Why have a Home Gym?
There are actually two questions buried in this one question:
- Why should I exercise?
- Why should I exercise at home?
You can, of course, do some fitness training without any equipment and this site will cover that option too, so if you’ve decided that exercising at home is a good idea you may still ask “Why have a home gym, as such?”, we will explain why having some equipment is probably still a good move.
In this article, I’m going to look at both questions.
1. Why should I exercise? – The benefits of regular exercise
It is a well-known truism that exercise is good for you. Our bodies have evolved to expect a certain amount of exertion every day. And, though our lifestyles have changed radically since our hunter-gatherer ancestors, our bodies have not.
Most of the self-maintenance our bodies undertake relies on pumping oxygenated blood to every part through a vast network of blood vessels, and the chances of suffering from many of today’s killer diseases can be greatly reduced by ensuring you get enough exercise. In short, you owe it to your body to exercise.
Benefits of exercise for heart disease
Heart disease accounts for 1 in 4 deaths in the USA – more than cancer.
Furthermore, other diseases related to the cardiovascular system, such as respiratory diseases and strokes are next on the list.
The heart is the muscle which pumps blood around the body. Unlike skeletal muscles, such as biceps, which work intermittently, the heart works non-stop for your whole life, contracting an astonishing 2 to 3 billion times in a normal lifespan. Like other muscles though, which increase in effectiveness with exertion, the heart also relies on exertion to increase its efficiency.
Ironically, therefore, by making the heart work harder through exercise, the increased efficiency allows it to settle to a lower resting rate and so it actually works less overall, lengthening your potential lifespan.
Other Cardiovascular Benefits of exercise
Regular exercise helps blood circulation, improves cholesterol levels, helps prevent high blood pressure and strokes.
In short, as well as specific benefits to the heart and lungs, regular aerobic exercise improves your general health. And better general health also reduces your chances of getting a number of other diseases and improves your chances of survival if you do. It also helps reduce stress, yet another big health factor.
In today’s world, one if the biggest contributions to poor health and early deaths is excessive weight. especially in the USA. In our hunter-gatherer days, fat, in food and in our bodies, was a great idea. Our distant ancestors were very likely to suffer from periods of lack of food and storage of energy in fat was highly useful. Fortunately for them (and therefore for our existence) their bodies were quite efficient and didn’t use up too much energy (too many calories) for their day to day activities.
Today, food is far too easily available and we eat far more than we need to. But our bodies are still efficient and, on a simple level, we need to exercise more than you might think just to burn off a few calories. Walking 50 yards to the cake shop isn’t going to compensate for the results of consuming your purchase! So to lose weight, the most important factor is diet, but regular exercise is still a hugely important factor.
2. Why exercise from home?
So you’re convinced of the benefits of regular exercise and make a resolution to go for it. What are your options:
- Join a gym
- Go jogging or cycling locally
- Get involved in some other type of sport
- Exercise at home
All of these are good, but one may suit you and your circumstances more than the others. So let’s look at the Pros and Cons if each.
Joining a gym
You will probably have access to:
- a variety of very high quality equipment
- advice on how best to use it
- a personal trainer
For some, the motivation to leave the house and go to the gym is easier when they’re paying a monthly fee and the motivation to train is easier when amongst others people doing likewise
Depending on which gym you choose, there are sometimes other benefits such as the use of a pool and sauna, or classes such yoga, pilates or others.
[My wife and I have belonged to various gyms – sometimes I would use the equipment while she did Pilates, then we’d meet in the pool.]
- It can be expensive, and you pay whether you go or not.
- It takes a certain minimum amount of time just to get there and back and it often only seems worthwhile if you can spend a certain amount of time on your workout. So if you only have half an hour, to spare today, you probably won’t bother.
- For a High Intensity workout which might only take 12 minutes, it might not seem worth the trip, so you may be persuaded to do a steady jog for half an hour or more, which may not always be the most effective way to achieve the results you want.
Run or cycle locally
- Cheap if you run or already have a decent bike;
- Good if running or cycling would be your chosen exercise method anyway.
- In good weather, it can be good to get out into fresh air
- Place You need to live somewhere where jogging or cycling is convenient – Do you have a good place locally? Getting fresh air depends largely on where you’re doing it – city smog isn’t necessarily a healthy environment in which to be filling your lungs!
- Weather – A disadvantage of outdoor exercise is that, depending on where you live, you may find it less than appealing going out either on a cold winter day, or a hot summer day. – You need to have the will-power to go out even when the weather is not very appealing.
- Time – You have to put aside enough time to make it worthwhile. If you can’t make that time on a particular day, you’ll probably skip it, which often becomes the start of giving it up altogether.
- Jogging or cycling may not be the best form of exercise for you
Get involved in a sport
For many years, I did martial arts twice a week and the intensity of that training was more than adequate to keep me as fit as I have ever been. These days, I play a lot of table tennis and that complements the exercise I do at home.
- You can choose from a wide-range of sports in which you may be interested
- The fun aspect of playing an enjoyable sport takes away much of the motivation issue
- While most sports will have some cardio or other health benefit, your chosen sport may not be the one you need to achieve your goals
- It’s harder to monitor your activity at a glance – heart rate, calorific use, etc…
Exercise at home
- Safe and convenient
- You can exercise in comfort whatever the season or weather conditions.
- You still have to find time, of course, but you can do some exercise even if you’ve only got 10 minutes to spare.
- You can multi-task, exercising while watching tv, for example.
Also, there are even types of exercise bike, for example, which you can use while sitting at your desk.
- Greater convenience mean you are less likely to give up.
- You can choose the best type of equipment and spend appropriate to your budget and needs. The money you save on gym membership can buy you some good equipment. Furthermore, any investment you make can be recouped over a long period – and you may even resell it at a future date.
- You don’t need to wear particular clothes – you can exercise in your pyjamas if you want to, or even your underwear (or less!)
- You can of course do some exercise without any equipment, such as sit-ups, push-ups etc.
- You may not be able to afford the standard or range of equipment the gym has
- You have to provide your own workout regime (or seek advice from websites like this one)
- Given the subject of this website, you may have expected that there would be more Pros for the Home Gym idea, but I have tried to be fair – I have followed each of these routes at various times and my aim is to be as honest and impartial as possible about the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Why have a home gym and buy equipment if I can do push-ups and sit-ups free?
You can do some strength training and body conditioning by doing push-ups and sit-ups etc., and you can do some cardio by running up and down the stairs etc., but that can become tiresome very quickly and finding the willpower to do so can be hard. (I’m referring to indoor exercise, not going outside for a jog, which is dealt with above).
- Equipment-based exercise tends to be better for cardio
- It’s easier to find the motivation
- Involves some expense
- You have to find some space
The above list genuinely reflects the positive aspects as I see them and which made up my own mind which direction to take.
Of course, none of them automatically discounts any of the others, and combining them is also a good option – playing a sport combined with separate exercise regime as I do, or joining a gym but also having some equipment in the house for times when going to the gym is not convenient.
Having said all of that I personally find the use of exercise equipment at home invaluable for the convenience it offers and, overall, it has cost me a lot less than the gym fees would have done.
What’s right for you is something only you can choose but I hope this helps provide food for thought.