Can't Afford the Gym?

by Nicole Palacios, BSc, BCRPA SFL, ACE


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If you're tired of spending more than $40 a month on a gym membership, then why not cancel your membership and pocket the extra money? You can easily exercise everyday for much less than a monthly pass costs you; for that matter, you can even work out for free! If you think there's no way to exercise without spending money, then keep reading.

Exercise is one of those great activities that can be done with little to no equipment, as long as you know what you're doing. And if you don't, you can always follow along with someone that does know, with a little help from your VCR or DVD player.

So if you're at your wits end when it comes to the pile of bills sitting in your office, and your expensive fitness plans seem like they need to be put on the back burner for now, don't worry. That is not the case. With some simple steps, you can work out and save money doing so. The following activities can be done for as little as zero dollars:

Free: Start a walking group with friends.

If you like walking and you have some friends who also enjoy it, why not get together two to three times per week and go for a brisk walk? Try out a new locale each time to keep things interesting. All you need are the shoes on your feet and a good attitude. If walking is too low intensity for you, bump up the altitude and head out for a hike. This is a great opportunity to spend time with friends, and get your daily exercise accomplished. Best of all, it costs nothing!

Free: Bike to work or wherever you need to go.

Most people have a dusty bike looming in a garage or basement. Dig it out, pump up the tires and get yourself a lock. Instead of spending money on gas, parking, and insurance, use your bike to get you where you're going. Not only will you be getting a great workout, but you'll also be putting money back in your pocket. You're also going green, so you're helping the planet as well.

Free: Borrow fitness DVDs from your local library.

If you live in a city with a library, all you need is a card to be able to borrow a vast array of fitness DVDs. With a new program in your hand every week, you'll be able to beat the exercise doldrums and save big bucks on paying for all those drop-ins at the local gym. If you're feeling really creative, you can take exercise books out as well, and use their helpful tips to create your own program at home or outside.

Free: Volunteer in exchange for a membership.

Some community centers like the YMCA need volunteers to work in their centers. In exchange, they may give you a free membership to use their facilities. This is a great way to give back to your community, and get a terrific gym membership as well. Contact your local community center to see what they offer.

Save: Give up the private gym and go to your community center.

If you can't give up your gym membership just yet, think about exchanging it for a different one. Private gyms generally cost a lot more than your local community center. With many of the same programs and equipment being offered at the community center, you probably won't miss out when it comes to the quality of your workout. As long as you don't mind foregoing the towel service and filtered water, you should manage just fine.

Save: Group personal training.

Maybe you have a hard time exercising on your own, and you enjoy using a personal trainer. Well, trainers can add up over the long run. You'll pay anywhere from $50/hour up to $80/hour depending on where you live. If you want to utilize a trainer and save money, why not buddy up with one or two friends and split the cost? Most trainer do offer a group rate, so this is a great way to save without giving up the personalized attention that a trainer can give you.

As you see, saving money on fitness is not as hard as it may seem. There are many great options for free or lower priced exercise. With a little imagination and a lot of enthusiasm, your workout can be both healthful and cost efficient.


Nicole Palacios is a group exercise instructor, personal trainer and freelance writer with a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science.

Take the Next Step:

  • Try one of these great options for free or lower priced exercise or come up with another option on your own. With a little imagination and a lot of enthusiasm, your workout can be both healthful and cost efficient.
  • SparkPeople has free exercise advice and workout routines that can keep you motivated.
  • Check Fitness Equipment product reviews at Cheapism.com before making a purchasing decision.
  • Subscribe to our new weekly Surviving Tough Times: Inflation fighters newsletter. This free email newsletter will provide ways to help you save money as the cost of everyday items rise. Each issue features six or seven articles to help you stretch your dollar!

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