Home > Health > Are You Wasting Money on Fitness?

Are You Wasting Money on Fitness?

wasting money on fitness

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?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. In the past I haven’t had defined goals for what I wanted with my fitness. It led to me wasting a lot of money on a gym membership that wasn’t being used consistently. I quit the gym a few months ago until I had the time to utilize it in full and instead am now focusing on body weight exercises at home which have helped me get going in the right direction.

  2. It’s crazy how much people waste on gym memberships. I’ve never been one for a high priced membership and lost all my weight with free videos on YouTube. That being said, we were able to score a $10/month deal last month and it’s month to month. I make it there 3-4 times per week and use videos at home several more days so I’m pretty happy.

  3. I would rather be broke and in excellent health, because that good health can give me the ability to work. I know a lot of my friends who have memberships to expensive Equinox gyms (like $134 per month0 and don’t use it. It’s crazy! But when I first started my job I couldn’t get to my gym during the week, so I just mixed running/walking with home based free apps and it’s totally possible to do all of it for free. But not I belong to two free gyms, so I have no excuse. lol!

  4. I haven’t ever paid for a gym membership, having enjoyed them for my entire life up to a year ago as a free educational or workplace benefit, so while I like them I am a bit distrustful that I would be committed enough to make the fee worthwhile. I’ve gone the other direction and bought workout equipment so that I can work out in or nearby my home (sports on free courts). I’ve always had light weights around, but just this week we bought a low priced exercise bike! It’s a bit of a gamble as I’ve never owned aerobics equipment, but if it can help me keep in shape without paying a monthly fee it will pay for itself in pretty short order.

  5. Oooh a topic near and dear to my heart. I think it is perfectly fine to spend money on fitness if it meets your goals. Personally, I try to satisfy my fitness needs in the least expensive manner possible before spending more money. I have some friends who love to go to the gym and group fitness classes, but I’ve always been intimidated by the cost. I think spending money on fitness can be really easy to justify because, in theory, it’s money being spent to better your health. For some people, myself included, spending money can actually serve as a motivator. If I want to be consistent with running, I will sign up for a race. Knowing that I paid the entry fee is enough to get me out on most days when I really don’t want to run.

  6. Can we split the difference and be okay in income and health? I’ll never be in great health no matter what, but doing the best I can is definitely more important than money. She said, cringing.

    I do the at-home thing. Besides being more or less free — slowly accumulate dumbbells and other equipment — I don’t waste any energy getting out of the house. That can be big. Or just making my lil depressive self leave the house can be a problem. But if I’m just sitting around dinking around on a computer? I often make myself get out of the chair for at least one short video.

  7. I think being a member of a gym or having fitness products can make someone a lot more motivated to work out, but I also know a lot of people who have gym memberships who don’t go. I think the safest bet is to go to a cheap gym like Planet Fitness. It’s not a huge loss if you don’t go, but it’s a huge win if you do use it multiple times a month.

  8. I have had several gym memberships that have gone un-used for the most part. It’s really a shame, and a total waste of money. I think you’re spot on…you have to define what you hope to achieve. Otherwise, it’s merely a wish, not an action plan.

    I do still use exercise equipment that I have purchased for my home however. Sometimes I’m pretty consistent with it too. I guess it comes down to what works for the individual. Interesting read, thanks!

  9. I just work out at home. I watch exercise videos online and do it. I like it this way because I like the feeling of short interval of videos one after the other and I have to keep up with videos so it becomes a better exercise and I can manage my time wisely. In a short period of time, I am able to do a lot of exercises compared with doing it at the gym.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *