How to Start an Affordable Fitness Routine You’ll Actually Enjoy

Working out can improve your mental, physical and emotional well-being, but affordable fitness routines, equipment and classes you’ll want to attend aren’t always as obvious. Often it means investing in a gym membership (which cost more than $40/month on average just two years ago), paying a studio a monthly fee for group fitness classes that may conflict with work, buying athletic equipment that rarely sees the light of day or slogging through an outdoor workout for which you’ll have less motivation with each passing jog.

Though they may not be as heavily advertised as the membership to your neighborhood gym or the latest fitness tracker, there are numerous fitness options you can take advantage of near your office and even in the comfort of your own home. And they cost less than $1 per workout.

Make the Most of the Free Trial

Studios frequently offer complimentary classes and seriously discounted offers through sites like LivingSocial, Yelp and Groupon. Big gyms like LA Fitness and Bally Total Fitness (among others) offer one- to two-week free trials to attract clients they hope will turn into loyal customers. On top of it, you’ll enjoy a month full of variety: From Vinyasa yoga, to Zumba to BollyX, you can dip your toes into different workout routines until you find one you might be willing to invest in.

If you’re willing to keep an open mind about where you sweat and which workouts you’ll try, you’d be surprised how many free or low-cost workouts are available near you. It’s not the brand that matters — it’s how you use it.

Pay Per Visit

Which of these fitness giants have a spot your area? Identify those that offer first-timers a complimentary class or the option to pay per visit. Having received personalized instruction about the proper ways to perform various moves, use the free trial to see which routines you may be able to do at home. The more you can do at home, the fewer days you’ll need the gym. And $10/visit for two nights a week is cheaper than a $100 monthly membership. It could save up to $600, according to finance writer Harrine Freeman, and makes it 17 percent more likely that people will stay committed.

Hit the Mall

Speed walking around the mall during the winter was popular in the 80s, but your favorite shopping complex may have more to offer in terms of affordable fitness nowadays. That’s because fitness-inspired brands like Lululemon, Athleta and VSX all host free classes in store on the weekends and, in some locations, before and after business hours. Plus, they’re taught by the same local instructors you’d have to pay to work out with in a fitness studio or gym.

Resist the urge to splurge on the fitness apparel that surrounds you during the workout, and it’s a simple way to find affordable fitness classes held at the same time and in the same place (though usually taught by a different instructor) each week.

Lace Up and Log In

Streaming technology now allows you to join a fitness class from the comfort of your own home. Unlike an old-school fitness DVD, the routines change frequently and are led by different instructors. Keep the body guessing, as they say.

  • Daily Burn offers live classes every morning at 9 a.m. EST to create the sense of sweaty camaraderie you get by attending a class (but also allows you to workout to the recorded show later in the day at your convenience). The site offers limited-time free subscriptions, or you can pay a monthly fee of about $15 if you decide to join.
  • Sworkit is a free app that offers workouts including yoga, cardio or strength-based — without requiring you to create a comprehensive account. Input the amount of time you want to exercise, and follow your phone for workout guidance as you go.

Use Your Equipment

Self Magazine reports that four-minute high-intensity Tabata workouts — which entail just 20 seconds of explosive exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, for up to eight rounds — can burn five times as many calories as a routine and not-so-exciting 20-minute power walk. And they can be done entirely using your own body weight. Tabata workouts can include any number of moves like planks, high knees, jumping jacks, squats, jumps, push-ups, lunges and side skaters — as long as you give it your all for each 20-second, high-intensity set. It’s a highly effective use of your energy, and an affordable fitness routine you can do anywhere, anytime.

Which workout sparks your interest? You won’t know until you try. And those tries are cheaper and more fun than you think.

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