6 Ways to Boost Fitness Without an Expensive Gym Membership

We all know getting enough exercise is one of the most important ways to stay healthy. Spending some time sweating it out is good for your heart, lungs, muscles, and bones. But exercise does more than just keep you lean and strong. A study from the University of Minnesota found young adults who maintained a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness experienced better cognitive function later in life.

Unfortunately, getting fit is becoming more expensive than ever. Workout gear, gym memberships, and race fees can have you spending thousands of dollars every year. You don’t have to empty out your pockets to get some exercise, though. We’ve rounded up six great tips that will help you get in shape while sticking to your budget.

1. Buy cheaper workout gear

Man wearing basic gym clothes

Don’t spend a fortune on workout clothes. | iStock.com

Most of us have a few brands we look for when picking up some new workout gear. Big brands like Nike and Under Armour might seem like a logical place to invest your dollars, but they come at a price. Even a basic top from Nike can easily cost you $40 while more technical pieces can soar well into the hundreds. Instead of automatically reaching for a favorite brand, consider alternatives from larger department stores. The gear is pretty comparable, and a lot less expensive.

If you must stick with a trusted brand, don’t go for the newest duds. Outlet stores have older goods from your favorite brands without the hefty price tag. Also consider heading to a used clothing store. While many of these retailers don’t have a designated sports section, you’d be surprised at how much workout gear is tucked into those racks for a fraction of what they’d cost you at an athletic store.

Shoes might be the priciest of all. Stores generally only carry the latest models, but you can find older versions for significantly reduced prices. You’ll probably have to find them online, so knowing your size is key. Some retailers, like Kelly’s Running Warehouse even sell kicks that are barely used for seriously steep discounts.

2. Care for those clothes

Doing laundry

Take good care of your clothes. | iStock.com

Workout clothes are costly enough, so don’t ruin your investment by treating them like crap. The first step for properly caring for your clothes is getting those soiled duds out of your gym bag pronto. Life by DailyBurn said leaving your sweaty gear sitting in the bag for too long could cause the fabric to deteriorate more quickly. If washing right away isn’t an option, at least hang your clothes to dry so they don’t start growing bacteria or mold.

Once you get to washing, make sure to pay attention to what the labels say. Most performance fabrics require cold cycles, or even hand washing. It might seem like a pain, but scrubbing by hand will make those tops and shorts last a lot longer. Drying might be more important than the actual washing, though. For the longest life, AOL Finance said to line-dry your gear, because the dryer just destroys the fabric’s integrity.

Sometimes the issue isn’t loss of elasticity or holes, but a growing stench. Don’t assume you have to toss your smelly workout clothes, because they’re often salvageable with a little bit of treatment. azcentral.com recommends soaking your stinky stuff in a solution of water and vinegar to help kill bacteria before washing. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

3. Try group personal training instead of a one-on-one session

Group training session

Working out with a group is much cheaper than a personal trainer. | iStock.com

Even the least expensive personal trainers can do plenty of damage to your bank account. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) reported most one-on-one sessions cost between $40 and $100 dollars per hour while a group gathering is only about $15 to $20 for the same amount of time. Though not all gyms or private trainers offer group sessions, many do, even if they don’t advertise it. All you have to do is ask.

Your trainer might not be able to provide quite the same level of attention to you as they would for a solo session, but group training offers some other benefits. The article said training with a handful of people can be great for motivation, and since you had to work so hard to coordinate schedules, you’re a lot less likely to skip a workout. If you have friends at a similar fitness level, you may already have your group.

4. Choose smaller competitions

Triathlete riding a bike during a competition

Sign up for smaller competitions instead of large events. | iStock.com

Signing up for a bike race or marathon is a great way to give yourself a goal to work toward. Big events might come with more name recognition, but they also come with a hefty price tag. Folks who compete in the New York City Triathlon shell out about $300 dollars in race fees. People who go for the Kiwanis Westport Triathlon in Westport, Connecticut, on the other hand, only pay $65 to $80. These small town events are almost always more affordable, so take a look at what’s nearby before you sign up for the largest race in your area.

Another bonus of going with a smaller event? You’ll do better in the overall competition, making the chance of an award much more likely.

5. Build a gym at home

woman training with a fitness ball and weights at home

You can always work out at home. | iStock.com

Your gym membership might not seem that expensive when you’re considering the cost per month, but it really adds up over the years. Though you’ll have to make some up-front investments, building a workout space at home could save you tons of money in the future. We recommend these great tools to cover the basics.

Picking up something like a treadmill or elliptical trainer is much more expensive, but it’ll also last for years. Verywell said you can expect to pay around $1,000 for a reliable treadmill. That sounds like a lot, but some quick math shows it’s a lot more cost effective than you think. The average price of a gym membership is $58 per month. In less than 2 years, you’ll already be saving money as you would have spent $1,392 in that amount of time by sticking with your gym.

6. Combine your workout and your commute

Man biking to work

You can kill two birds with one stone by biking to work or when running errands. | iStock.com

Commuting is no fun, and it also eats away at your bank account. According to the Citi ThankYou Premier Commuter Index, Americans spend about $10 on their daily work commute, which adds up to $2,600 every year. You can significantly reduce your expenses if you travel to your job by foot, skateboard, or bicycle. You can even score a commuter bike voucher of up to $20 per month.

Of course, you can’t walk around in sweaty clothes for the rest of the day. Be sure to keep clean clothes and shoes in your office, so you can fully change. If you don’t have a shower at work, keep a clean-up kit with some basic products you can use in the restroom, like baby powder, dry shampoo, shower gel, and deodorant.