Why the gym is no longer the most popular place to train

Written by Elly McGuinness

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The world of fitness has evolved at a rapid pace over recent years. Advances in technology are driving many of the changes in the fitness landscape. As well, people are becoming more aware of the variety of exercise options on offer. This brings the opportunity to establish a fitness regime that is a perfect fit for each person.

Physical distancing requirements in 2020 are also driving changes in behaviour and workout choices. Appropriate workout locations need to be considered in conjunction with the current situation.

A 2014 survey showed that gyms take the biggest market share in terms of where people work out. It’s probable that gyms might always retain a solid level of popularity, due to many of the unique benefits they offer. However, the benefits of choosing alternative locations to work out can be argued just as strongly.

We can only make an educated guess as to how things will pan out in the long term. None of the top 20 fitness trends of 2020 require a gym setting, but of course, some people will always opt for a gym as their preferred location to work out.

What’s certain is that there is a huge range of possibilities when it comes to getting fitter. Overall, more than ever, there’s a great opportunity for each person to find a solution that really fits well with their individual needs, preferences, and lifestyle.

Here are some of the reasons that many people are choosing alternative workout locations to the gym.


Gym memberships are sometimes considered to be “costly”. This is especially so when it comes to the number of people that pay for gym memberships, which they don’t actually use. Many club memberships are set up with long term contracts that are difficult to get out of. After an initial burst of motivation, some gym users will “fall off the wagon”. They’ll stop attending the gym, yet they’ll continue paying for it.

The great news is that fitness can be absolutely free. Some people choose to invest in home exercise equipment (and certainly might invest even more than they would with a gym membership!). However, the reality is that it’s possible to exercise for free, so the cost of a gym membership doesn’t need to be a barrier to getting fitter.

Some people who opt out of gym memberships choose to invest in personalised training options that they may not be able to budget for over and above the cost of a gym membership.


Some people are choosing alternative workout locations to the gym, simply because it offers them more flexibility. Gym opening times don’t need to be considered, and they can change up their workout location based on what best fits into their current lifestyle requirements and schedule.


It’s possible for some gym-goers to join a fitness centre that’s right near their home or work, which offers convenience and time-efficiency in amongst a busy modern lifestyle.

However, not everyone has a facility at their doorstep. Once a person realises that the gym isn’t their only option, they also have the potential to save travel time to and from a facility by choosing a workout location that doesn’t require a large time commitment in terms of travel.

Variety of workout types

The gym offers a wide range of equipment, which can make it easier to keep things interesting and varied. There are often several classes on offer at well. However, there are now a huge number of exercise alternatives available outside of the gym setting.

The sheer number of choices on offer allows workout types to be hand-selected to perfectly fit a person’s preferences. From specialist boutique facilities to a range of online workout options, apps, sports, and opportunities to get fit in the outdoors, the possibilities are almost endless and are certainly not limited to the gym setting.

Benefits of outdoor workouts in nature

Workouts can be taken to a local park, hiking trail, beach, or other natural areas. Some people choose to take their workouts outdoors for the benefits it offers. The benefits of getting into nature, especially for mental health, cannot be undermined. This is especially so considering that so many modern world workers are seeking some degree of balance with their indoor, desk-bound job roles. Some people opt-out of outdoor workouts when the weather is less desirable. Others relish the invigorating aspect of braving the elements, especially as a contrast to their everyday work life.

Functional exercise

Functional exercise can certainly be done in the gym, although it’s generally easier to naturally adopt a more functional routine when you take your workout outside of a traditional gym setting. Workout machines are wonderful for helping you to lift heavy loads, grow bigger muscles, and for specific rehabilitation objectives.

However, running, sprinting, jumping, and moving your body in a variety of different ways is often easier done in an open setting.

Creativity, fun, and play!

That said, you’ll have to get a little more creative when it comes to taking your workouts outside of the traditional gym setting. Once you discover that there is an endless range of effective exercises you can do using your own body weight, or a few basic pieces of equipment, you can unleash your inner creativity and have fun trying a wide range of movements and activities. And yes, effective exercise can be fun and include elements of play!

The bottom line

Ultimately, the choice of whether to exercise in a gym or elsewhere is a personal one. You certainly don’t need to feel like you’re limited to the gym, or to attend a facility that doesn’t feel like a good fit for you. Bench press comparisons and fancy workout gear tend to take a step back for many people who opt out of the gym. These concepts alone can offer an additional incentive to consider the alternatives.

If you’re considering taking your workouts outside of the gym and you need some guidance to put together the best plan for your needs, our trainers are here to help. Get in touch to learn more about personal training, or leave a comment below.

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