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Updated on Thursday, December 27, 2018
New Year’s resolutions follow a familiar trend. The top goals going into 2018, according to a YouGov poll, were: eat healthier, get more exercise, and save more money. In other words, our health and our finances go hand in hand.
A fresh, new year is right around the corner, making it the perfect time to update our fitness goals and establish healthy habits that stick — without breaking the bank. In the spirit of budget-friendly new beginnings, we hunted down six affordable fitness ideas to try in 2019.
First things first
Before you drop hundreds on a pricey gym membership, check these items off your to-do-list:
Get your budget in order: Most fitness routines involve some level of investment. (You won’t get much out of long distance running without proper sneakers and appropriate clothing.) Leigh-Ann Webster, a certified personal trainer and Executive Director for the International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching, says to look at your budget to determine how much you can reasonably afford to spend on your fitness goals.
“If someone goes to Starbucks every day and gets a pumpkin [spice] latte that costs $4.50, right there that’s $20 a week,” she told MagnifyMoney. “That $80 a month is potentially a gym membership, or a new pair of shoes or new running clothes.”
Pinpoint your fitness personality: Once you know how much you can spend without financially stressing yourself out, it’s time to find fitness activities that really pique your interest. According to Chris Gagliardi, a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise, your motivation and your personality play the biggest roles.
“If you know that doing yoga helps with reducing stress and stress reduction is your goal, but the idea of yoga just doesn’t appeal to you, then why even pick that as an option?” he told MagnifyMoney. “Let’s find something you’re actually willing to do that’ll also move you toward your goal.”
The takeaway: understand what motivates you, then zero in on fitness activities that gel with your personality and lifestyle. If your exercise regimen feels like torture, you’re more likely to quit (and take your financial investment down with you).
6 Affordable fitness ideas for 2019
We tapped the experts. Here are six super budget-friendly fitness ideas to explore in 2019.
Body-weight exercises: This is exactly what it sounds like—exercises that leverage your own weight. Put it another way: your body is really the only piece of equipment you need. Planks, push-ups, sit-ups and squats are great examples, and they can all be done for free at home. It’s also easy to dial up your efforts without spending a ton.
“Generally speaking, weights are a dollar a pound, so you could invest in 10-pound weights for $10,” added Webster. “What one-time investments could you make for certain activities; a bike, running shoes, weights?”
If you’re looking to zero in on body-weight exercises, you can find reasonably priced pull-up bars and ab wheels at most sporting goods stores. Not sure what body-weight exercises are right for you? The American Council on Exercise has published an exhaustive list of no-equipment exercises you can do wherever you like, assuming you’re able to lift your own weight. IDEA Health & Fitness Association has similar suggestions, complete with free printables. And for less than $7 a month, the Sworkit app will customize at-home body-weight workouts just for you.
Walking: Gagliardi expects walking to take center stage in 2019, and the American College of Sports Medicine backs him up. According to a recent survey, outdoor activities like group walks and hikes are among the top fitness trends right now. And aside from a good pair of shoes, you don’t need to spend much to take it up as a practice.
There’s also something to be said about group walks. In one study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, a whopping 95% of people who started a weight-loss program with friends went on to complete it. What’s more, 66% maintained their weight loss in full. Accountability is no small thing. Partnering up with like-minded friends could be a game changer.
Running: The financial barrier to entry with running is low, but it does require some level of investment.
“If I’m going to start running, it’s not going to be as enjoyable if I’m not properly prepared,” said Gagliardi. “Having some skin in the game—even if it’s a $40 pair of shoes—means you’ve invested something, and that’s going to make you more comfortable.”
Going beyond footwear, you’ll also want to make sure you have weatherproof clothes for outdoor running. Alternatively, shopping around for a decent used treadmill is a one-time investment option if paying for a regular gym membership isn’t in your budget. Either way, taking up running could be the healthiest thing you do all year—a 2017 report published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases found that runners live roughly three years longer than non-runners.
Basketball: Basketball is a heart-pumping aerobic activity that burns anywhere from 240 to 355 calories for every 30 minutes of play, according to Harvard Medical School. Again, don’t forget about the power of accountability. The only way to really get your blood moving is through a group game.
Finding friends to play with a few times a week could go a long way for your emotional well-being, as well. A recent study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found a link between playing group sports and improved mental health. The best part? You don’t have to look further than your nearest public park for a free basketball court.
Small group fitness: When it comes to getting in shape, a little bit of social support may be good for both your health and your wallet. Personal trainers charge anywhere from $10 to $50 per hour, according to the National Federation of Professional Trainers. The truth is that rates vary widely depending on where you live and how much experience the trainer has.
This is why Gagliardi says more and more people are splitting the cost with friends. Instead of one-on-one sessions, trainers or yoga instructors are taking on small groups where everyone chips in.
“Personal training is probably the most expensive service you’re getting at a gym, but those lines are blurring a little between personal training and group fitness,” he said.
Gym memberships: Gyms push membership deals hard in January. Gagliardi suggests shopping around and comparing rates to get the most bang for your buck. You can also take advantage of free trials to get a feel for what it’s really like.
“If a friend or family member has a gym membership, a lot of times their gym will include an option to bring a friend for free because they’re hoping that person will end up singing up,” he said.
You may be able to cut your costs by opting for a family membership or leveraging student or military discounts, depending on the gym. And be sure to check out your local YMCA, as many branches offer financial assistance for memberships. This YMCA just outside Raleigh uses a sliding fee scale based on your total household income and the number of household members looking to join.
No matter where you go, be on the lookout for places that charge excessive registration or cancellation fees. Then again, that could end up working in your favor—it’s built-in motivation to continue chugging along when you feel like quitting.