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Home vs. Gym Workouts: Which Is Better?

September 01, 2021

By Daniel Wine, Editorial Contributor

Exercise leaves you feeling energized, but you don’t need to go to a gym to get a great workout. Exercising at home can be just as effective. While gyms provide dedicated space, home workouts offer more flexibility. Using your time and equipment to maximize efficiency is the key to a great workout.

Choose what works best for your lifestyle and fitness goals, says Dr. Justin Thompson, a board-certified sports medicine physician with Bayfront Health St. Petersburg Medical Group Sports Medicine.

Pros and Cons of Working Out at Home

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to work out at home:

Pros

  • Convenience: You can skip traffic, and you don’t have to leave your house or worry about fitting in your workout around the gym’s hours.
  • Variety of options: You can use an app, watch a video or livestream classes.
  • Cost-effectiveness: You don’t have to pay gym membership fees, and there’s no need for fancy or expensive equipment to get a great workout.

Cons

  • Easy to make excuses: If you aren’t self-motivated, you may be tempted to skip workouts or get distracted and cut them short.
  • Space constraints: You might not have open areas, such as a den or backyard.
  • You’re on your own: There aren’t trainers at home like there may be at the gym. The risk of injury is greater, so it’s best to stick to exercises you’re comfortable with.

What’s an Effective Home Workout?

An effective workout doesn’t have to take a long time or require special equipment such as heavy-duty weights. Working out 10 minutes at a time, three times a day, can be as effective as one 30-minute session.

“You don’t need any complicated equipment, either,” Dr. Thompson says. “If you live in a multistory apartment building or home, running or walking up and down the stairs a few times will help increase strength in your legs, not to mention get your heart pumping.”

Getting Started

The most important part of a workout is to get started. Here are some ideas:

Find a suitable space. This could a spot in your bedroom, the den, a patio or even the backyard or front porch. At a minimum, it should have enough room for a yoga mat and for you to stretch your arms in all directions without hitting anything.

Plan your workouts. Schedule time to exercise and hold yourself accountable with an alarm or reminder on your smartphone. If you struggle with motivation, team up with a family member or friend. Fitness-tracking apps or workout apps and videos can keep you motivated.

Warm up and cool down. Walking, cycling or jumping jacks are great warmups. Light stretching and marching in place are good ways to cool down.

Mix up your cardio. Jump rope, dance to your favorite songs, take a jog or walk, or do aerobics. If it gets your heart rate up, it’s a good workout.

Using Your Body Weight

These activities, when used correctly, can be as effective as weight-lifting for building muscle. By modifying your workouts and increasing the intensity or duration over time, you’ll make the most of it.

  • Try planks, lunges, squats, stair-climbing and push-ups.
  • Up the ante of your body-weight circuits by increasing the number of repetitions per workout.
  • Use proper form to prevent injury. Ask a professional to correct your form or watch a tutorial online before diving into new workouts.

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.

Get Moving Safely

Going to the gym can be advantageous when there are fitness instructors to guide you. This doesn’t mean home workouts aren’t safe or effective, as long as you take precautions.

Talk to your doctor before starting home workouts, particularly if you have a medical condition or are recovering from an injury.

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