Money Saving Tips for Exercise

Let’s face it – just about everyone wants to lose weight. I only say that because according to Wikipedia, 64% of the U.S. population is chunky. And I think those stats are a little dated…

The diet and exercise industry, bless their heart, has figured out every imaginable way to capitalize on our desire to shed pounds and do it quickly. In trying to do the right thing, they’re also out for some killer profits. And they’re fairly good at it.

Let’s Put Aside Diets (for a minute)

I won’t talk about eating today, except to say that to lose weight, you really need to eat less. Sounds simple enough, but it’s usually the hardest part.

Exercise and Money

Exercise is important as hell. Beyond helping you take control of your weight, it also manages your energy level, helps you sleep, and keeps you mentally focused. It also builds discipline.

Hmm…focus and discipline? Those sounds like two great habits for managing your money.

If you’re broke, it’s all the more reason to exercise. It helps lift your mood (mmm…endorphins) and counter-act any potential effects of depression or just ‘the blues.’ If you’re trying to pay the bills, the last thing you need is blues. You want greens. Lots of them, preferably.

In all seriousness, just do it. The less you want to do it, the more you probably should. I won’t bore you – there’s a ton of literature you can read about how to motivate yourself to exercise. The important thing is just to start.

What I’ll focus on today is how to use your money effectively for exercise. Free is best, but if you do spend money, make sure you’re doing it in a way that gives you the most value for the dollar.

Ready for some tips?

Give Me the List!

Know that all of these may not work for you. Only you can decide that. But in general, they have either worked for me or people around me, so I can only assume that they are effective.

1. Avoid the gym like the plague. Since when did we start enjoying sitting in a room with other sweaty people, doing repetitive tasks, and watching TV? All right, it might work for you, but exercising can be so much more than ‘the gym.’ If you really want to try it out, stay away from contracts that bind you to months or years of fees. Go with a monthly plan you can cancel at anytime, and monitor your use. Don’t think about how often you’ll ‘go’ – see how often you’ve ‘gone’ instead.

2. Find inexpensive sports or activities. Think natural and old-school. Walking and running are two great activities that cost nothing (except a good pair of shoes). Tennis is another favorite of mine (cost of a racket and balls), as well as softball (a glove). Avoid sports with recurring fees, like golf (gulp!), which will quickly deplete your wallet if you do it too regularly.

3. Use free facilities. At one point, we lived in a community that had a clubhouse gym. Not happy with the facilities, we purchased a membership to a local health club anyway. You can probably guess what happened – we could count the number of times we went on two hands. If you want to start a gym-going habit, using free facilities available to you is best. Once you’ve proven to yourself that you can be consistent, think about upgrading or stay to save money!

4. Buy used equipment. Whether you need sports gear, or want to spring for one or two machines you know you’ll use at home, consider getting it used. Health clubs often run specials on their aging equipment. In many areas, used sports good stores have popped up (or you can always check a thrift store).

5. Learn to use body weight. This is the best alternative to gyms that I have tried. Inexpensive equipment like exercise balls and free weights are all you need, combined with the right exercises to use your own body weight. You might have to spring for a video game (see #6) or an instructional video, but once you’ve learned what to do, it’s easy to replicate in almost any environment (hmm…you can even exercise while traveling!).

6. Don’t go nuts with technology. Wii Fit? No, thanks. Although certain games on the Fit really get my heart going, I think it’s too game-ish, too complicated, and much too expensive as a stand-alone exercise program. If you really want an electronic solution, an older but very effective software is Yourself! Fitness. I used this for years and saw concrete results in muscle tone and weight within weeks. It’s personalized, and it also teaches you how to use body weight (see #5). And it’s less than $50 if you already have a computer or game system.

7. Combine exercise with a hobby. When you make working out fun, you’re more likely to stick with the program. There’s lots of ways to do something you love and get a workout at the same time. Some examples I’ve tried personally – taking a dance class with my spouse, taking up adult league softball, and photography (yes, you do quite a bit of walking!). The most effective is probably tennis, where I get two hours of hard cardio without even noticing it.

8. Do something productive. That’s right – get your household checklist out and start doing something. Do things like mowing the grass, building a tree house, or even vacuuming and laundry – all of them will burn off a little steam. You’ll even save money by not having to hire other people to do it (lawn maintenance, pool maintenance, etc.). And it’s a great way to keep your spouse happy.

9. Avoid injuries. If there’s one thing that has the potential to stop you in your tracks, it’s injuries. No amount of motivation will help you rush the healing process after getting seriously hurt. When you start exercising, remember to go slow and form a long-lasting habit. Doctor’s appointments and physical therapy cost a lot of money, and you can help avoid it with just a bit of care.

Action Steps

Don’t stop now! Reading this list is great, but you need to do something! Start by thinking of ways you can incorporate one of these tips into your own life. Don’t go out and buy anything just yet. Instead, start with a freebie and work your way to an inexpensive plan that has you losing weight and feeling good!

How about you – do you have any tips from personal experience that helped you save money on exercise? Please share them today.

While you’re here, there are a few other posts related to today’s topic:

Photo credit: / CC BY 2.0

19 thoughts on “Money Saving Tips for Exercise

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  2. I just joined a gym πŸ˜‰ I like to swim; it’s the exercise I am most willing to do. That and play tennis. The gym has indoor tennis courts. I did, however, get a student special since my husband is a student. Doing free things just wasn’t cutting it for me, since I could always rationalize not exercising. Now that I’m a) doing something I love and b) paying for it, my schedule is all of a sudden clear for exercise…

    1. Miranda, way to go! At least you’re doing something. πŸ™‚ For us, the money was in no way a motivator – actually, thinking about all the cash we were spending on the gym kind of made us more depressed and less motivated to go. But it sounds like it’s working for you!

      I’ll admit – swimming is probably one of those things you have to join a gym for, unless you have a very large pool in the backyard. That was my wife’s excuse, anyway.

  3. Instead of the gym, I bought a bench and free weights and I placed a chin-up bar on the way down to the basement. We have a trampoline for the kids, so I make use of that at no incremental cost and once a day there is the sprint to the mailbox (130 metres). And then there is hiking, which requires very little expense, even to hike 6000-foot mountains (travel costs to get there, and very minimal equipment)

    1. Awesome, David. All of those are great examples of activities that may have a small initial cost, but nothing ongoing. On trampolines, I have to mention that one of my family members has one in their backyard, and it is the quickest way to get your heart rate and breathing going that I’ve ever done.

  4. I am happy that you wrote an article on the importance of exercise and how to save money. I do believe though that it is such a personal choice because everyone likes to workout differently. I personally belong to a gym because I feel motivated by the energy of the surrounding crowd working out around me and like to take advantage of the classes. I also pursue outdoor activities such as tennis, walking and running. Then there is the clubhouse in my development which my husband and I use for free. I need variety and that’s how I obtain my active lifestyle. I guess my point would be that working out is so imprtant on so many levels and there’s so many options to acheive it whether you spend money or workout for free. Keep it up whatever you do because money is never an excuse not to!

    1. Money is not only not an excuse, but I think it also has to do very little with how well you can exercise, as I’ve outlined in the post.

      I think it’s great that you can feed off the energy in the gym to keep you going – personally, I have found the opposite to be true for me, but in addition to the other activities you’re doing, it’s obviously working for you. Awesome!

      It sounds like you’ve mastered the art of variety and balance, but for too many people – the gym becomes either an unhealthy obsession or a crutch.

  5. I’m a huge fan of buying used sport equipment on craigslist. I bought a $2k roadbike for $600. I’ve definitely made that money back and more by biking instead of driving around town.

    1. Awesome! I wish alternative transportation was a bigger option in my area, but unfortunately the weather (95+ degrees most summer days) and roads (not designed for bicycle traffic) are against me. I’m very glad it’s worked out for you. Craig’s List is an awesome resource.

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  7. One of my favorite mantras in the classes I teach is “never ever by a Nordic-trac from Nordic-trac.”

    You can always find them for sale. I got my treadmill brand new in the box from a guy who got it from his son as a Christmas present. I think he helped me load it into the car with a cigarette in his mouth!

    Remember, the best exercise is the one you will actually DO!

    1. Amen to that! I always like to test out a new purchase somehow, to make sure I’ll actually do what I say I’ll do after the honeymoon period. πŸ™‚

  8. I’m on day 3 of a 6 week physical fitness program…no equipment required…nothing to buy. We get every other day and weekends off. Takes 10-15 minutes a day.

    The goal: Being able to complete 100 pushups in a row after 6 weeks.

    You in? πŸ™‚
    .-= TheMoneyMan-LeoΒ΄s last post: TheMoneyManLeo: New credit card laws coming soon. Goodbye Universal Default. Hello, at least some fairer rules. =-.

    1. That looks pretty cool! I will re-examine after this weekend and get started. πŸ™‚

  9. Pingback: Festival of Frugality #199 – Damn, No Bonus Edition | Yes, I Am Cheap

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