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PT vs Gym Classes

Gym and Fitness Edinburgh

The turn of the New Year often brings with it a renewed motivation to get fit and lose weight.

Despite memberships increasing, the majority of gym classes in Edinburgh will not be attended due to lack of confidence and will get bored of cardio equipment eventually.

1-2-1 PT and gym classes can be a good alternative as they help improve people’s training consistency and ultimately get you better results. But which one is best for you? This will depend on your schedule, finances and preferences and goals.

In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of each. We will also discuss what you should look for to get the best and most sustainable results.

fitness instructor teaching gym members to use weights

Finding classes in the city of Edinburgh

Edinburgh has the most gyms per square mile in the UK so there is no shortage of classes including Zumba, CrossFit, Yoga and even trapeze with our amazing client Hannah.

Here are the three pros of gym classes:

Going to the gym on your own is by far the most economical and logical option for achieving your goals. But using the gym on your own is a lot like learning how to cook. You need to follow some recipes before playing around and combining lots of ingredients (the gym version of this would be the huge number of different equipment).

Although you will get an induction with a basic programme, without consistent regular instruction and coaching you are setting yourself up for failure and joining the other 90% of gym members who pay each month but never go.

Going to a class allow you to simply focus on showing up, working hard and then going home. There is no need to reflect or adjust your training like you should do when training by yourself. If you then decide that the class isn’t for you, you can simply try another class down the road until you find one that’s right for you.

Social and Positive Peer Pressure

Classes can be great for creating a community spirit among the class members. If you’re an outgoing and social person then this may be perfect for you as going to the gym will be as much about catching up with friends in your local area as it is working out to keep fit and lose weight.

Working out with people you like and respect can also help you get better results by helping you push yourself a little more with their encouragement.

More affordable than Personal Training

A class is typically about ¼ the price of a 1-2-1 Personal Training session which makes a more sustainable option for many people. If you can find a class you enjoy with a good instructor where the classes aren’t too crowded then you’ll be able to get a lot of value from your time and money invested.

Here are the three cons of gym classes:

No individualisation

Good gyms will find out about your current level of fitness, your history of injury and what your goals are. This will allow them to tailor your exercises for you. In classes with 10+ people however they don’t have the time and you will need to go along with whatever everyone else is doing, which may be too hard or too easy for you.

If you do the same class for months on end your unlikely to see much improvement unless your instructor helps you to individualise and progress your exercises and keep it interesting.

Stuart working with two athletes at the Health by Science gymnasium


Less outcome-based

This is similar to individualisation in that you can please all class members some of the time and please some class members all of the time but you can’t please all class members all of the time.

Classes are cheaper than 1-2-1 Personal Training because they have large numbers. Unfortunately, this means that unless the class size is small then the class instructor will not understand your main outcome goals and therefore won’t be able to ensure you achieve them most efficiently.

Gym classes can be repetitive and restrictive

Again this depends on the quality of your class. If the class instructor is lazy they may use the same workout routine every session without taking into account your goals, experience and current fitness levels. This can leave your motivation

By the nature of gym classes, the sessions may become repetitive

Personal Training

The number of personal trainers in UK cities like Edinburgh is growing each year which means you have plenty to choose from but is personal training right for you?

Here are the three pros of hiring a Trainer:

Improve your confidence and motivation

We are all born with a genome which means we need to move consistently to stay healthy and happy. Unfortunately, unless you complete a Sports Science degree or Personal Training qualification you never learn how to exercise effectively and safely.

Having a trainer can help you build your confidence in your ability to exercise to get the results you want most efficiently. By sitting down and completing a goal-setting strategy with you, the best Personal Trainers will help you identify what your barriers are and what small changes you can make that will lead to the biggest improvements towards your goals.

Having a strategy in place and accountability from your sessions pre-paid and booked in the diary will help you sustain your motivation over the longer term.


You can train at the time that suits you and at a frequency that suits you. From regular weekly sessions to monthly catch ups and programme designs, your personal trainer will work around your busy schedule as best they can to make the process of change as easy as possible.

There are also a variety of different personal training sessions available to suit different people. To use Health by Science Edinburgh as an example we offer Buddy PT for friends or couples to train together and half the cost of their training. We also offer off-peak Personal Training for people who are able to train outside of peak periods.

Person-centred approach

This will depend on the quality of your personal trainer, however, the best personal trainers will adapt their approach to suit your needs and current situation. Rather than putting everyone through the exact same process with the same meal plans, the best personal trainers will listen first and then agree on your strategy with you, second.

Each week you will then discuss your progress with your coach and make the adjustments necessary to keep you moving forward consistently. That continual tweaking, testing and energy are what we called the client development process.

Here are the three cons of hiring a trainer:

No regulation in the industry

Unlike Physiotherapy, “Personal Trainer” is not a protected job title. This means that anybody can call themselves a personal trainer without a regulatory body intervening. It’s also extremely easy to train as one with a low entry criteria.

This means that the quality in the industry varies more than other industries where there are clear guidelines and professional standards.

If you are unsure which to use, you could always try a class at a facility and then see what the staff are like.

Personal Trainers are not Physiotherapists or Nutritionists

You can’t out train a bad diet so if your goal is to lose weight then a focus on your nutrition is critical to achieving your goals. If you’re experiencing aches and pains when you start exercising then you may need to address these first if you want to achieve your goals and avoid injuring yourself.

If you want help recovering from injury, you’re better off getting a professional initial assessment from a qualified physiotherapist.

To make sure you are getting the best service available look for a nutrition qualification and has a good physiotherapy referral should you ever need it.


The biggest barrier for most people is the cost with prices in Edinburgh varying from £35 to £50 per session or roughly £300 a month for 8 sessions. This may not be a long term solution for many people.

Often there are other options available such as “off-peak PT” where it’s cheaper if you train between 9am-5pm and “Buddy PT” where you can effectively half the cost by training with a partner or friend.

Gym classes, Edinburgh.
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Or read my blurb on sports nutritionists in Edinburgh