym for the cost of a couple months' membership at your local health club!
At-Home Workouts Don't Require Too Much Planning. Peter also notes, "Being able to stay flexible with scheduling and the option to drop into or out of a workout as necessary can help on days where things pop up that would otherwise torpedo a trip to the gym." Jeff Deal, CSCS, owner and operator of Ideal Fitness, agrees. "The biggest advantage of working out at home is convenience. There is no drive time, the music can be exactly what you want, and you can even work out in your pajamas if you want."
Childcare Isn't a Requirement. I've had a lot of clients with young kids who were still asleep while we worked out in the basement, something that would have been difficult to accomplish if we were attempting to meet in a gym early in the morning. Alexandra Price, a certified pre- and postnatal fitness instructor and owner of FIT4MOM in Waco, TX, points out that "for nursing moms, breastfeeding throws another kink in there as we are learning our routine, and then baby might decide to change up the feeding schedule. So, for me, keeping her with me was the best option. And I get to play with her and see her sweet smile while I sweat."
Pros to Working Out in a Gym
The Gym Mindset Sets the Tone For a Better Workout. "A gym is a highly specific space with a very clear purpose, and the resulting focus can help keep you driven and motivated during your workout in a way that the distraction-heavy environment of home may not. Even the act of traveling to the gym places you in a mindset of intention, whereas your at-home workout places you in tantalizing reach of your couch, kitchen, and computer," according to Peter O'Shanick, NASM-CPT.
More Equipment and Trainers to Work With. Depending on what your goals are, having access to heavy dumbbells, weight benches, and a variety of cardio equipment is an experience that's hard to match in your home. Alexandra Price agrees: "You're more likely to have access to qualified trainers and equipment at a gym, so that's a pro over in-home workouts."
Exercise Classes Are Motivating and Social. One of the best parts about teaching group-exercise classes is the friendships and camaraderie that build over time. There's lots of laughter, stories, and fun that all take place while everyone gets a great workout. Being around fit people is motivating, as a study in the Journal Obesity shows people achieve better weight-loss results when they work out with friends they deem to be in superior shape.
Cons to Working Out at Home
You Can Quit Anytime. It's easy to bail on a workout when no one else is around to watch you quit. I have found many of my clients work out harder and longer when they are surrounded by others doing the same thing. Jeff Deal added, "Home workouts are usually one dimensional and become mundane, which can lead to exercising less frequently. Because exercise is so convenient, we often push back our workouts, which can also lead to exercising less often."
Cabin Fever. For those of you who work from home, you might get a bit stir crazy if you don't find reasons to leave the house every once in a while. Depending on the size of your living quarters, it may be impossible to find a good workout spot that doesn't already double as an office, a storage space, or a playroom. Finding the push you need to break a sweat might be difficult without obtaining a change of scenery.
Nobody Is There to Correct Form. When you're starting a brand-new exercise routine (or your body is tired), it's easy to fall out of correct form and do some exercises improperly. When you work out at home, there's nobody there to critique your style or help you if you get injured. Having a mirror in front of you can be helpful, but you always want to make sure you know what you're doing or have clear instructions from a professional when you exercise in the home.
Cons to Working Out in a Gym
Gyms Are Expensive. Once you add up gym memberships, gas to and from, specialty classes, parking, and possibly a personal trainer, your gym bills can feel like a second mortgage! You're paying to have access to all of the equipment, locker rooms, and staff, but if you're on a budget, this might be hard to swing.
Less Privacy During Your Workout. If you don't want to be bothered while you exercise, it might be unavoidable in a gym. Your best bet is putting on your headphones and finding a spot in the corner for privacy, but you have to be OK with cardio machines that are close together, sharing mat space, and potentially changing your clothes in front of strangers. Along with lack of privacy, sometimes the gym gets really full (especially during the first months of a new year!). Kylie Schofield with Tall Girls Fitness admits, "The gym can be crowded and force you to change up the workout you had planned, which leads some people to slacking off, skipping exercises, and cutting their workout short."
More Germs in the Gym. Have you been fighting off a cold already this year? You may want to avoid the gym or take extra precautions. According to Dr. Prachi Ranade, an infectious disease specialist and partner at Infectious Disease Consultants, PLC, "During cold and flu season, gyms are a great place to go on your journey to good health, but they can be a dangerous place too. Most people are considerate and wipe down machines after using, but those germs are persistent and sometimes this requires an additional wipe-down once you get home." Don't forget to clean your gym bag too! "Everyone thinks of locker rooms, showers, and gyms as reservoirs for germs, but your gym bag, used to store those sweaty clothes, can also be harboring bugs."