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Home Workouts vs. Gym Workouts
Are home workouts or gym workouts more effective?

Should you exercise at home or a gym?
Should you exercise at home or a gym?

In March of 2020, gyms across the country were ordered to shut down. People began ordering exercise equipment and started putting together home gyms. A year later, much of that equipment has been pushed aside. Some people loved working out at home, but a surprising number quit exercising, while others returned to fitness centers as they reopened.

It didn’t make sense. Why were so many people skipping exercise when they had everything they needed at hand?

It took some digging, but then I stumbled upon a study published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine in October 2008. In that study, 205 adults who didn’t workout were encouraged to start a home exercise program.

After six months, 98 of the people had begun working out. It was a pretty good start. Unfortunately, at the end of a year, one-third of those that started had quit.

The researchers found fascinating differences in what people had access to. The people who had some kind of home exercise machine were 73% more likely to start exercising than people without equipment.

However, those machine-motivated exercisers were 12% more likely to quit than their peers who didn’t have equipment. The machines were great at getting people to start, but those machines didn’t keep their interest.

Most comparisons of home workouts versus gym workouts tend to focus on external factors. They compare travel time, costs, quantity and quality of equipment that’s available. But those aren’t the most important things.

Researchers found the key was how much you believe in yourself. If you wake up and feel confident in your ability to exercise regularly, you’re likely to succeed. People who are internally motivated to achieve exercise goals tend to remain consistent. That’s true if you’re working out in your basement or a fancy gym a half-hour drive away.

However, if you wake up and lack that personal confidence, you aren’t as likely to continue. It seems pretty straightforward. Believe you’re going to succeed, and you will. Believe you’re going to quit or fail, and you will.

It’s known as self-efficacy. That’s your belief in your ability to succeed in a particular situation. That belief, or lack of belief in ourselves, influences how we act, think and feel about our place in the world. That may seem like anyone with low self-efficacy is doomed. Not true.

The best way to improve your sense of efficacy is through success. Every time you master a task or complete something successfully, your sense of self-efficacy is strengthened. If you’ve always failed at fitness, you need to set achievable goals to help start chipping away at those negative beliefs. As you start achieving success, your faith in yourself will grow.

If you aren’t able to motivate yourself, you can benefit from regular outside influence. Wherever you decide to workout, try to arrange some kind of external motivation. Meet a friend, join a class or hire a trainer to get you in the gym. If you’re at home, join a virtual class, hire an online trainer or use an app that tracks your activity and gives you feedback.

Having somebody reach out and provide that extra little push can be the difference between success and failure.

Remember that home and gym workouts can provide similar results.

In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy, subjects were divided into two groups. One group had a “gym-based exercise” program, and the other group had a “home-based exercise” program. The researchers provided telephone follow-up for the home group.

At the end of the year-long study, both groups had similar results. They both lost fat and increased lean muscle mass. If you want results, the most important factor is consistency. If exercising in the convenience of your home works, do that. If going to the gym is your best motivator, do that.

Believe in yourself and choose whichever place will keep you going back.

The Studies:

Annals of Behavioral Medicine
Volume 36, Issue 2, October 2008, Pages 186–194
Comparing Psychosocial Predictors of Physical Activity Adoption and Maintenance
David M. Williams, Ph.D., Beth A. Lewis, Ph.D., Shira Dunsiger, M.A., Jessica A. Whiteley, Ph.D., George D. Papandonatos, Ph.D., Melissa A. Napolitano, Ph.D., Beth C. Bock, Ph.D., Joseph T. Ciccolo, Ph.D., Bess H. Marcus, Ph.D.

Journal of Physiotherapy
Volume 63, Issue 3, July 2017, Pages 154-160
Gym-based exercise and home-based exercise with telephone support have similar outcomes when used as maintenance programs in adults with chronic health conditions: a randomised trial
Paul Jansons, Lauren Robins, Lisa O’Brien and Terry Haines

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