Affordable Fitness

Apply the basics of cost-benefit analysis to the process of getting physically fit, and it might go something like this:

The benefits of regular exercise: Indisputable and significant. The costs: Formidable.

The U.S. health club industry captures more than $10.6 billion annually of Americans’ hard-earned cash. The average gym enrollment fee is creeping toward $200 and membership dues average nearly $60 a month, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). And then there are even tonier ways to tone: Pilates, yoga, Spinning, dance and martial arts classes held at private studios can easily cost $12 to $17 per class. That’s one expensive puddle of sweat.

With these prices, you might already have convinced yourself that working out will only leave you lighter in your purse. Sorry, the excuse doesn’t hold. If you know where to look and what to ask, there are plenty of ways to economize on fitness.

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Cheaper Gym Memberships

You have to do your research but you can usually find a discount of 10 to 20 percent, says Bill Howland, a spokesperson for IHRSA. Here are some great ways to explore gym savings:

  • Be a company woman. Tell the membership coordinator where you work (or go to school). Corporate and college discounts are the biggest way to save.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open. “We regularly run specials — usually discounting up-front enrollment fees,” says Kathy Langlotz, co-owner of Aerofit Health and Fitness Centers in Bryan, Texas. Most gyms run coupons, direct mailers and 2-for-1 discounts at least 3 times a year. Membership coordinators usually know about specials well in advance. Investigate gyms beforehand; once you know where you want to join, ask the coordinator when a special will run and be prepared to sign up then.
  • Check out insurance affiliations. Large insurers such as Cigna, Prudential and BlueCross BlueShield offer impressive discounts on local gyms — often waiving enrollment fees and discounting monthly dues. For more info, call your insurer or WellQuest, a service that links insurance plans with fitness facilities nationwide, (800) 595-8448.
  • Consider a commitment. At Langlotz’s gyms, if you sign a year contract, you’ll save roughly $10 a month. If your monthly dues are automatically debited from your account, you’ll save another $3 monthly.
  • Investigate non-primetime memberships. If you always use the gym during off-hours, your facility might offer you a special restricted membership.
  • Be realistic. Super-swank gyms in major metro areas can have waiting lists and will rarely offer discounts. Don’t despair, just forgo the fluffy towels and check out the competitor. “The good news is that there is more choice in gyms than ever before. There are facilities at every price level depending on what you need,” says Howland.
  • Attempt to negotiate. It’s becoming less common, but at some gyms, if it’s the end of the month and the salesperson has to meet a quota, you might get a real steal if you haggle.
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