Online Fitness Training vs. In-Person Training: Pros and Cons



When the coronavirus pandemic temporarily closed gyms across the country in 2020, many people opted to do their workouts at home through online instructions. Even after fitness facilities reopened, a good number of people chose to stay home. This is probably why online training has taken the top spot in the Global Fitness Trends Survey 2021a survey conducted annually by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Online training involves the use of digital broadcast technology to deliver exercise programs to groups or individuals, and encompasses both live streamed and pre-recorded workouts. Today with the Omicron variant racing around the world and many gym goers contemplating a return to online teaching, this trend seems to be here to stay. Or at least a version of it.

“I foresee a hybrid model being the trend of the future,” said Jennifer Rewkowski, vice president of community health and wellness at the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, which offers in-person and online workouts. “The world has changed so much in the last 19 months in terms of when and where people work, schooling, etc. For some people, the on-demand world really works,” she said per E-mail.

But is one workout format better than another? Experts say it depends. Here are several factors to consider when deciding whether to hit the gym or your living room for your next workout.

Important note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you feel pain. Also be sure to check the Covid-19 guidelines in your area.

One of the most popular reasons for working on an online video is that it provides the ultimate convenience. No need to get out of bed at 5 a.m. to do that 6 a.m. boot camp class, which may end up being full when you arrive. Instead, you can turn it on at home at your convenience. And if you are on the road? No problem. You can access your workout through your phone, tablet or laptop.

Another advantage is the price. Gym memberships can be expensive, while online workouts are less so — and sometimes even free. Chicago Irving Park YMCA, for example, charges $52 per month for an adult membership (27+), plus a $52 membership fee. The online The Mills+ program, on the other hand, offers a 30-day free trial of its 1,500+ workouts. If you like them, it’s only $9.99 a month when you sign up for a year.

There is, however, a catch when it comes to the price. Some online workouts require you to have specific equipment, such as stability balls or weights, which you may need to purchase. And if you fall in love with the popular Peloton home workout and just must have one of its specialty bikes, be prepared to shell out between $1,500 and $2,500.

One of the main disadvantages of online workouts is that there is no experienced instructor to give you feedback. “When you’re in a structured, supervised setting, someone who knows what they’re doing can help you out,” said John Quindry, president of the University of Montana’s School of Integrative Physiology and Athletic Training. . “If your form is off, or if you go too hard or not hard enough – those things can be corrected under supervision.”

Martina Knight teaches a smaller barre class, with participants observing social distancing, at the SLO Yoga Center in San Luis Obispo, Calif., on March 3, 2021.

Plus, if you’re exercising alone at home and fall, or suffer a cardiac or metabolic event, you could really be in trouble. That being said, in-person classes aren’t perfect when it comes to safety. Instructors may not notice someone’s poor form if a class is crowded, or if someone intentionally stands in the back out of embarrassment, Quindry said.

Whether you choose a fitness center or an online option, make sure the instructors are qualified, especially if you have a concerning medical condition. Anyone can post an exercise video online, and some fitness centers hire instructors with minimal qualifications.

If you take a yoga or barre class with your best friend every Tuesday, you’re likely to go even on days you don’t feel like it. You won’t want to disappoint them, after all. But no one will know if you don’t activate an online workout.

Your in-person training options are highly dependent on the facility. Smaller fitness centers may only offer a handful of classes, such as yoga, cycling, and kickboxing. Other facilities may have a wide variety of courses available, but charge extra for them. Online options, on the other hand, usually offer a wide assortment of courses. And this buffet of options may be just what you need to stave off boredom and stay motivated to work up a sweat on a regular basis.

Whether you prefer in-person workouts, online sessions or a bit of each, the key takeaway is to stay active, said Jafra Thomas, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology and public health at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

“Unfortunately, cultures around exercise encourage comparing yourself to artificial beauty standards or having unrealistic expectations of when you’ll see the benefits,” he said. “Although the appreciation of movement is rarely encouraged by platformers or instructors, physical activity offers many health benefits.”

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