Gyms are frustrating places. People on weight machines staring at their phones; one minute’s exercise followed by five minutes rest while they scroll through social media, ignoring others who want to use the equipment. No amount of hovering next to them and glowering seems to move them out of their selfish stupor, while you look for an alternative exercise.
Is this the best use of your time? Are gyms necessary for the average person who just wants to be fit for life rather than a finely honed athlete? Could it be that instead of helping you to get fit, the gym is hindering you instead?
Gyms have done a very good job of promoting themselves as the best way to improve your fitness, but is that really the case?
Well, it depends on how you look at it. If you’re the kind of person who’s prepared to go to the gym regularly and exercise properly while there rather than sit on the equipment and stare at your phone, then you will feel the benefit.
But how many people are like that? Many of us just don’t have that commitment or free time, and if you’re not fully motivated, it’s very easy to find any number of excuses to skip tonight’s session and then maybe tomorrow’s as well…and before you know it, you’re not going at all. Then you’re in the worst of all worlds, paying out money yet not getting fit…unhealthy for both your body and your bank balance.
No wonder Ross from Friends wanted to quit the gym.
There is an alternative, if you’re prepared to work some simple exercises into your daily routine at home or at work, you may be surprised at how much your fitness improves. This approach may not turn you into a finely tuned athlete, but it may be better all-round because regular sessions of improvised home exercise are better than zero sessions of ‘perfect’ exercise at a gym.
Here are some advantages of leaving the gym and creating your own lifestyle-based exercise regime.
Flexibility of time and place
You can spread the exercises out and combine them with other tasks, which could be much more efficient. Think about it, if you go to the gym you’re stuck there and have to get all your daily exercise in one session. If you stay at home, you can be more creative.
For example, have you seen people using weights at a gym? It’s almost standard practice for them to grunt and groan their way through their 12 reps and then spend the next minute doing nothing but sitting there and recovering. There’s nothing else to do is there? But what if you were at home?
Those 12 reps of lifting weights or touching toes could be done while waiting for the kettle to boil to make your coffee. You don’t even need specialist equipment. Just grab whatever is at hand such as a couple of bags of sugar or flour and lift them above your head 12 times. Or you could make yourself walk up and down your stairs 10 times before you go to the toilet, where you can then have your recovery rest.
Once you start thinking like this you’ll find lots of ways to combine exercise with daily chores in a way takes up hardly anytime. For example, if you’re going to spend 5 minutes hoovering the living room, why not do 30 seconds of stomach crunches first, then hoover and then do 30 seconds of touching toes at the end.
There are numerous ways to slip in little pockets of exercise that fill little wasted moments yet can easily add up to 30 to 40 minutes of exercise each day…and you’ll barely notice that you’ve used up any time at all. There’s growing evidence that short bursts of exercise can be very effective in improving health and fitness.
You’ll feel better and more alert all day long
Most people feel much brighter and sharper after a good work-out at the gym. Indeed, this exercise induced buzz can make it difficult to sleep at night if you train in the evening. Well, why not get the same effect when it’s far more useful, throughout the working day.
It only takes a few minutes of exercise to get the heart pumping, the oxygen flowing faster, the effect of which is to effectively liven you up making you more alert and enabling you to concentrate better throughout the day.
A little exercise like this is particularly effective at fighting off that mid-afternoon sluggishness without any need for outside stimulants life coffee or caffeine drinks…which you will no longer have to buy, thereby saving you even more money, and as an added bonus, there’ll be no longer be any caffeine lurking in your system later that night when you want to get to sleep.
So a little light exercise can pick you up at exactly the time you need it and let you down gently afterwards so you’re ready to drift off to sleep easily when you’re ready…if a pill could do that, people would pay a fortune for it…but the good news, it’s free.
You’re more likely to stick to exercising
Going to a gym is a big commitment. By the time you’ve driven there, done your session, got showered and changed, go home again…two hours can have easily passed. How many chunks of time like that have you go to spare?
The chances are that in our busy lives, probably not many. It inevitably means that on the day you’d planned to get your dose of exercise, something crops up that needs your attention…and if you’re not really keen on the idea of exercising that moment, the slightest little problem can be escalated into a crisis that has to be dealt with so you sigh and tell yourself that, unfortunately, the gym will have to be sacrificed.
You might even pretend to yourself that you’re disappointed. We’ve all been there. But what if your exercise regime consists of bitesize chunks starting at as little as one minute, to five minutes, ten and so on. It can be difficult to psyche yourself up to spending two hours on a gym. That’s almost like an evening out yet only 40 minutes or so might actually be exercise.
Exercise at home, however, is a very different matter. Come on, if you can’t motivate yourself to do a quick ten minutes, or even five, or even one minute then there really is no hope for you. But you’re not like that are you?
You can psyche yourself up for 30 seconds of sit-ups in the living room, can’t you? It all adds up.
Multitask by exercising while doing other things
We’re all skilled in multitasking these days…you know the kind of thing, watching TV while scrolling through WhatsApp messages, swiping through to check emails and social media posts, moving seamlessly from one to the other without ever missing a second of that match or drama you’re watching.
Well, why not go a step further. Carry on doing all those things but stand up and start exercising…lifting a weight with one arm while flicking through phone with the other…poetry in motion.
There’s no limit to the number of exercises you can build into a 30 minute soap or sitcom, and no limit to the benefit you will gain despite the fact that exercise won’t have taken up a single extra moment of your day.
You save money by ditching gym fees
Exercising at home may not be as good as a properly planned and executed gym routine but seriously, how many people are going to stick to that perfect gym plan? It’s for professional athletes and they can only do it because it’s their job. Exercise is what they do when the rest of us are scratching out a living.
And as a bonus you also save by not using the fuel it takes to drive to the gym, which is not only good for your bank balance but the environment as well…which will give you a nice warm feeling of having helped tackle climate change…every little helps.
You save time because you don’t have travel to a gym
Even if the gym is only a few miles away, by the time you’ve driven there and parked up you’ve probably wasted at least 15 minutes…it’s the same coming back. That’s 30 minutes of dead time, which you avoid if you exercise at home.
The time you save can be used for other life enhancing activities. You’ll have more time to spend with your children and friends, more time to read that book or learn that instrument, catch up on the new box set everyone is talking about.
You can involve others in the workouts.
This could be a very useful way of improving your family or social life. For example, if you have children, why not involve them in simple exercise routines…they’ll love the extra attention from mum and dad.
Or why not put on a favourite record and dance in the living room with your partner. Who knows where that could lead?
Or why not use the time you would have spent going to the gym on a walk in the park with friends, catching up on the latest news while getting some exercise.
Wouldn’t that be better for your mental health than just pounding a treadmill on your own in a gym, or taking part in a class where you don’t know anyone and never exchange anything more than polite pleasantries.
No embarrassing body shaming
It can be very intimidating to walk into a gym full of finely honed bodies with bulging biceps and flat stomachs wherever you look, especially if you’re badly out of shape. It’s enough to put you off going and give up on exercise altogether…in fact, it does have that effect on some people.
Don’t let it happen to you. If you exercise at home you can get in shape away from the judgmental eyes of the gym elite…ok, they’re not really judging you but you feel that way don’t you. Don’t put yourself through it.
Work at your own pace, where there’s no one to make you feel inadequate…before you know it, you may soon develop the kind of look that makes you want to go to the gym just to show off.
You’ll feel better because so much will have improved
You’ll probably be fitter because although you won’t have been able use specialist gym equipment, you made up for it by exercising more regularly with whatever is available to you at home.
You’ll feel better throughout the day because you’re spreading out your exercise rather than cramming it into one session. You will have saved more of your hard earned money because there are no gym fees to pay.
The savings could easily add up to a posh meal out every month, a weekend away now and then or whatever takes your fancy.
You’ll have created more time do the things you want in your leisure time and even more important, you will have created more time to spend with your family and friends. You can’t even put a price on that.