6 Ways to Get Exercise for Less

Exercising for Less

Someone told me recently that he doesn’t pay for his morning cup of coffee because he fills his travel mug for free at the gym each day before heading to the office. “Oh,” I thought, “You’re pinching on your coffee so you can pay for your gym membership.”

My son says the gym membership keeps him accountable. “Since I’m spending all that money, Mom, I’m gonna go.”

“Maybe,” I thought, “But can’t your wife keep you accountable? You don’t have to pay her every month.”

So what does the average gym membership run, anyway? According to StatisticBrain.com the national average is $55 per month. That’s over $600 per year, people. Sounds like just another thing to waste money on. So I want to know, isn’t there a cheaper way?

1. Walking and running.

If you’re paying $600 a year on running shoes, something’s wrong. You can purchase a good pair of shoes that will last at least six months, for around $100. Put them babies on your feet and you’re good to go around the block, over trails, or along the beach. Bad weather in the forecast? Go to the mall or high school. That’s where walkers hang out these days. Climate-controlled walking is all the rage. Just call ahead to make sure they host a walking program and to ask what hours you may come.

2. Riding a bicycle.

If speed’s your thing, or maybe you just need to save the wear and tear on your vertebrae, ride a bicycle. A good bike, well taken care of, can last you the rest of your life. Okay, so you might need to spend that $600 to get one, but that’s only the first year for a lifetime investment. Can’t ride a bike in the winter? Get an exercise bike for indoors. You don’t have to get a Schwinn Airdyne that takes up an entire room. My exercise bike (purchased for $10 at a thrift store) fits just fine behind the easy chair in our family room.

3. Lifting weights.

You can buy a weight bench for under $100. You can get the bench and a 100-pound bar set for $99 at Walmart. Obviously, you can purchase more expensive equipment, set it up in your basement, spare bedroom, or garage, and workout to your heart’s content in the modesty of your own home. Even if you splurge on a Bowflex home gym or an elliptical machine, the investment will be paid for in that year.

4. Swimming.

If you live in a condominium or apartment complex, or own your own pool, you can swim for free. Swimming is one form of exercise that provides an aerobic workout and stretches muscles at the same time. Differing your strokes can work different muscle groups, too.  Even if you have to pay to go to a public pool, swimming twice a week won’t add up to $55 a month.

5. Rollerskating.

At the roller rink near my house, adults pay no general admission. That means if I own my own skates, I can skate all I want for free. The next closest rink charges $2 during the week, and $5 or $6 on the weekend, depending which night you want to go. The average gym member visits the gym twice a week. If you own your own skates, and go twice a week, there is no way you will spend $55 per month. I’ve gotta warn you, though. Skating is a lot of fun and you just might find yourself wanting to go more often.

6. Working Out to a DVD.

For a mere $7 you can purchase a workout DVD to use in the comfort of your own living room. Workout DVD’s come in all shapes and sizes, too. From the “extreme home fitness” to “cardio max” to “banish fat, boost metabolism,” a workout video exists to fit your needs.

Bonus Tip: Mix it up!

Everyone knows how important it is to vary your workout so that you work different parts of your body. What better way than to mix up your exercise routine? Ride your bike on Monday, run on Tuesday, visit the roller rink on Wednesday, etc. This type of routine gives you the flexibility you might find at the gym so that you don’t get bored with your workout.

Looking for more ways to save money? Check out 20 Best Ways To Save Money By NOT Being Normal!

What am I missing? Any other options you participate in for exercise? Or are you going to tell me that the gym membership is worth the expense? Meet me in the comments.












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21 Comments
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  1. A gym membership isn’t worth it if you don’t go. You may as well tell yourself you are going to go run (and don’t do that either :)) and save yourself the money. However, if you do go (I do CrossFit 4 times/week and my husband does as well), there are benefits to be gained at a gym that most people won’t get without one. CrossFit forces me to do things I would never, ever do on my own. I get personal training so that I do the exercises correctly and don’t hurt myself. I am also simply motivated to push myself beyond what I would ever do if I were watching a video. My gym has probably a hundred thousand dollar’s worth of equipment – stuff that I would never be able to purchase on my own for a similar cost to my membership. As we get older (I am 45), we really need to be doing weight-bearing exercises, and that’s more difficult to do without gym equipment. I think we get great value from our membership, but I agree that many (if not most) people do not. A trainer told me many years ago that the best exercise for you is the one that you will do and I think that’s great advice. Having said all that, my husband and I are debt-free other than our mortgage, have two incomes and a healthy savings account. Even so, the level of gym we go to is something we consider a splurge. For us, we would cut out many, many other things before we would cut our gym membership. We might lower it to something like the Y if we had to, but it would be a very last thing to go.

    • Thank you for sharing Sheila. You have made some valid points. Older individuals, such as we, definitely should have some oversight or guidance such as a personal trainer can offer if first starting out or taking their regular routine to a new level.

  2. My work has a gym/workout room on-site that we can use for free. I take full advantage of this. My wife also works a couple days a week at a gym so she has a free membership.

    Some companies and health insurance plans do offer discounts on gym memberships that make it very cheap to have one. I know one person who gets it for $7/month as long as he goes 13 times a month.

    I think memberships are definitely worth it if you go 3+ times a week. It doesn’t make sense to buy all the equipment yourself if you can make use of lots of different equipment by just paying ~$50/month.

  3. Thanks, DC. You reminded me of another option. Check with your employer. My daughter-in-law gets a discount for her and my son’s memberships through her job. That is how they do it.

  4. BodyrockTV has a website that is free and hard core! It focuses on high intense interval training from home. The workouts are 12 minutes but you will be sore. They use very little equipment too. It also is competitive and has accountability weaved into the program by the online community involved in this site. Anyone committed to getting in shape should try it out!

  5. Like most financial decisions, a gym membership decision must be looked at for individual circumstances. Blanket statements are often unhelpful. Right now, a membership isn’t right for me, and I run and do calisthenics on my own. But I had a membership for awhile, and learned much. The watchful eye of a coach ensured that I performed exercises correctly. I, as do most people, would often let my form slip unless I was really focused, or if I began to tire. This can lead to joint damage and serious injury. Even push-ups and other exercises can damage shoulders if not done correctly. Thus, one may save “pennies” on the gym membership, while spending “dollars” later on rehab or enduring pain that could have been avoided.

    • Absolutely, Steve. I think the problem comes in with the general populace that does not take advantage of the added benefits of their membership and still try to fly solo while paying all that money.

  6. Hi Carol,

    First of all, I have to say, I would take an offence to the comment on “If you’re paying $600 a year on running shoes, something’s wrong.” Each running shoe lasts approximately 300-400 miles, not 6 months or any # of months. I run approximately 30-40 miles per week while my wife runs approximately 40-60 miles per week. I go through about $400-500 per year for my running shoes while she goes through about $600-800 per year. Just because you are not a marathoner or an ultra marathoner, it doesn’t give you the right to call out on other people that way – just the same way that I don’t look down on others who never tried marathons or 50ks.

    Also, while I am not a fan of joining any gym membership, for some, I can see it being very beneficial assuming it costs less than $20/month/person. There are other things that they can provide that you won’t necessarily have if you decided to train outside by yourself.

    • Hey John. Carol is speaking to a wide audience here, so there’s always going to be an exception to the rule. I don’t think she meant that comment for people who are ultra marathoners.

      Your experience with running is impressive! If only more of us could be as dedicated!

      God bless!

      • Granted, John, but I think that it’s still a bad characterization, though – at least to me, it appears to be that way. You need to talk to my wife (and her family) about being dedicated – her family reunion is usually around the place where everyone is going to run a race – last one being 50K! So, I am not even close!

        • Thanks for sharing, John. As John Frainee said, I was speaking to a broader audience here and did not intend to offend anyone. Like I told Sheila, I can see the validity in the cost of gym memberships for those that would actually use the extra benefits like a personal trainer. That just isn’t how it is in the general population.
          I also want to add that I believe in taking care of your feet. That is why I only wear Birkenstock shoes. :) So if you run that many miles in a week, I would expect you to spend that much money on shoes.

      • Thanks, John. You are right when I was not speaking about marathon runners.

  7. Agree! My job is blue collar, so I get a work out every day unintentionally. But for my wife, she has walking shoes and that’s what she does! SHe walks MILES every day and has lost the weight that she wanted to (good job, hon!). No gym required.

  8. Great tips, i agree that there’s always a way get fit while saving a huge amount of money. I actually do my workout exercise at home just watching Youtube videos since there’s basically a lot of tutorial videos in there from advertisers. Sometimes when i need some air, i got take a walk or jog at the park around 6am. And sometimes, at least twice a month i visit a gym to use equipment.

  9. There are a lot of ways to move our bodies beneficially that we just do not do anymore, Richard. You might enjoy this post I wrote for Natural Health Ezine on exercise for the homemaker: http://naturalhealthezine.com/exercise-for-the-homemaker/

  10. another thing about roller skating, depending on where you live, the price of admission might be even higher like where I am… but if you put some outdoor wheels on your skates and wear your protective gear (wrist guards, knee guards & elbow guards), grab your mp3 player and head to the nearest well paved church parking lot or walking trail where skates are not prohibited, you have your own rink for free, just gotta watch out for other people if you are in a public park. I do this quite a bit and it is a great workout, the plus side is since I have my own music I make my playlist and I skate that much harder, not as much as the rink where I am not watching out for pebbles, but a pretty good workout. I tried to add hand weights, but with the wrist guards, I could not do it.

    • Sheri, A church around the corner from us just put in a beautiful paved parking lot where it used to be gravel. When driving by, my daughter noted how great it would be for skating. It’s not even perfectly level, which would give a little uphill effect. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I went to a gym for about 15 years and I used the “it makes me go if Im paying for it” excuse. I will admit that it did make me go but then I started buying used dumb bells, bench, and various other pieces of equipment and now I have a very nice home gym. The great part is that was about 5 years ago, Im in great shape and Im saving a fortune. Great article Carol!

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