Finding “how to” videos on everything from free cooking classes to fixing your computer has become as simple as performing a quick search. And of course, health and fitness offerings have also changed with the times. With so many free online workouts, we ask the question: is the need for a gym membership on its way out?
In January 2010, husband and wife team Daniel and Kelli Segars joined YouTube and started the channel, Fitness Blender. In the past seven years, it has become one of the most-watched fitness channels on YouTube. According to their homepage, they have uploaded over 500 videos, all of which can be easily searched based on criteria such as “time, difficulty level, muscle group focus, equipment, or no equipment.” The couple also emphasizes that their goal is not to promote products or companies, but to encourage healthier lifestyles: “We are not sponsored, we can’t be bought, we don’t believe in gimmicks & the only thing we endorse is eating real food, and working out for a strong, healthy body. Our priority is in sharing unbiased workout, nutrition & health information.”
And the Segars’ aren’t the only ones. A recent article on Shape listed ten of the best YouTube workout channels, including BodyRock, a “24 hour fitness training pal, offering free, daily, high intensity interval training (Hiit) exercises to help you reach your fitness goals.” The channel, which was created in 2008, integrates yoga, Pilates, and strength training into the workouts, all of which can be done from the comfort of your living room.
There are plenty of benefits to working out at home, such as saving time and, if you’re shy, avoiding the discomfort of working out in front of strangers. In fact, according to Tyler Spraul, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Head Trainer at Exercise.com, “Free fitness videos could absolutely replace the gym for some people.” He explains that as long as you’re “pain free and just looking for ways to stay active or add some movement to a tight schedule, free videos can be great!”
However, there are a few drawbacks to at-home workouts as well. Spraul notes that “there are some risks to working out on your own” including: not having someone to help you if you are injured, not having a spotter while lifting weights, and not having anyone who can check your form and make sure that you are doing the exercises safely. He also points out that “the social aspect of getting to meet new people and build relationships with trainers and fellow gym members will be tough to replicate via an online video.”
If you are confident in your ability to maintain good form while working out, making use of free fitness videos can be a fantastic opportunity to not only stay in shape, but to save money. According to CNBC, in 2008 the average gym membership was approximately $800 per year. While that appears to have stayed relatively steady over the past decade, in some locations—New York City, for example—gym memberships can reach almost twice that amount.
Ultimately, even if you don’t plan to replace your gym with free fitness videos, they can provide an effective supplement to a gym membership, and help you stick to your workouts when you’re short on time. After all, some exercise is always better than none.