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Gym vs. outdoor exercise

We’ve worked out all the pros and cons…

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Is it better to work up a sweat outdoors? Or can you reach your fitness goals faster in a gym filled with exercise equipment? Well, working out anywhere on the reg does wonders for your health. But you can benefit even more by doing some activities outside or in a gym.

That’s why in this article, we’re going to explore all the pros and cons of gym and outdoor exercise. Helping you kick off the new year with a spring in your step!

Benefits of outdoor training

More varied workouts

When you exercise outdoors, you're not limited to the fitness equipment available in a gym. You can run, bike, hike, swim, climb, and enjoy loads of other activities that’ll work different muscle groups and provide a well-rounded workout. What’s more, you tend to use more energy when exercising outside because of things like uneven terrain — helping you burn more calories.

Wearing a fitness tracker or smart watch can really give your outdoor workouts a boost too. They come loaded up with lots of different outdoor and sports fitness programs that’ll help you train smarter. Plus, they track your progress by monitoring stats like your heart rate and how many steps you’ve taken. Clever stuff.

Explore your local area

Exercising around where you live can help you find some hidden gems that you might have not known about. Like some pretty woodlands or even a park or two. You can then use these scenic spots to create a running or cycling circuit that you’ll want to do over and over again.

In fact, some smart fitness wearables and most smartphones have built-in GPS that’ll let you map out and save your favourite routes. And they can also accurately measure things like your distance and speed using signals from satellites — perfect if you want precise location-based data. Plus, you’ll never get lost!

There’s also apps like Strava that can let you record and share your workouts with millions of other exercise enthusiasts. Helping you stay motivated as you move closer towards your fitness goals.

Increased vitamin D intake

By training outside, you’ll be exposed to more sunlight than if you were in a gym. This makes your body produce more vitamin D, which strengthens things like your immune system and bones. In fact, the NHS recommends about 20 minutes of sun exposure per day. So by exercising outdoors, you’ll be getting in your workout and soaking up some rays at the same time.

Improved mindfulness

Plenty of studies that have shown that surrounding yourself with nature can reduce stress levels and improve your mood. And as exercise releases endorphins too (feel-good chemicals in your brain), combining physical activity with fresh air and stunning views can really help you feel happy and fulfilled. This is especially important if you work from home and don’t go outside much.

It’s completely free

You don’t have to pay for any kind of membership to start exercising or doing sports outdoors. Just put on some loose clothes, lace up your trainers, and step out of your home. But don’t forget to stretch first! You can head over to your local park, do a loop around the block, or even meet up with friends or an exercise group wherever you like.

Bring your pet with you

Dogs love going for walks, so why not bring Rover along with you on your run? Dogs are great motivators as they’ll never take no for an answer, so you’ll be able to ace those trails with your furry workout buddy right by your side. Dog-friendly parks and large wooded areas are probably best so you can let your dog off the lead.

Cons of outdoor exercise

Weather

Yep, we’re no strangers to bad weather here in the UK. Extreme heat, cold, rain, or wind can make exercising outdoors uncomfortable and even dangerous if conditions are severe. So, it’s always best to check the weather app on your smart watch or phone before setting off on that 10K run or marathon bike ride.

Safety

It sounds dramatic, but outdoor training can make you more prone to injuries and accidents if you’re not careful. Running on slippery paths could cause you to sprain your ankle or fall more easily than if you were on a treadmill in a gym.

Benefits of the gym

Access to exercise equipment

If you have a specific fitness goal, then specialised gym equipment can help you reach it faster. Are you keen to bulk up for a confidence-boosting physique? Apparatus like weight benches and barbells will help you build your arm and chest muscles quickly. While machines like ellipticals target almost all your upper and lower body muscles for a great all-round workout.

Having access to a wide range of exercise equipment means that you don’t have to fork out lots of money for your own too. But as you can try out so many different machines in a gym, then you could always treat yourself to one that you really love so it’s always ready to use at home.

And if you do want to convert your basement or a spare room into a home gym, then check out our best home gyms ideas article for some cool inspiration.

Membership perks

By joining a gym, you can use things you probably don’t have at home — like a sauna or swimming pool. And some premium gyms even offer fitness classes as a part of your membership, including things like yoga, kickboxing, and Zumba. Letting you learn some great fitness tips from professional instructors who’ll push you to make quick gains.

Personal trainers

Speaking of pro instructors, many gyms have certified personal trainers who can help you maximise your workouts with custom fitness programs. They can give you some solid science-backed guidance and help you learn how to properly use the equipment. So, you can achieve better results and stay safe.

Sense of community

Gyms can be excellent places to meet new people, as you’ll be surrounded by folks who share similar interests and fitness goals. You can join group workouts or classes to keep yourself motivated while socialising. Plus, seeing other people working hard can inspire you to push yourself harder too.

Cons of gym training

Cost

It can depend on where you are and which gym you want to sign up to, but the average cost of a gym membership in the UK is about £45 a month. And sure, you could use this as an incentive for keeping a consistent and disciplined workout routine. But according to a study from 2019, Britons spend more than £4 billion a year in unused gym memberships. So, you better be sure you’ll make the most of it!

Travel

Depending on where you live and the location of your gym, travel time getting there and back can eat up a pretty big chunk of your day. This can make it difficult to fit gym time into your routine, especially if you already spend a lot of your day commuting to work.

Crowds

Indoor gym exercise can be convenient, but some gyms get very busy — especially during peak hours like after work. This can make it difficult to access the equipment you want to use, and queuing up can really disrupt your rhythm. A busy gym environment can also feel quite intimidating, especially if you’re self-conscious or you’ve not been to a gym before.

Which is best for me?

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to where you work out. Exercising anywhere can be hugely beneficial for your health, so it’s mostly about what you find more convenient. But like we explained, exercising outside can help with things like mindfulness and vitamin D intake — plus it’s free. Whereas gym benefits include doing more targeted workouts in a social environment, with extra perks like classes.

A mix of the two is probably best and will help keep your exercise routine interesting. Maybe do cardio workouts like running and cycling outside, and then head to the gym to do weight training or go for a swim.

If you’re worried about how you can accurately monitor your progress with this hybrid approach, don’t be. Fitness trackers and smart scales can track everything from your weight to your muscle mass. That way you get a flexible regime where everything counts — from lifting weights to woodland walks and even taking the stairs at work!

Any more questions?

We hope our article helps you stay on track with your fitness goals. Why not check out our tech to help you stick to your New Year's resolutions article for more handy advice? Or read our piece on the best fitness trackers to make the most of your exercises.

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