Is Your Gym Membership Thinning Your Pocketbook?

By Julie Ann
A couple of weeks ago my friend Kate asked a question on her Facebook status: should she shell out $55 bucks a month to join a gym? Then a few days later Kate posted that she had joined the gym and it was going to be well worth the monthly cost for some of the exciting classes they offered.
With most gym memberships running about $30 to $55 dollars a month, the cost of getting fit can also thin our your bank account. So, like Kate asked, is it worth it? It depends. And if it’s not worth it for you, what are some alternatives?
First of all, for total disclosure, I pay about $30 bucks a month for my gym membership. It’s less than Kate’s major metropolitan fancy gym because it’s fairly small with fewer services in a smaller city. I can be found at my gym six days a week going hardcore on a cardio machine, trying to beat my previous best lift in the weight room or doing (what feels like) millions of lunges around the track. I get my money’s worth from my membership.
Then there’s my friend Shannon. She is a member of the same gym. She is lucky if she makes it there once a week and if she does manage to make it, she is so social that the only running she is doing is with her mouth! Shannon is essentially tossing her money away by not using what she is paying for.
So what about you? Whether you’re considering joining a gym or already a member, take a moment to answer these questions for yourself to see if a gym is really worth your hard-earned money.
Do you want to take classes that aren’t available anywhere else?
Will paying to exercise motivate and help you attain your fitness goals?
Are there free fitness options in your area that might meet both social and fitness needs?
If the workout is really what you’re after, could you do it from home or in a free public place?
Can you really afford the $30 to $50 a month out of your budget? (Let me ask that another way: Are you able to live each month without having to put gas, groceries or other essentials on credit?)
Weigh the answers to the first four questions and if the benefit outweighs the costs, then go for it. If you answered “no” to the last question, it’s a deal-breaker. Don’t do it, or get out of it as quickly as possible until your economic situation changes. If you assessed that there’s nothing so special about your gym (or you can’t afford it), here are some of ways you can get fit and keep your wallet fat.
First of all, your own body is the best fitness tool you have available. Obviously running and/or walking are both great ways to stay in shape. If you want a bit more variety, dig back into your elementary school gym class repertoire and do sets of sit-ups, push-ups, squats, lunges and jumping jacks. Check out fitness magazines and the Internet for variations of these and pretty soon you’ll have a bunch of great get-fit moves at your disposal. I recommend Shapefit.com for tons of exercise descriptions with images and videos, plus a social network component that’s a little like going to the gym to meet new people.
If you want some tools to assist you in your home-based workout, here are a few which I regularly incorporate into my workouts that cost less than a monthly membership:
Balance Ball: You can incorporate a balance ball into just about any exercise it seems. I generally use a balance ball for abdominal work, as a “weight bench” when lifting free weights and for squats. Cost: about $20.
Resistance Bands: I never knew how awesome resistance bands were until I was rehabbing my arm after an injury and needed a gentle way to build strength and increase flexibility. Their small size makes them perfect for travel and tiny apartments. Cost: $10 to $15 for one.
Medicine Balls: These two to 25 pound balls are excellent to help strengthen the arms, chest and leg muscles and can be used alone or with a partner. I like to use them to add an extra challenge to my lunges and crunches. Cost: $30.
Jump Rope: An excellent way to pack a great punch of cardio between sets is to make like a kid on the playground again and jump rope. You’ll quickly rev up your heart rate and agility. Cost: $8 to $15.
The bottom line is that you should evaluate your fitness needs and goals before committing to a monthly membership fee. If you are like me and will spend countless hours at the gym or like Kate who wants to participate in group classes, then it just might be worth it. But if you’re a Shannon, you should consider organizing a walking group or another free social activity. Maybe it’s best for you to invest in a couple of fitness tools and work out in your backyard or living room. Perhaps you live in an area with adult sports leagues or great biking paths or hiking trails. The most important thing is that you are taking an active role in being fit and healthy (which will have its own money saving benefits as well.)

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