Good health is one commodity that can’t be priced. I would always value health over any amount of wealth, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to waste money on fitness. Sadly, only 44 percent of people who pay to use a gym actually go more than 100 days a year, and about half of new health club members quit going within the first six months of signing up.
Unused gym memberships are not the only way to waste money. Billions of dollars are spent on the fitness industry each year. From vitamins, weight loss products, wearable activity trackers, to gym apparel, it’s easy to spend a fortune on being fit before you’ve even broken a sweat. How do you know what fitness costs are worthwhile?
Define Fitness Goals
Before spending one dime on fitness products or services, define what you hope to achieve. How many people do you know who decide to “get fit” then run out to buy new treadmill or elliptical machine only to use them as very expensive clothes hangers?
Set a goal first. Whether it’s being able to run a mile nonstop, play on the playground with your kids, or losing 20 pounds, define what fitness means to you. While new shoes, equipment, or clothing might be supplement your goal, you don’t need those. I don’t know many people without a pair of sweats/shorts and some sneakers. That’s enough to get started.
Take Steps to Achieve Your Goals
Once you have a concrete goal in mind, how will you achieve that? If your goal is weight loss, it takes burning about 3,500 calories more than you eat to lose a pound. That means either cutting calories or increasing activity, preferable a combination of both. There are lots of free ways to track daily calories and fitness. My favorite it My Fitness Pal, but you can find one that works for you.
If your goal is to run a 5K, start by working up to a mile and add from there. Want to climb a mountain? Start with small hills in your community.
Don’t expect to be awesome on day one. I remember my first mountain bike ride. I’ve never felt so inadequate at anything in my life. I could barely move my arms for three days, but I didn’t quit. I kept working until I’m now fairly confident on most trails.
When to Bring in Fitness Products or Gyms
There are tons of people who work out at home and never spend a dime on gym memberships. Walking, running, push ups, sit ups, online exercise videos, squats, lunges, and many other varieties of exercise are completely free. You can also invest in a bike, treadmill, free weights, resistance bands, or other home equipment for minimal cost.
There is another part of the population that needs social motivation or a dollar commitment to get fit. Also, people who work odd hours might need a place to work out that’s available anytime. If that means joining a gym, attending work out classes, or paying to register for a race or fitness challenge, it’s worth the cost if that gets you moving.
I get bored easily. I love to run but can’t do it every day. Alternating running with gym workouts and fitness classes works really well and keeps me motivated because I know people are expecting me to show up for class. However, before you shell out, make sure the purchase aligns with your fitness goals.
Low Cost Gym Options
Once you decide to join a gym, that doesn’t mean it has to cost a fortune. Many chains offer memberships for as low as $10 a month, and community recreation centers are usually affordable. Often you get a free week or longer to try out the facility to see if it’s a good fit. As with any service, you might also score a deal if you ask, especially if you are willing to commit for a length of time or are joining along with a spouse or group of friends.
Some employers reimburse employees for gym memberships or fitness classes. If yours doesn’t, it never hurts to ask about adding wellness benefits. Since being healthy means less sick days, smart employers often see the benefit of covering the cost of fitness.
Although most readers of this blog are too young to qualify, older adults may be eligible for a free membership to Silver Sneakers, a nationwide fitness program that includes classes and training for seniors. Silver Sneakers is often included with Medicare plans or retiree insurance programs. Even if you are not of age, a parent or grandparent might be able to score free fitness classes through this program.
Never Wasting Money on Fitness
Achieving lifelong fitness is not a short term project. Any product that seems too good to be true probably is. Being physically fit means eating healthy most of the time, staying active, and knowing that a splurge here and there isn’t going to kill you.
Some people find success with eating or exercise programs for a short time, but you have to be able to transition that into real life. Buying anything you don’t use is wasting money, but investing in various fitness options can be worth it. I’ve never met a physically fit person who regrets any time or money spent on being healthy.
Would you rather be extremely wealthy but in poor health or broke but in excellent health?