When you decide to start working out, one of the first questions that you’ll probably have is whether you should sign up for the gym or try routines that you can do at home. While each has its benefits, how do you decide which one is superior? Are you more likely to achieve better results with one over the other?

When it comes to exercise, deciding to start is easy. Next comes all the questions of figuring out the logistics. What type of exercise? Do you need special equipment? Where are you going to exercise? The last question is the first one you should answer.

To reach your fitness goals, it requires you to follow through and actually put in the work. A big part of that is finding the environment that fits your needs and budget. Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of working out at home or in a gym.

Pros of Working Out at Home

The number one positive factor of exercising at home is convenience! You don’t have to pack a bag and drive somewhere. Think of it this way, if the closest gym is a 20-minute drive in traffic, you are less likely to make the trip. Also, you can work out whenever you like. Home gyms are open any time of day, every single day of the year. So, you can work out whenever you have time. For parents, working out at home means that childcare isn’t a requirement.

Another big plus of at-home workouts is the amount of variety! You can go outside, do exercise videos, stream live classes, exergames, or download workout apps. You’re also not worried about other people. Some individuals feel self-conscious or uncomfortable exercising in front of others. Working out from home means you can choose to wear whatever you like. In addition, while listening to your own music can make you feel motivated and enjoy the experience more, traditional headphones can be uncomfortable, and Bluetooth headphones tend to fall out or just aren’t loud enough to cover up the constant stream of sound surrounding you in the gym. At home, you can play music without having to wear headphones.

Exercising at home is definitely more cost-effective because there’s no membership fee and bodyweight workouts typically require no equipment. If you want to invest in some equipment, such as resistance bands and an exercise ball, it doesn’t need to be costly and greatly expands your exercise options.

Cons of Working Out at Home

A downside of exercising at home is boredom. A lot is going on at the gym that can distract and potentially motivate you. Also, nobody is there to correct your form. When you’re starting a new exercise routine or your body is tired, it’s easy not to use the correct form and do exercises improperly, leading to injury. When you work out at home, it’s easy to make excuses to skip doing it. There’s always something that needs to be done, like laundry, dishes or cleaning out the garage. Also, it’s easy to quit on a workout when no one else is around to watch you. While you don’t need a ton of space to work out at home, if you want a treadmill or other large equipment, space is a necessity. Besides space, the cost of large equipment isn’t usually cheap.

If you decide that working out at home is best for you, keep these tips in mind:

  • Find sufficient space to do your workouts. At a minimum, you should be able to roll out a yoga mat and stretch your arms in all directions without hitting anything.
  • Plan your workouts by setting days and times to exercise. Hold yourself accountable with an alarm or reminder on your phone. If you struggle with motivation, team up with a family member or friend.

Pros of Joining a Gym

A significant benefit of exercising at a gym is the amount of equipment available to you. You can use the treadmill, elliptical, stair climber, stationary bike, or rowing machine for cardio. There are machines, free weights, cable machines, and bands when it comes to lifting weights. One of the best factors is that you don’t have to worry about maintenance on any of these. In addition, many gyms have other offerings, like a pool, hot tub, tennis courts, basketball courts, and racquetball courts. Other conveniences include protein shakes, a nutrition bar, towels, daycare, tanning, massaging, and steam rooms.

One major draw for gyms is the different classes that are offered. While you can do online classes at home, it’s not the same. Physically being in a class means you have access to an instructor who can correct your form in real-time, and you’re around people. When you’re sweating along with everyone else, it can give you a boost. Also, there are always people at the gym, so if you ever need someone to spot you, there’s always someone to ask. In addition, you can make new friends. The people at the gym have the same interest in getting or staying fit as you do, so connecting with them can be beneficial.

Going to a gym can enhance motivation and focus. For some people, paying for a gym membership can be motivating. There’s not much to do at a gym but exercise, and the resulting focus can keep you driven and motivated during your workout. Working with a personal trainer can also help with both of these. Many gyms have several personal trainers on staff, so one is bound to have availability when it best fits your schedule.

Cons of Joining a Gym

A huge drawback to a gym is the cost. No matter where you go, you’ll have to pay something to join a gym. If you don’t have much free time or constantly travel for work, a gym membership probably won’t be worth it, especially if the gym isn’t close by. When determining cost, include the membership fee and any traveling costs to and from the gym, parking fees, specialty class prices, personal trainer rates, and childcare charges.

Another problem with going to the gym is the hassle of going there. This usually involves packing a bag, filling up your water, getting dressed, driving there, parking, going to the locker room, and so forth. If you visit the gym during the busiest hours, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting…for a parking space, equipment, and shower stall. Going to the gym can take a great deal of time out of your day.

Gyms are full of people. They’re sweaty and all there to do their own thing. This means you have to be ok with machines that are close together, sharing mat space, and potentially changing your clothes in front of strangers, which can be problematic for individuals who are self-conscious about their bodies. All these people also mean germs. While most people are considerate and wipe down machines after use, germs can be persistent, so don’t forget to clean your gym bag. Another consideration is that while you might learn new exercises from watching others, you can also learn bad form if the people you’re watching aren’t using the correct technique.

If you decide that you want to join a gym, there are a few considerations:

  • Which amenities will you really use (classes, trainers, showers, and sauna, or just gym equipment)? Are they all included in the cost?
  • How busy is the gym when you expect to work out? Is there sufficient equipment so you won’t waste time waiting?
  • Is the equipment in good shape and sized to fit you?
  • Is everything clean and well-maintained?
  • Can you test-drive the gym with a free pass for a day or week?
  • Are staff members well-trained, pleasant, and appropriately certified and experienced?

Regardless of where you decide to exercise, remember an effective workout doesn’t have to take a long time or need a lot of equipment.

Intermittent intervals of working out for 10 minutes at a time, three times a day, can be as effective as one 30-minute session. Eventually, try to work your way up to 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When it comes to cardio, mixing it up can keep it from getting boring. If it gets your heart rate up, it’s a good workout. For body weight activities, when used correctly, they can be as effective as weightlifting for building muscle.

Sure, it’s easy to join a gym. However, it’s also easy to pay for the membership and never use it. It’s simple to set up a home gym but effortless to find a hundred other things to do rather than your workout. You’ll see improvement no matter where you are by modifying your workouts and increasing the intensity or duration over time.