Everyone knows that staying physically active is crucial to your health, as well as managing your stress levels. For many people, joining a commercial gym (especially with those New Year’s resolutions around the corner!) is the obvious answer. You’ve got a professional facility where you can take advantage of a wide range of equipment, and likely personal trainers and exercise classes if that’s what you’re after. But what about a home gym?

Yet we all also know that many (okay, let’s be honest, most) commercial gym memberships quickly start gathering dust, becoming a sizeable monthly expense you never take advantage of. Whether it’s the convenience of not having to leave the house to get in a workout, or simply being able to sweat it out without strangers gawking on every side, investing in a home gym is an attractive alternative for a lot of people. They too, however, have their downsides. 

We take a look at the pros and cons of each, to help you decide which option is more likely to suit your needs, lifestyle, budget and personality.


It probably won’t shock you to learn that gym equipment doesn’t come cheap – especially cardio machines like elliptical trainers, rowing machines and treadmills, and strength training equipment like bench presses, abduction machines, plate loaded and selectorized machines. 

For most people, purchasing anywhere near the range of machines and equipment you’d find at a commercial gym is out of the question. This is especially true if you’re relatively new to regular workouts, and aren’t yet sure which machines you’re going to spend the most time on anyway.  

On the flip side, you can have a home “gym” and keep your costs down by keeping things super simple. If you’re happy to stock a spare room with a few free weights, maybe a pull-up bar, and a comfy yoga mat in easy sight of your laptop to do some free online yoga routines, why not? Apps like Tone It Up and SWEAT, or getting familiar with the no-equipment workout are also options to consider. 

You can stock a home gym with whatever equipment you like…

If you’ve already been a dedicated gym bunny for a few years, and know which machines you like and use the most, investing in your very own equipment (and ditching the monthly membership) starts to look a whole lot more sensible. If your spouse or older kids are also going to make use of the machines, even better.    

…but you’ll never have the range of machines you’d find at a commercial gym

Apart from the very basic limiting factor of space, commercial gyms have facilities you simply can’t recreate at home. We’re talking large swimming pools, separate exercise rooms for spinning, yoga, dance, pilates and aerobics classes, and the presence of gym staff and personal trainers to name but a few. 

Commercial gyms often boast some highly specialized machines too. Many gym equipment suppliers in South Africa(where sports like rugby are a big deal!) and around the globe offer advanced medical and sports equipment which is specifically designed for recovering users with injuries or disabilities that make using standard equipment difficult.  

If you’re new to working out and don’t yet know what you enjoy (or simply what you’re most likely to stick to) the sheer variety of equipment, classes and facilities offered by a commercial gym are unbeatable.   


It’s the number one excuse people give for not sticking to their fitness goals – a lack of time. While an hour a day in the gym doesn’t sound like much on paper, it never really works out that way, does it?

When you factor in traveling to and from the gym, getting dressed before and showering afterwards, “one hour” quickly becomes three in reality. And that’s a significant chunk out of anyone’s day – never mind a busy professional who ends up working late at the office most days anyway. 

If it means getting up at the crack of dawn when you’re already exhausted from working late the night before, it’s not surprising so many people simply give up. Unfortunately, and more than a little ironically, it’s those who are the most stressed out who need their health and fitness the most. If this sounds like you, then setting up at least a basic home gym – therefore eliminating travel time altogether – might be an excellent idea.      

Is the social element important for you? 

Sometimes, peer pressure is a good thing! Working out at a commercial gym where there are eyes on you can be a big motivation to push yourself out of your comfort zone a little. If you tend to lack discipline, partnering up with a regular gym buddy to egg you on can make a massive difference. And if you’re the gregarious type, meeting new people and interacting with acquaintances at the gym can make the overall experience that much more rewarding. 

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Last Update: Thursday, 19th December 2019

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