Do you really need to go to a gym? Again, like anything, the answer depends entirely on what you want to achieve. For general health and wellbeing, my personal opinion is no, but lets look at the options.
For general health and wellness the recommendation is to accumulate at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. These activities should be a mix of cardiovascular, strength and flexibility. Ideally it is best to do activities that you enjoy to create a healthy lifestyle balance. Any activity that elevates the heart rate and increases the use of the muscles can be beneficial.
So, do you need to go to a gym to achieve this?
In terms of strength training, for many, body weighted exercises can be exceptionally beneficial, easy and effective. Using large muscle groups such as the legs, chest and back can work many muscles at once and provide effective and simple strength training. These type of exercises can typically be done anywhere and in the comfort of your home if you prefer.
However, if your goal is to create increased muscle mass and you are wanting to change your body composition dramatically, a gym can be beneficial. Having access to weighted machines and a variety of free weights can enhance results.
In regards to cardiovascular exercises, this typically comes down to preference. There are so many options that can increase heart rate, for example walking, swimming, cycling, hiking, team sports, rock climbing and back yard games.
Exercising outdoors has shown to have beneficial effects on mental health, however this isn’t always an option. A gym may be a good option in wet weather or to use quality equipment. Also, many may enjoy participating in group classes for fun and guidance.
Flexibility is another activity that can be performed just about anywhere. It is often one that is overlooked and forgotten about but none the less, just as important. However, sometimes if pain is an issue, guidance may be needed by a physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or quality personal trainer.
One other potential benefit of a gym setting is access to staff and exercise professionals to assist with guidance, accountability and technique. This can be especially important in the area of illness and injury. A gym setting with a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist may be essential to monitor aspects such as blood pressure, pain levels, blood glucose levels, cardiovascular performance and other complications with the illness or disease.
Having social support for exercising can also be beneficial to maintain adherence. This can either be through having a personal trainer, going to a class or meeting a friend at a gym or any location for some form of exercise.
What do I use and recommend?
Personally, with my clients, I use simplistic and minimal equipment to help them achieve their goals. My go to pieces of equipment are:
- A bench – or this could be a stable chair.
- A step – any step at home or in a park can work well as long as there is no risk of falls or instability.
- A fitball – I buy cheap fitballs to use, as kids love to play with them also. I find these so versatile and effective.
- Dumbbells – I have a range that I have accumulated over time just to help with extra results.
- A suspension trainer – this is by far my favourite piece of equipment that I use every session and has so much versatility.
As you can see, to achieve results and increase fitness and strength generally it isn’t essential to have a huge amount of equipment.
The one key aspect that is important however when it comes to strength training in particular, is technique. If this is new to you, it may be worth investing in an assessment to identify muscular imbalances and to demonstrate how to perform exercises correctly.
So often I have clients who are oblivious to learnt movement patterns due to pain compensation or repetitive movements from work and daily task. Being aware of these can make a big difference and potentially reduce the risk of injury.
So, do you need a gym?
If you want classes, to improve body composition substantially or have an indoor option when the weather isn’t favourable, a gym can be beneficial. For general health and wellbeing however, focus on moving more, strengthening and lengthening your muscles and enjoying the ability to move with ease. Just please seek advice from a qualified professional for guidance if you require it.
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