Thanks to the rise of wellness apps, trainers on social media and nutritiously diverse restaurants in the UAE, being fit and healthy is the new normal. The problem with this lifestyle is that it’s not always easily adaptable, even with all the platforms at our disposal.
One that has piqued my interest in the past couple of years is home workouts. Do they really work? Why doesn’t everyone do it? And what are the pros and cons of working out at home? As a personal trainer in the UAE, I love getting people excited about exercise and incorporating it into their schedules as conveniently as possible. That’s why I dug deep into the research to help you decide if home workouts are really for you.
Why do people work out?
Before we dive into the good, the bad and the reality behind home workouts, let’s review why we should be working out in the first place:
- To be happy. It’s true, when we exercise we get endorphins. You might have heard Reese Witherspoon explain it on Legally Blonde: “Endorphins make you happy!”
- To release stress and anxiety. Movement is key to a calmer, more relaxed state of mind. You can find yourself completely focused during a workout. it’s a sort of meditation, which gives you less time to worry about things you can’t control.
- To get some sleep. Dr. Michael Breus, The Sleep Doctor, says exercise can greatly contribute to a good night’s rest. Also, it’s been proven that when you sleep better, your heart and immunity get stronger.
- To prevent injury. If you think exercise is just to look good, think again. When you work out, your body’s bone density is getting stronger, making it possible to live longer without injury. This is what makes it possible to play with your grandkids in your 70s and get off the chair or bed without assistance.
Pros to home workouts
Being a dietician in the UAE, I’ve seen people attempt the craziest diets as an alternative to exercise. I hope the main takeaway from most of my sessions and wellness talks is that you can’t have nutrition without exercise.
So, let’s find out if you would be happier with a home workout or one at the gym by asking a few questions:
Do you dislike wasting driving time?
If you do, then you’re a perfect candidate for a home workout. There is nothing more convenient than working out at home. Convenience usually means someone will exercise instead of not doing any type of movement at all. This will lead to progress. Progress leads to physical and mental benefits in an individual, which is the ultimate goal we all strive to achieve.
Is your schedule unpredictable?
If you can’t anticipate a late night at the office or being called in to a meeting on your lunch hour, then by all means, invest in a home workout. You can either do it once you finish work or wake up early the next day to make up for the day before.
Do you travel frequently?
Sometimes all you have the energy for during a business trip is to get to your hotel room and open up a food delivery app. But some days, you find you do have a little bit of energy you’d like to use for a workout. When that opportunity knocks, you have to answer. This would be an ideal time for a nice hotel workout that requires the same tools as a home workout.
Do your kids still need a babysitter?
If a playdate falls through or your child needs to stay home from school, don’t let your workout time take a hit. Get your kids their favorite book to flip through while you work out. Besides the opportunity to be at home with the kids, you can turn it into quality time by having them join you and set a good example for them in the process. You won’t believe how many moms send me pictures and videos of their kids doing the workouts with them.
Did you sign up for another gym membership last year that you didn’t use?
It’s happened to all of us. There were probably a hundred reasons why you didn’t use that membership: it was a busy month at work, the gym is really far from your office or you haven’t been feeling motivated. The cool thing with a home program is you can probably ask the trainer any question you want. The personal touch that comes with certain quality home programs is unparalleled. Plus, it’s at home. It doesn’t get more convenient than that.
How home workouts work:
You have to show up: With consistency you can achieve anything. I want you to create a cool space in your home for your workout. Set it up with a few pieces of equipment like a pair of dumbbells, elastic band, a mat and your speakers to play some music. Hang some motivational posters or mirrors around the place, just like a gym to get you pumped. If you’ve read this far, I know you can do it! Check out this list to see how you can get the most out of your home workouts.
Save money: Home workouts give you the benefits of a gym workout (if done properly) for a fraction of the cost. We have so many financial responsibilities, especially in Dubai, that a cost effective option for our training can only be a good idea. The trick is to find the right workout and not cut corners with a home program, because that could lead to injuries.
Privacy and comfort: What could be more private than your own living room? If you’re not comfortable working out around people, then a home program can be a great experience for you. You’re getting fit on your time without having to deal with people’s unsolicited advice, the gym’s electronic dance music or busy locker rooms.
There you have it. No two people have the same jobs, genes or schedules, so it’s important to do your own research and find a program that caters to your style of living. That’s the great thing about home workouts, you can always shop around until you’re satisfied.
Cons to home workouts
Time spent finding the right program
Let me let you in on a secret: not every home program is going to be the one that changes your life. Sometimes it’s a repetitive, boring routine that you get tired of in two weeks. But when the right one comes along, you can be fired up for months. The con is just the time and energy it would take you to find the program that’s right for you.
You have to count on yourself
Sometimes we’re motivated and excited about working out. Other days, we really can’t be bothered. All that matters is the good days outnumber the bad ones so you can see progress over time. But I have to share something that can be a complete game-changer for you: you have to know that if your workout is not scheduled, then it’s most likely not happening. Take a look at your schedule on Saturday night and see where you’re going to fit your workout this week.
I like being there for my clients in Dubai and elsewhere. I like motivating them and getting them pumped for the day’s session. Consider having a workout buddy, motivating tactics or a virtual coach to urge you on and you’ll be able to take on any home program.
You need equipment
You can definitely invest in a couple of dumbbells and a mat for your home workout, but the disadvantage here is you won’t necessarily have heavy duty machinery. Some people go all out and equip their home with everything they need to make it look like a gym and others are just using a corner in their bedroom. However, it bears repeating, the right home workout program can make even the smallest of spaces an exciting place to exercise.
You can be easily distracted
Your home is filled with literally hundreds of distractions. You turn on the workout video, you’re in the right clothes, you’ve got the music… suddenly you remember you need to clean out that shoe closet by the door. There goes the workout. The gym does offer one thing the house can’t: distance – from distractions, the kids, the partner and household chores.
The verdict is…
Nope, there is no final verdict. Just like there’s no right answer when it comes to nutrition and exercising. What suits you will be different from what suits your friend, mother or cousin. Everyone is different! You just have to figure out what works best for your lifestyle. One thing’s for sure: whether at home or in a gym, working out is much, much better than not exercising at all.
Baraa Al Sabbagh
Baraa El Sabbagh is a registered dietitian, sports nutritionist, and personal trainer in Dubai. She hosts her own podcast called B for Better Health, where she brings on special guests and experts in the field of health and fitness. She has also released multiple home workout programs suitable for all levels. Before being based in Dubai, Baraa studied in Beirut at the AUB.