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If you think the primary function of a gym is to provide expensive equipment options you can't afford at home, you're missing the point of most fitness centers. The purpose of a gym is not simply to give you access to different machines, it's to increase the likelihood you'll continue exercise to maintain your fitness. Gyms do this through a combination of equipment, education, training and socialization that keep you motivated, coming back and on track to continually improve and expand your training.
You can get most, if not all, of the fitness benefits a gym offers in the privacy of your own home. Using calisthenics, simple free weights, resistance bands or a home gym, you can improve your strength, endurance and cardio function, and lose weight in your living room, basement or other workout area. One purpose of a gym is to help you learn new exercises, techniques and training methods to meet your weight-loss, muscle building, heart health or sports performance goals. Whether you get tips from staff, hire a personal trainer or ask other members for advice, the education you get at a gym might be more valuable than the workouts you perform there you could otherwise do at home. Many fitness centers offer a variety of classes led by professional instructors. Some offer nutrition counseling sessions with a registered dietitians.
Sticking with a fitness program is essential because a few weeks or months of exercise won't offer lifelong health benefits. Paying for a gym membership, joining and exercising with a friend, seeing others exercising and being pushed by a trainer can motivate you to keep coming back to your gym and continuing your workouts. Many cardio machines offer data that let you see your improvement in heart rate and calorie burning during workouts, further encouraging you to continue.
Meeting other people, working out with a partner, learning new things and generally interacting with a large number of people is an attractive aspect of gym membership for many people. For some, the chance to get out of the house and mingle with others, even for a few minutes here and there, is important. Some people consider a gym a likely place to meet potential dating partners because of their shared interest in health and fitness.
While you can get a very effective workout at home, a gym offers a wider variety of exercise options than most people can afford in their houses. Free weights, cardio machines, a track, swimming pool, sauna, basketball court and workout classrooms combine to give you workout options that can help you prevent a plateau through variety of exercise.