Which is Best: Trainer, App, or Gym?
We look at which gives you the most bang for your fitness buck.
If you're a CrossFit fanatic – there's an app for that. Is Zumba more your thing? There's an app for that too. With more than 15,000 health and fitness apps now available on the Apple iTunes store and 10,000 on Google Play for Android devices, there's an app for just about for any way you can think of to get fit.
The beauty of a fitness app is that it's both convenient and empowering. All it takes is a couple of clicks on your smartphone and you're in control. You can keep your routine secret or share data with a gang of like-minded movers; scan your progress obsessively or peek at it occasionally; program in the occasional "attaboy!" or get constant nagging reminders to stay on track. Best of all, you can march, jog, or Spin to the beat of your own drum.
But can downloading a few lines of code into a smartphone really be all you need to whip yourself into shape?
Let's compare the cost savings of an app to, say, a gym or a personal trainer. Considering most apps cost a buck or less, you get decent bang for the buck. I personally can't live without MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, and my handy dandy Gym Boss timer. All are free.
By comparison, the average gym membership will set you back more than $660 a year, even though statistics show that 67 percent of people who plunk down that kind of cash for access, never set foot in one past the point their check clears. And at an average of $65 per hour for a session, personal training doesn't exactly sound like such a budget-friendly investment.
Other "pluses" in favor of using an app – it'll never not show up at late because it overslept, nor will never force you to do planks when you'd prefer to slide by with a few sets of crunches.
That said – I wouldn't give up my gym membership or fire my trainer just yet. They have some advantages no app can reproduce.
Nothing beats actual human interaction to get you fired up and enthused about working up a sweat. There's something about running alongside another human on a treadmill or Spinning in a room full of people that can't be replicated by a line on a graph, a post, or a text message. Joining a gym gives you access to new machines, new classes – in short, new ideas. These keep your body challenged in new ways, which as you probably know, is key to continuing to see results over time. Working out in a crowd can be just what you need to get your competitive juices flowing so you push yourself that much harder.
And as for that personal trainer, you know what? Maybe you should be doing those planks instead of dogging it with crunches. Sometimes a great trainer really does know best.
I say, why not choose the best of all worlds? Keep your gym membership up-to-date (and actually use it), splurge on the occasional training session, and use any number of free or low-cost apps to support your efforts. All three can work together to give you the best workout experience possible.
Do you swear by certain fitness apps? Or do you depend on the gym and/or a trainer to keep you motivated and continuing to see results?
— Liz Neporent, Fitness Reporter
Veteran fitness and health writer Liz Neporent is the co-author of Fitness for Dummies, Weight Training for Dummies, The Winner's Brain, and the just-released The Thin in 10 Weight-Loss Plan. When not pounding the pavement or pumping iron — or thinking deep thoughts about health and fitness for her latest writing project — Liz can be found hanging out with her hubby and daughter in New York City or upstate New York.