5 ways to save money on fitness

Do you want to get in shape, but also save money? Check out these five ways to get a great workout for less

1 / 5
home workout

Cost saver #1: Exercise at home

This will save you time and money. But before you buy dumbbells or as-seen-on-TV tools, consider this: By using just your body weight, you can work muscles in your legs, arms and core.

 

"If you spend any money on fitness, it should be on figuring out the right exercises for your body and skill level, not on stuff," says Jane Clapp, a personal trainer and the founder of Urbanfitt gym in Toronto. Personal trainers can visit your home and teach no-equipment workout routines in as little as two sessions, at an average cost of $80 a session. To save even more, ask friends if they'd like to do the sessions with you and split the cost. It's a good idea to get some top-up sessions every few months to ensure your fitness level isn't plateauing, says Clapp.

 

For those who don't want or can't afford a personal trainer, an alternative is to use workout DVDs; many are available at libraries. You can also create your own program by going online for workouts by qualified instructors. YouTube has tons of videos by professionals. Or try Clapp's "Anywhere Body Weight Workout."

How much can you save?
• Gym membership for one person for the year at a middle- to high-end gym: up to $1200...Or choose:
• Customized workout for one from personal trainer: $400 a year
• Three home-workout DVDs: $40
• Online videos: $0
Total savings: $800 to $1200, depending on which option you choose

2 / 5
swimming

Cost saver #2: Look beyond fancy gyms

Before splurging at a high-end gym, consider your local recreation centre or YMCA. Centres frequently have a pool; running track; various yoga, dance and aerobics classes; and recreational sports such as badminton or basketball that you can access on a drop-in basis. That means you can kiss gym boredom goodbye.

 

While YMCAs and community centres offer major subsidies for low-income individuals, families and students, general admission prices are also low. Plus, unlike many gyms, YMCA memberships can be put on hold for up to four months, meaning you can save in the summer if you prefer to get your exercise outdoors.

How much can you save?
• Gym membership for one ?person for the year at a middle- to high-end gym: up to $1200
• Or choose a full-price membership for one at a recreation centre: typically around $600 per year
Total savings: around $600

3 / 5
woman in gym

Cost saver #3: Negotiate gym prices

Morgan Dunlop, a 26-year-old journalist from Montreal, has bargained prices down at both her current and previous gyms. As one manager told her, negotiations are common in the biz, so don't feel shy about demanding a customized deal. After all, gyms generally don't want potential members to walk away.

 

At Dunlop's current gym, which has a women's-only workout room and various fitness classes, she avoided getting locked into a long-term payment plan by telling the gym manager about her plans to move in the near future (she only uses a gym during winter months anyway, preferring to work up a sweat outside the rest of the year). She also got $75 knocked off the price of her four-month membership by pointing out that nearby gyms were giving better deals. Total bill: $125. "It's good to mention the deals other gyms have because [gym managers] think about that," Dunlop says.

How much can you save?
• Gym membership for one person for four months at middle- to high-end gym: $400
• Or negotiate: $125
Total savings: $275

4 / 5
winter runner

Cost saver #4: Get outside

Fitness experts no longer see cardio equipment such as a treadmill as necessary. "The best thing people can do for cardio is to walk," says Mariana Abeid-McDougall, a personal trainer at Achiever Fitness in Kingston, Ont.

 

Abeid-McDougall recommends speed walking-it's easy on the joints, you can do it year-round and, best of all, it's cheap. All you need are a good pair of shoes and extra layers of appropriate workout gear for the winter.

 

To give your heart the aerobic boost it needs, Abeid-McDougall suggests starting at 30 minutes a day for three days a week, and building up to five days a week within two months. "To speed walk, use the fastest pace you can without breaking into a jog," she suggests. (Consult a doctor first if you have been inactive for a long time.) Be sure to walk at a slower pace for five minutes at the beginning and at the end, and add some stretches in the cool-down.

How much can you save?
• Buying a treadmill: up to $2,000
• Or choose running shoes, cold-weather jacket and pants, winter headband: around $300
Total savings: around $1,700

5 / 5
soccer mom

Cost saver #5: Join a team

Amalia Kyriacou, who's in her 40s, got into women's house-league soccer the way most of the moms on her team did: by signing her son up for his own league, seeing how much fun he was having and deciding to try it. The weekly practices and games provide intense cardio and a healthy dose of motivation. "I feel like ?I'll let my team down if I miss a game," says Kyriacou, who plays for the Leaside Soccer Club in Toronto.

 

Community house-league teams can offer a low-cost way to get fit and pump up your social life. To find the adult house-league sports offered in your area, inquire at your community and recreational centres. Aside from sports that require buying lots of equipment-such as ice or field hockey-intramural teams from basketball to badminton are affordable and fun.

How much can you save?
• Six-month membership for one person at a middle- to high-end gym: $600
• Or choose intramural sport for six months: $50-$200, depending on the sport
Total savings: $400 to $550

Related:
The ultimate bodyweight exercise routine
What to know before you join a gym
5 ways to beat boredom at the gym