Whether you prefer to work out with barbells or at the ballet barre, you probably already know how important it is to stay active.
From the physical benefits like strengthening your muscles and improving heart health to the bonus side effects like regulating your mood (thanks, endorphins!), there are countless reasons to squeeze in a sweat session, especially during the busy holiday season when exercise offers a healthy way to burn off stress, not to mention extra calories.
There are also endless ways to stay fit, and each activity comes with a different price tag—but fitness doesn’t have to mean shelling out big bucks for pricy gym membership.
If getting in shape is one of your New Year’s resolutions, or if you just want to try a new workout, keep reading to learn about how much (or how little) it costs to work up a sweat.
Running can be an affordable way to keep fit. It requires little to no equipment and there are no monthly membership dues. All you need is outdoor space.
While it’s true that you can run just about anywhere, gearing up as a runner does have some costs. Expenses can include specialty sneakers, sports bras, winter accessories such as face masks for runners in cold weather. The bill for these essentials can start to add up.
Running shoes or sneakers in particular are one item you don’t want to skimp on. If your shoes don’t offer the right amount of support for your stride, you could wind up sidelined with an injury—and picking up bills for doctor’s visits and physical therapy.
The retail price of a pair of running shoes can easily reach $120 or more, but once you find a shoe that works for you, you can take advantage of end-of-season sales when it comes time to invest in a new pair. That can save you 30 percent or more if you shop the previous season’s sneakers after a new release.
The total cost of running varies per person, depending on how much apparel you decide you need or want, how often you register for races and other factors. Serious runners spend serious money on their sport. The magazine Runner’s World examined the costs of running over an entire lifetime, factoring in a variety of expenses from race entry fees to extras like GPS watches and hydration packs over the course of a lifetime, running can cost you anywhere from just over $14,000 to more than $212,000.
But if you’re just looking to get fit (but aren’t looking to run a marathon) running can be as affordable as you want to make it.
Looking to join a gym with fancier offerings such as specialized group fitness classes like yoga or interval training, spa services, luxurious locker rooms or an Olympic-size pool? Expect to shell out a hefty amount.
Memberships at high-end gyms across the country can cost anywhere from $129 to $289 a month, according to lifestyle website Refinery29, which found that the steep price tag often comes with perks like personal trainers and child care services.
There are definitely lower-cost options. Big box gyms like Planet Fitness and Snap Fitness have made a name for themselves by offering low-cost, low-commitment monthly memberships starting around $10 per month. They provide facilities with solid basics: cardio equipment, weight machines and free weights.
These budget gyms might tack on additional annual membership fees—at 24 Hour Fitness, for example, the initiation fee ranges from $40 to $90—so be sure to read the fine print in your new membership contract.
Some employers offer incentives to employees to stay in shape. Ask your human resources department if there are any discounts or programs that can pay for a portion of your membership.
Don’t forget to think local. Your YMCA or community recreation center may also offer affordable facilities with basic (or surprisingly impressive) amenities.
From aerobics to dance fitness classes like Zumba, there are seemingly limitless options for group fitness, at nearly as many price points.
While specialized fitness classes can cost more than the monthly price of a basic gym membership, many people find the cost to be worth it. The team spirit found in many group fitness classes can help you stick to your workout goals, and provide motivation in a way you might not find at a traditional gym.
So how much will a group fitness class cost you? Here’s a look at a few popular workouts:
- CrossFit: Dues for unlimited membership start around $150 and can reach $300 per month.
- Cycling: SoulCycle is the premier indoor cycling class, with numerous celebrity followers. Prices vary by city and studio: A single class in New York costs $34 while a single class in Chicago costs $30, with multi-class passes offering slight discounts as you purchase classes in higher quantities.
- Kickboxing: Monthly memberships at kickboxing gyms on average cost between $70 and $110, in addition to potential one-time enrollment fees.
- Barre: This ballet-inspired workout generally costs $20 to $30 per class, with some studios offering discounted multi-class passes and monthly memberships.
Budget options: Check out your city’s parks and recreation guide. Many local recreation centers offer popular workouts at a low price, which is a great way to try a new workout without breaking the bank.
Don’t forget senior centers, community centers, and your good old YMCA. They may also host fun classes that can help you work up a sweat–without the stressful price tag.
A home gym
Social media fitness gurus and YouTube stars like Fitness Blender and Tone it Up have made at-home fitness widely available at no cost. If you’re following an online fitness routine, you may only need a small amount of equipment, like an exercise mat ($20), a few sets of hand dumbells (prices range from $10 to more than $50 for a set, depending on weight and brand), and a TV or laptop to stream your workout videos.
If you’re ready to go beyond videos and plan to build an entry-level home gym, some estimates predict you’ll need to invest at least $1,500 for basic weightlifting equipment, according to some expert estimates.
For cardio equipment such as a treadmill, you could spend upwards of $4,000 for a high-end model, according to Consumer Reports. However, you can find cheaper models for well under $1,000, especially if you’re willing to buy a second-hand machine or scour Craigslist ads.
If you’re motivated and disciplined, the investment in a home gym could save you money in the long run by eliminating monthly fees for gyms and workout classes.
- You can spend as little or as much as you want on fitness; there’s an activity to fit every budget.
- Running provides a great workout but don’t forget to factor in the cost of gear.
- The higher price tag on some workouts is worth it for people who are motivated by group fitness or by gyms that offer plush amenities.
- A home gym requires a large initial investment but can save you money in the long run.
Lauren Sieben is a writer and journalist based in Milwaukee. She writes about money, personal finance and business, among other topics.