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

2016 is just around the corner with a new opportunity for making your fitness goals happen. Knowing that sticking to your resolutions is going to take some planning, you may be finding yourself weighing the benefits of gym memberships and home exercise equipment. 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.


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, relying on a gym membership for 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 that lets you stick to your plan.


While a large gym may offer a variety of equipment, January marks the busiest season of the year for these businesses. This means that, particularly 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 shopping for a membership, be sure to visit the gym during the times that you anticipate using your membership and looking into wait times for equipment, parking capacity, and crowds on the weight lifting floor.

Specific Training Regimens

With capacity and usage limitations, a gym membership 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. With an effective warm-up and cool-down, even an intense interval session is frequently closer to 30 minutes, a limit that is frequently higher than the 20 minute equipment limit enforced by most gyms.

Machine Quality and Maintenance

All of the increased traffic can certainly take its toll on the equipment at the gym. While 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 maintenance of equipment so that you know you won’t spend your entire workout with a belt that is slipping or an unbalanced elliptical.



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 of your own space for everything from the workout, to showering, to meal prep preceding or following the workout. Additionally, owning your own equipment allows for a greater level of familiarity and customization of equipment. On most Horizon and Vision 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 a gym membership? 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, which may be an effective supplement to your home workouts.

Additionally, the features of Horizon and Vision home fitness equipment include ViaFit technology, which can allow you to create a virtual support group of family members and friends with similar fitness goals. There are pieces of equipment that will fit every budget and in comparison to a gym membership, 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 although you can also establish an effective program 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 to develop serious strength and fitness that will support your performance in running, cycling, and daily activities. You can design a basic program yourself using one of our suggested programs, or set up a meeting with a personal trainer at a frequency that fits your schedule and budget to develop a program that works for you. Most trainers will be completely comfortable designing a program that you can complete at home using your own exercise equipment.

Cost (Including the Hidden Ones)

Finally, as you research your options, recognize that many gyms include only the basic benefits in their standard memberships. You should anticipate additional charges for personal training, specialty classes, and any other offerings that extend beyond the use of equipment and locker rooms. While this model may work well for you, your best bet might be to individually purchase the services that you are likely to use to complement your home fitness plan (such as a regular yoga class or small group personal training sessions). Although you will pay more for these services as a non-member, if you are unlikely to use the gym outside of these times, you will receive a better value for your dollar, which combines with the high value offered by today’s home exercise equipment.


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.

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