When I first started my fitness journey, it took a big leap of faith to finally join up to my local gym.
As much as there were plenty of positives to the gym, there were also some fears and concerns I had, which made the decision a little harder to make.
I’m now an experienced fitness coach, have been working out in the gym for over 10 years and now want to share with you what I believe are the big positives and negatives of joining a gym.
Pros of the gym: Motivating environment, good equipment, professional trainers, social benefits & improved training quality.
Cons of the gym: Membership fees, contracts, lack of privacy, commute time & a crowded environment.
Having a good understanding of the pros and cons of joining the gym and why they’re important can help you to make a well-informed decision, rather than from mere speculation.
Let’s dive right in.
What are the Pros & Cons of Joining the Gym?
It’s time. You want to start taking your health and fitness more seriously, but you’re faced with several barriers.
One of which is whether the gym is worth it.
Weighing up the pros and cons of a gym membership is a great way for you to gain some insight as to whether it’s right for your situation.
Pros of Joining the Gym
When I reflect on my own fitness journey, the times that I was the fittest, strongest and motivated about my training was when I was in a positive gym environment.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, I was forced to take equipment from my workplace home and set up a makeshift home gym whilst in lockdown.
The first few weeks were great! Having the gym in my bedroom was convenient and there were no excuses about not having ‘enough time’ to commute to my local gym.
However, as the weeks wore away, my motivation began to dwindle. I just couldn’t get myself motivated or enthusiastic about my training.
I missed the routine of getting in the car and visiting the gym, the motivating environment around me, and the commitment of the other gym members beside me.
The gym provides an excellent environment for motivation and accountability in pursuit of your goals which is a massive win.
Although home workouts are great and can provide a great level of foundational strength, you will eventually hit an unescapable barrier a few months into your fitness journey if you’re wanting to take your training to the next level.
The gym has an abundance of equipment that allows you to load your movements and vary your training.
Instead of performing more and more reps of an exercise to increase the challenge, you can now add a bar to your back, a machine under your feet, or a pair of kettlebells in your grasp – allowing you to really get strong and build some lean muscle tissue, especially in your lower body.
You’ll also gain a lot more versatility in the gym, as there is a wide variety of different types of equipment, facilities and classes. Have a go in the squat rack, take a spin class, or join in a HIT workout with other gym members – you can give so many new and different things a try.
When working out from home or at the park, there is somewhat of a limit to the types of things you can do, whereas at the gym, the options are close to endless due to the equipment and facilities available to you.
As a fitness coach at an educational facility, one of the biggest concerns my students have is whether they are doing new exercises with the right technique. They don’t want to do anything that might get them injured or make them look silly in front of their peers.
Having a professional close by is a huge plus for them and allows them to become confident, competent gym-goers.
The beauty in joining the gym is you too can have a professional trainer close by to help you whenever questions may arise. They’ll show you how to use the equipment, help you navigate the unfamiliar gym floor, and give you a quick technique check if you’re unsure.
Although you might not need them all the time, having that peace of mind, especially when you’re first getting started, is priceless.
One massive positive of joining a gym is being able to part of a new community.
You’ll have the opportunity to meet new people, engage with the friendly coaches, and be part of a group of gym members who are aspiring to achieve similar goals as you.
In my experience, group fitness gyms such as Body Fit Training, F45, or cross-fit style classes do this a lot better than commercial gyms.
In a group fitness setting, you work alongside and together with other members to motivate, encourage, and pull each other through the grind of the workout. This cannot be achieved if you’re working out independently.
Speaking from my own experience, the gym’s combination of better equipment, a motivating environment and community, as well as the leadership from trainers helps me to achieve a far higher training quality than if I’m working out independently from home.
Essentially, when I say training quality, I’m referring to the amount of work I get done and how hard I push myself.
When I’m accountable to myself only for extended periods of time, my standard of training can suffer, no matter how disciplined I am.
Now, this is certainly not the same for everyone, as some people thrive on this independence. However, this accountability to maintaining a high training quality is very useful if you’ve got some ambitious aspirations you’re working towards.
Cons of Joining the Gym
Arguably the biggest downside of a gym membership is the cost, which can range between $10 and $70 a week.
Commercial gyms such as Anytime Fitness, Genesis, and Goodlife cost between $15 and $20 per week.
They also require you to pay an upfront joining fee of around $99 unless you’re signing up for an extended period of time or there’s a specific promotion on at the time.
Group fitness gyms like Body Fit Training and F45 Training are more expensive – usually between $50 – $70 per week – but don’t have sign up fees.
These fees can be offputting for new gym-goers wanting to get started, as working out from home or going for a run is completely free.
In saying this, investing in your health is one of the best things you can do and a great way to use your money in a positive way.
Many people find that making a financial commitment to their fitness helps them to get some ‘skin in the game’. When you don’t want to waste the money you are investing each week, it helps to keep you more accountable and motivated to stay on track and to keep up the consistency.
This is perhaps the ‘scary’ aspect of joining the gym for many people. They envision themselves bound to a contract that never ceases to stop draining them of every last dime they own.
Yes, contracts can be a hassle and many gyms can be a little ‘sneaky’ with how they sell you a membership.
Our advice is to always have a thorough read of the contract before you sign up.
And just a word of wisdom: In our experience, a cheaper weekly rate is not always best. Gyms usually offer a cheaper rate because they’re locking you into a longer contract with cancellation fees.
There’s no point trying to shave $1 or $2 of your weekly fee if you’re having to sacrifice flexibility.
If you’re signing up for the long term, make sure you’ve done your due diligence, shopped around for different gyms in your area, and have settled on a facility you know you’re going to enjoy attending.
Lack of Privacy
As a fitness coach working with teenage girls for many years, feeling self-conscious is a regular thing I deal with. As you may have guessed, the gym is a public place, with many different types of people working out within close proximity to you.
This lack of privacy can be quite intimidating if you don’t feel confident, competent, or comfortable in an unfamiliar environment.
I even think back to my own fitness journey. When I first started, I made the mistake of joining a major bodybuilding gym, with big egos, big muscles and big weights. I didn’t feel like I fit in and it made me feel like everyone was looking at me, like I was in the spotlight.
Looking back at this experience, no-one was actually looking at me and there was nothing wrong with the gym itself – in fact, I actually love going to this type of gym nowadays – but it wasn’t the right fit for me at the time.
This is where it is really important to choose the right gym – a facility that suits your personality, goals, and experience.
The lack of privacy won’t be an issue if you feel supported and encouraged by the coaches, enjoy the company of the other members around you and look forward to the type of training you’re doing.
Not only does the gym require a financial commitment, but it also requires a greater time commitment.
With work, family, and social commitments draining us of a lot of the precious hours in our day, it can difficult to find the time to fit a workout in, let alone the transit time going to and from the gym.
When compared to working out from home or going for a run, you’ll need to factor in travel time and make sure this isn’t a deal-breaker.
If you’re time-poor, we can’t stress enough the importance of picking a gym that’s no further than a 10-minute drive away.
Another strategy can be to complete your workouts earlier in the morning or later at night when the traffic is light and the kids are asleep, however, this is going to take a great level of commitment that many people aren’t prepared to do.
Depending on the type of gym you join and when you go, the gym can be quite crowded and it can be 10 or 15 minutes waiting for a piece of equipment.
This can be frustrating if you’re on a tight time frame or are meticulous about your exercise regime order and timing.
In saying this, there are ways around this dilemma.
In our experience, it is usually the cheaper gyms that have tighter spaces and less equipment. Spending an extra few dollars a week can have a big impact on the resources you’ll have available to you.
If this isn’t possible, you can always visit the gym during quieter periods of the day, namely the early morning (~5 am), the middle of the workday (~10 am – 3 pm), or the late evening (~9 pm).
Crowded environments are also of a growing concern for many with the impact that covid-19 is having on society.
Before joining a new gym, it’s worth asking them about their hygiene and social distancing policies to ensure they’re on top of this, keeping you and other gym members safe.
So, is Joining a Gym Worth It?
After all the pros and cons, is joining the gym actually worth it?
Gyms are certainly worth your time, money, and energy if you’re hoping to really take your training to the next level, as they provide a motivating environment, good equipment, professional trainers, social benefits and improve your training quality.
We believe that these positives far outweigh the negatives, however, we encourage you to draw your own conclusion based on your goals, personality, and situation.
The Next Steps
We encourage you to take some time to weigh up whether joining a gym is right for you and hope that this piece has given you some insight and perspective.
One of the most difficult aspects of getting started can be knowing which gym is right for you.
At Get Gym Fit, we want to help you find a gym you love and keep coming back to. We provide honest gym recommendations on our gym reviews page, which we encourage you to utilise to help you make an informed decision.