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Working Out If Online Fitness Is For You

sports woman using online fitness training program in laptop

The use of home fitness apps and videos has surged during the last three years, largely because of the pandemic forcing fitness facilities to close. Online videos and apps can be convenient, cost-effective ways to get active on a regular basis. But are they good for you?

Online training can be pre-recorded or live. Pre-recorded videos involve following a trainer as they exercise on screen; live one-to-one (or one-to-group) virtual training sessions will see you log in at a pre-agreed time and join your live trainer via video link.

We’re going to look at the pros and cons of each.

PRO: saves money and time

If you need to travel out of your way to get to a fitness facility, then online training can be an excellent choice. The key to achieving fitness results is to find a convenient option that can be repeated week in and week out.

If travelling to a location is inconvenient or takes up too much, then you’re unlikely to stick with it. And this is where online can really help.  

PRO: fits your schedule

If you travel regularly, work long hours or do shift work, establishing a regular routine can be challenging. Online fitness videos and workout sessions offer flexibility to work out when time and energy is available. Pre-recorded videos offer the most flexibility, but even live virtual training can be more flexible than meeting your trainer at the gym. 

PRO: pre-recorded means more control

A massive benefit of online fitness videos is you can manage the time and intensity with the touch of a button. If the workout is too challenging for your energy level, just hit ‘pause’, take a breath and continue when ready. If you are unclear about how to do a particular exercise, then stop, rewind and repeat the explanation. 

Even if halfway through you decide to stop, you can always return to the same session when energy levels and motivation improve. The guilt factor decreases dramatically because you haven’t actually ‘missed’ anything – only delayed it until you have more time/energy/motivation.

If you are using a personal trainer for live virtual training then they can help pace the workouts to suit you, while also keeping you motivated so you always push yourself that little bit more, without overdoing it!

PRO: No thinking necessary

Pre-recorded videos will usually give plenty of instruction, making one of the greatest advantages of this type of training is that someone has already done the thinking for you.

If you ever go to a gym and struggle with knowing what to do or what not to do (and how to do it), an online fitness video can provide structure from a professional resource. This will make the exercise process easier because all you need to do is show up. 

CON: no interaction with a pre-recorded trainer

A fitness programme is only as valuable as its ability to help you find your point ‘A’ and then get you to point ‘B’ (your goal).

This means you need a goal specific to you personally. To do this effectively and to be held accountable, meeting with a professional on a regular basis, is the gold standard. 

Think of it as expecting to rely solely on your phone notifications to encourage you to keep up a habit. Without the accountability coming from a real live professional, notifications alone can easily get ignored and the odds of success plummet.

CON: lack of correction 

A pre-recorded fitness video cannot correct you when you’re doing an exercise incorrectly. At best this can lead to an untargeted workout. At worst, it can result in an injury. 

Additionally, if you struggle with instructions and then figure it out later on in the workout, you’ll have no reassurance that this is actually a breakthrough. You may even repeat the incorrect exercise many times over, exacerbating the problem. 

So, if you are a complete beginner a pre-recorded video may not be the best option. Better to start with a live professional. If you’ve been exercising for a long time and you are confident your technique is correct, then an online video can provide a routine without you needing to think too much about it. 

CON: too easy to skip workouts 

Perhaps the biggest drawback to recorded workout videos is that you don’t have the accountability of an appointment. Scheduling the workout in your calendar is one thing, but knowing someone is expecting to see you is another matter entirely.

It’s the accountability of the physical appointment that makes live exercise so much more powerful, and this is where online fitness videos can let you down.

CON: Lack of equipment and/or space

When training at home online, if you lack suitable fitness equipment for your needs and goals, it can be limiting. For example, if you don’t have weights heavy enough to challenge you for resistance training, you won’t progress. 

A balanced fitness programme will require you to move in different directions: forward and backwards and side to side. If you don’t have enough space to move in these directions freely, your movement is limited. Therefore, your results will be limited.

In Summary

Pre-recorded online fitness videos work well if you are highly motivated and are already very experienced and confident that you can do each exercise correctly and safely. For everyone else, pre-recorded videos are best used as a supplement to a personalised fitness routine.


James Staring is the founder and lead fitness coach at Fit to Last Personal Trainers, which offers a high-end, all-inclusive fitness solution for those who’ve tried everything in the past; crash diets, exercise fads, regular gyms etc., all with little to no success or results.

Fit to Last works in partnership with you to create a personalised programme of exercise, nutrition (no calorie counting or weighing) and small, simple lifestyle changes, to keep you on track to your goals, injury free and bursting with energy.  See: 


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