What is Better: Buying a Treadmill or Joining a Gym?

Woman thinking if she should buy a treadmill or join a gym


By Simon Gould

If you’re thinking of starting an exercise routine, you may have asked yourself whether it’s worth joining a gym or getting a treadmill. The first thing you think of may be the cost, and I’ll go through that here. But there are many other factors you need to think about. The answer is individual for you. There are pros and cons to each which we’ll discuss here.

Quick summary

A treadmill is cheaper than a gym membership in the long run, and even more so if multiple people use it. A treadmill will start paying for itself after 2 years. When you consider it will last up to 10 to 12 years, that’s a big money saving. But there are many benefits to a gym you don’t get with a home treadmill. Some people may prefer a gym for many reasons.

Treadmill cost

Here I’m not going to look at the average cost of a treadmill because the one you need depends on what you plan to do on it. If you only intend to walk on a treadmill at home, then you don’t need one with a powerful motor. This reduces the cost. If the treadmill is going to be used by multiple people for running, you’re going to need one of a higher specification.

I’ll give examples of the best value treadmills available today which have proven to be reliable and popular. You can spend a lot more than the ones I’ve suggested but you don’t need to. These will all give you a good workout and help you achieve your fitness goals. Whether that’s losing weight or improving your overall health.

These are the minimum prices I would pay for a treadmill. Cheaper than this and you’ll see specifications that will affect it’s lifespan. Cheaper treadmills have used plastic components instead of metal and have warranties of less than a year for labor. They are to be avoided, I would also avoid second-hand treadmills as they can be unsafe.

Gym cost

  • The average cost of one gym membership is $509 per year (source).

You have low end gyms, high end and everything in between. The cheapest low end gym is a Planet Fitness gym at $159 per year. The most expensive high end gym is a Life Time Fitness gym at $948. Of course there are gyms in health clubs that can run into thousands per year for their memberships. But if you’re only looking to use a treadmill, you won’t need one of those.

Treadmill and gym cost compared

Before you consider the treadmill for multiple runners poor value at $1,599. For multiple people from one household they will need a couples or family gym membership and the cost is a lot higher than a single one. The 2 years of gym membership till you reach the cost of a treadmill still stands. Of course this depends on the standard of the gym.

  • Treadmill – $999 (should last 10 years)
  • Gym membership – $509 per year

The main cost comparison is that you pay for gym memberships monthly. You usually have a long term contract but you still pay gradually, unlike a treadmill (unless you buy a treadmill with a payment plan). As I said before, a treadmill can last up to 10+ years. For the average gym membership cost, this equates to a total of $5,090.

So even if a treadmill goes wrong and needs a few repairs in it’s lifetime, you’re still going to save thousands. A treadmill will need regular maintenance and I do advise a technician comes every year to service it. There are treadmills that have lasted 15 or more years. If your decision is only financial, then a home treadmill is the winner.

But don’t dismiss a gym membership entirely. There are distinct advantages in joining a gym you don’t get with a home treadmill. I’ll go through 6 of those advantages here. Then I’ll go through 6 advantages of having a home treadmill, so you can make up your own mind.

6 Advantages of a gym over a home treadmill

1. Expert knowledge

Although the internet is full of useful information regarding workouts, there’s no one there to see if your posture is bad on a home treadmill. Gym staff are useful for little bits of advice, they usually have fitness qualifications and personal expertise. Other gym goer’s can be useful to exchange workout information with and what works for them.

2. Other equipment and facilities

This is what makes a gym stand out from a home treadmill. You can try other cardio equipment to see what you like. Maybe your legs are feeling sore after a treadmill workout, then go on an eliptical or bike. The World Health Organization recommend we do two strength training days a week. In a gym, strength training equipment is there.

Some gyms have swimming pools which make a great workout. Other facilities include a steam room, sauna or Jacuzzi’s. You could spend hours in some gyms or health clubs pampering yourself. You don’t get this kind of luxury at home. Some will have a cafe or bar with internet or reading material for you to enjoy. Some have massage and treatment services.

3. Community

There’s something about exercising with others. Everyone breaking a sweat and doing our workouts for the day. It makes us push a bit further and we don’t want to let ourselves or others down, whether we know them or not. I’ve met some lovely people in gyms, everyone has a reason for going with different stories and backgrounds coming together.

4. Motivation

Paying monthly for your gym membership is very motivating. You pay for a treadmill once and it can be easy to give workouts a miss. Gyms also have a competitive vibe and when you see someone doing a fast or long workout on the treadmill next to you, it spurs you on. You’re very much the only one exercising at home.

5. Group classes

Most gyms have studios where they have group classes like yoga or cardio ones called “body combat” and others. Some have spin bike classes where a group of you ride an exercise bike along with an instructor to music. I particularly found those classes really enjoyable and got a very good workout at the same time.

6. Focus

Once you get to a gym, there’s really only one thing you can do there, and that’s workout. There’s nothing to interrupt you or get in the way, no kids or chores waiting to be done. There’s a whole line of treadmills waiting for you. 100% of your attention and focus goes on your exercise routine for the day, whatever equipment you use.

6 Advantages of a home treadmill over a gym

1. Available 24/7

A home treadmill is there for you all day, every day of the year. Perhaps you had a long shift at work or you want the convenience of an early morning workout. It’s even more convenient and safer than exercising outside. Apart from Anytime Fitness gyms which are 24 hour, you’re tied down to your gym opening times. You have to plan your day around your gym.

Sometimes a gym is busy and you may have to wait for a treadmill to be free. There may be a time limit for how long you could use it for. All this you don’t get with a treadmill in the home. All the settings will be exactly how you want them and won’t have been changed by other people. You’re able to set personal profiles on most good home treadmills.

2. No commute

It takes time and money to even get to a gym. This is time that could be better spent elsewhere. When you think of the parking, getting changed and using the facilities. You can waste a lot of time in a gym, especially if you’re the sociable type. With a home treadmill you simply walk into another room and there it is, no fuss.

3. No embarrassment

While most gyms are welcoming, there are sometimes members who could be a bit judgmental. If you’re overweight, you may feel embarrassed about exercising in front of other people. At home no one is going to stare at you, you’re not around total strangers. You can feel confident and safe. At home no one cares if you’re a beginner.

4. No gym gear needed

I do advise you buy proper running shoes even for a treadmill. However, that’s all you need, you don’t need any fancy gym gear. You don’t need to worry about the latest fashions and what other people think about you gym gear choices. At home I run on my treadmill in my underwear and T shirt, I have the freedom to do it. You can too.

5. No distractions

Like I said before, if you’re the sociable type there could be a lot of wasted time spent talking. At home you can concentrate on your exercise routine and no one will get in the way. There are no gym bars or spas to distract you from what you should be doing. There’s no weird grunting noises from other gym goer’s. There are no people taking selfies while you’re exercising.

6. Better entertainment

In a gym you may have music you don’t like played at high volumes. You may have TV screens in front of you playing shows you don’t like. This is all different at home. You can play the music you want. You could mount a TV on the wall in front of your treadmill and watch what you want as you exercise. You can listen to whatever music you want.

Final thoughts

If money isn’t a deciding factor, the choice between a treadmill and a gym comes down to personal preference and time. Do you just want a treadmill or do you want these other features gyms have to offer, and will you use them. If you can afford it, gyms are very tempting. You’re more likely to stick to an exercise routine if you have to go to a gym.

The best thing about a home treadmill over a gym is the time saving. You could spend hours in a gym. If you have a family to think about or working commitments, you may not have the time. With a home treadmill there’s no commute and you can exercise whenever you want. If you have your own personal workout routine on your treadmill, you don’t need advice or other distractions.

I have personally been on both sides of the fence. I’ve experienced many different gyms over years. When I’ve had the time and money to use a gym, I’ve loved it. I work from home now and have my own treadmill. A 30 minute workout in a gym takes an hour to an hour and a half. A 30 minute workout at home takes 30 minutes and a shower. There are pros and cons to both options, and it could come down to money.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.

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