Gym classes versus at-home workouts – does it have to be one or the other? Research shows 85 percent of gym-goers were already mixing gym sessions with home workouts before COVID-19. As the world edges out of lockdown, will the future see a happy hybrid, where exercisers can enjoy the best of both worlds?

If there’s one thing pandemic isolation has demonstrated, it’s that at-home exercise is possible. And it can be wonderful. The days of watching dull exercise videos or pumping out endless sets of push-ups on the garage floor have passed and there are now many more exciting options to explore. Not only can modern digital workouts be inspirational and motivational, but many are also personal, flexible, and trackable.

Was it the pandemic that spurred the digital workout world into action? In short, no. Long before coronavirus temporarily closed gyms, digital exercise was already primed to thrive. The 12 months pre-pandemic saw a record year for home exercise with numerous innovations hitting our screens – and the growth has reached exponential levels since. In recent months, LES MILLS™ On Demand has seen a 900 percent boost in subscriptions, with fitness fans all over the planet have been doing everything from highly-produced group workouts to zoom-based PT sessions.

“Time efficiency and convenience are why I love home workouts … and it’s easy to target specific training goals.”

Kylie Gates is a Les Mills Creative Director who has spent years complementing her live classes with home-based digital workouts. "Time efficiency and convenience are why I love home workouts,” says Kylie. “I also like how easy it is to mix up your training with hybrid workouts to target specific training goals.”

Kylie enjoys doing BODYBALANCE™/BODYFLOW® and meditation sessions at home as she finds it easier to get the full benefits in her own space. “I can light a candle and do it in near darkness, it creates this amazing experience where there is no external stimulus and I can really focus on breath and movement.”

If such serene home exercise isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other options. These days you can cycle through a virtual jungle without leaving your lounge, or have one of the world’s best trainers put you through your paces in your basement.

But, as awesome as digital workouts can be, most experts believe the live experience won’t be bettered.

“Live group exercise will always be the pinnacle,” explains Keith Burnet, Les Mills Global Markets CEO, “It’s like the music industry, people today love consuming music in a variety of different ways, but live music is the ultimate, and it’s more popular than ever.”

“Absolutely nothing beats a live class … you’re all working together and pushing each other.”

“Absolutely nothing beats a live class,” says Kylie. “There is always an amazing vibe created in the room, the loud music is pumping, and you’re all working together and pushing each other. The sense of connection and accountability is can’t be beaten.”

Plenty of research shows that this sense of connection and accountability pays dividends. Research indicates that when we work out alongside others, we’re far more likely to stick at exercise than if we go it alone. Science shows that we get more enjoyment and satisfaction when we work out in a group. And there’s evidence that when we’re surrounded by the healthy actions of others it rubs off on us.

One study indicated that when overweight people spent time with their fit friends they lost more weight, and the more time they spent with these friends, the more weight they lost. This is backed up by another study showing that 95 percent of those who follow a weight loss program with a friend complete it, just 76 percent make it to the end if they go it alone.

There is also evidence of the Kohler Effect when we push ourselves harder when working out alongside others. One study compared people planking on their own and with a partner (who had the superior ability). When planking with a more-capable partner people were clearly more motivated, increasing their plank duration by 24 percent. Another Kansas State University study found that exercising alongside other capable exercisers can increase your workout time and intensity by 200 percent.

A few group workouts a week will give you the motivation you need to push through any training plateau.

The facts show that working out with others does work wonders, and a few group workouts a week will give you the motivation you need to push through any training plateau you may hit on your own. Kylie's advice is to identify the workouts where you need that extra level of motivation, find these classes at your local gym and make a point of scheduling these classes into your week.

If you’re already a LES MILLS On Demand user, you can find live versions of your favorite workouts here.

If you’re a gym member and you’re keen to try LES MILLS On Demand, talk to your club about special subscription offers for members.