Fitness, the Frugal Way

Gyms

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The health benefits of regular exercise are priceless, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money on staying fit. The average gym membership in Canada costs between $40 and $50 each month, and that doesn’t include common additional charges such as joining fees. If you want classes or a personal trainer, those costs can add up to hundreds of your hard-earned dollars each month. Most people also vastly overestimate how often they’ll actually use the gym when they’re considering membership, making it less cost-effective than they expected.

In fact, this is how gyms make most of their money. People make a New Year’s resolution, sign up for a year-long membership, run on the treadmill every day for a week, and then never come back again. Don’t be one of those people. If you want to take advantage of what your local gym has to offer, spend a while paying for day passes or sign up for a pay-as-you-go contract and then get a membership once you know how often you’ll really use it. If you decide that a gym membership is for you, shop around, and don’t be taken in by shiny equipment that you’ll never actually use. If you don’t want to swim, don’t pay extra for a gym with a pool.

Luckily for you, you can get plenty of exercise without paying for a gym membership.

The Great Outdoors

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If there’s one thing we aren’t short of here in Canada, it’s green space, but you don’t need to trek out into the wilderness for exercise. Public parks are great for walking, running and cycling, but that isn’t all they’re useful for. Public parks are increasingly installing more elaborate exercise equipment, but you can even work out with ordinary playground equipment. You don’t have to be as impressive as the Barstarzz team, but it’s amazing what you can use for exercise when you look at it the right way. If sports are your thing, many public parks also offer basketball and tennis courts, and all you need to provide is your ball and racquet. In the summer, see if you can find a local swimming hole.

Exercise can be even simpler, though. Try walking or cycling to work instead of driving or taking the bus, or even walking up the stairs instead of riding the elevator. If you have a long commute, try parking further away from work or talking to a bus stop further along the route.

The Equally Great Indoors

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If there’s another thing that we aren’t short of in Canada, it’s sub-zero temperatures. Going for a run in May is very different to going for a run in January. Running and cycling can also be surprisingly expensive. There’s the initial cost of your bike or running shoes, and experts recommend that you change your running shoes every 300-500 miles, but as you get more serious you can also end up spending heavily on everything from streamlined racing helmets to moisture-wicking underwear.

On the other hand, you can exercise with a minimum of equipment without leaving your home. There is far more to at-home exercise than pushups and star jumps, and plenty of bodyweight fitness resources available for free online, from exercise guides to guided workout videos. While a pull-up bar is probably necessary for most of them, door-mounted models are inexpensive. If push-ups sound too vigorous, it’s equally easy to find free yoga videos online, and you won’t need any equipment apart from a yoga mat. Building your own home gym is a more expensive project, but if you look for bargains, you can still save money.

When buying exercise equipment for your home, the best way to shop is to look on auction or classified ad websites around February. This is when people exercising for their New Year’s resolutions tend to give up, so there is always plenty of equipment at rock-bottom prices. While this is fairly rare, keep an eye out as well for local gyms going out of business and looking to offload equipment.

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