Smart SpendingSmart Spending

8 ways to get fit for less

You can get in shape and save money at the same time.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 10, 2013 4:55PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyCarol Sanders of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., knew she needed to get into shape, but she didn't have the cash to join a gym. So she asked for help, and she got it. The YMCA gave her a scholarship so she could attend a local YMCA gym without stretching her budget.

That's just one of the ways that people can get fit without paying full price for a hefty gym membership.


This is increasingly important as the nation's waistline continues to expand. Louisiana, my home state, recently came in second in WebMD's fattest states, with a 33.4% obesity rate for adults, beaten only by Mississippi, where 34.9% of adults are obese. Other states that made the list:

  • West Virginia -- 32.4%.
  • Alabama -- 32%.
  • Michigan -- 31.3%.
  • Oklahoma -- 31.1%.
  • Arkansas -- 30.9%.
  • Indiana -- 30.8%.
  • South Carolina -- 30.8%.
  • Texas -- 30.4%.
  • Kentucky -- 30.4%.

Those are scary statistics, especially considering that obesity can lead to a host of health problems like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

Image: Overweight (© ULTRA.F/Getty Images)But many people are doing something about it: They're getting fit. Let's break down all the ways you can get into shape and save money:

1. Find a scholarship

Many people are getting fit without emptying their wallets on pricey gym memberships -- like

If you're in a tight spot and can't afford the monthly fee, ask your local community gyms and fitness centers for help. Some places worth checking:

  • City-owned gyms.
  • Local high schools, universities and community colleges.
  • Community centers.
  • The YMCA.

2. Shop around

If you don't qualify for a scholarship or grant, you can still save some cash. Start by comparing the base cost of your local gyms. Call three to five gyms in your area and ask for a price quote on their one-month and annual basic memberships. Some gyms might be cheaper (or more expensive) than you thought.

3. Work out on a pass

Get a trial pass before you commit to a full membership. Most gyms offer free trials for a week or a month. Check out the gym's website or its social networking sites for free trials. If you don't see any listed, visit the gym in person and say you want to try before you buy.

4. Look for discounts

Don't sign up before you find out what discounts you might qualify for. For example:

  • Health insurance discounts. Some health insurance providers have partnerships with gyms. Check out your health insurance policy or call to see what they offer.
  • Employee discounts. If your company doesn't have an on-site gym, it might have a deal with one in the area. Ask your HR department about possible discounts.
  • Promotions. Gyms also run their own promotions. Ask about special pricing before you sign up.

5. Check for coupons

You might not associate gyms with coupons, but some do offer them. I've seen coupons for gym memberships in my local paper and in advertisements that come in the mail. You can also occasionally find good deals on memberships through sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

6. Negotiate

Finally, don't sign on the dotted line until you try some negotiation tactics. For example, if a gym in your city is offering a promotion better than one closer to your home or job, ask the local gym to match the competitor's price. You could also simply ask a gym for a better price. Say something like "I'm interested in signing up, but this is out of my price range. Can you give me a lower price?"

7. Protect yourself

Gyms have two main goals: to help you get in shape and to make money. Unfortunately, some employ shady tactics to accomplish the latter. We've reported on two big ways you can lose money at the gym -- auto-renewal and auto-pay. If your membership is set to auto-renew, you'll automatically keep paying long after you've stopped going there. To avoid this, make sure your contract doesn't include an auto-renewal policy.

You're also safer skipping the auto-payment option. The gym will push this feature, saying how much easier it will be to pay automatically, but some gyms have continued withdrawing monthly fees long after the person canceled the membership. Avoid the hassle and pay the old-fashioned way.

8. Skip the gym

Of course, you could just skip the gym altogether. Walking or jogging will help you burn calories and shed pounds. If you like the classes gyms offer, consider buying some at-home workout tapes or borrowing them for free from your local library. If you prefer workout equipment, there are low-cost alternatives. 

More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Apr 12, 2013 10:03AM
I quit going to the gym, I just wasn't motivated or consistent about it. Now I walk at work after lunch and I use the fitness videos on xfinity/comcast - they're part of my cable subscription and they have loads of exercises for all fitness levels. Now I can do something in my living room instead of making excuses for not schlepping to the gym!
Apr 11, 2013 12:47PM
Most people who join a gym don't make much use of it for a long time.  I have legs that are scarred from operations and years of long distance running and prefer bicycling or swimming for exercise over running.  I considered joining a gym with a pool for $50/month so I could swim in Winter and bicycle the other Seasons.  But I found it costs just $4 to swim at my county-owned Aquatic Center and if I swam 3x per week -the max. I would do- that's no more than $50/month on average.  And if I'm sick, sore, or otherwise skip time, it costs me much less.

I would add that bicycling is a relatively cheap way to go.  But I recommend a $300 bike (or more if you're sure you're going to stick with it) if you want it to last and you'll probably spend $200 on accessories, especially if you get into tools and bike stands needed for maintenance or adjustment.  But that's cheaper than a year's gym membership and it will last many years.  I got a mountain bike and ride at an average 10 mph instead of the 13-15 mph on a road bike, but I get my exercise and need a shorter (paved!) trail on which to do it.

Apr 10, 2013 9:10PM
I joined Bally's a year ago.  It was open for at least thirty years that I know of.  No sooner did I join than they closed down without warning.  They transferred my membership to LA Fitness who promptly sent me a big bill even though I never set foot in the place.  There is no way I'm ever going to join a gym again.
Apr 12, 2013 1:21PM

Check your local churches. Many large churches have fitness centers that offer indoor tracks, sports facilities, weight equipment and group classes as a means of reaching out to the community. Use of their facilities may be free or or a fraction of the cost of a commercial gym.

Apr 11, 2013 12:19AM
It would be great if they could pull the cost of membership out of your check before taxes,like they do for the 401 retirement deductions

Apr 14, 2013 1:29PM
A man can build a decent amount of strength and muscle from just doing push ups, squats, deadlifts, rows, and chin ups as well as doing some moderate/light cardio if needing to lose weight. None of these require any expensive equipment.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.