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6 Cheap Ways to Work Out Without the Gym

Posted on 2/28/2012 10:18 EST

The average price of a monthly gym membership is about $40, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, plus initiation fees and transportation costs. Unfortunately, simply paying the dues doesn't automatically improve your fitness. Do the math: Divide the cost of your membership by the number of visits (actual visits, not optimistic projections) to calculate the amount you pay for each workout. Too much? Then consider one of these cheap workouts as an alternative to the gym.

Photo by slgckgc

1. Play a video game.

Seriously! Borrow your child's game console or buy a used Nintendo Wii, Playstation Move, or Xbox 360 with Kinect. These game systems with movement-tracking technology provide a fun way to get fit. Games such as "Dance Central" can double as high-energy aerobic workouts. Other video games are designed for yoga or personal training. You can work out right at home -- and learn a few dance moves at the same time.

2. Start a hardcore home workout program.

There's a reason why the P90X and INSANITY Fitness Regimens are surging in popularity. These boot-camp-style workout programs are extremely high-intensity and provide 60 to 90 days of different daily routines that require no special gym equipment. Compare the price of one of these cheap workouts with the price of two or three months of health club dues, and factor in the convenience of working on your six-pack in your living room.

3. Enjoy a "class" with DVDs and free online videos.

If fitness classes are the main reason you visit the gym, swap them for hundreds of free videos on sites like YouTube, or some cheap workout DVDs. You can even find these at the library. With the seemingly endless selection, your routine can vary as much as it would in an instructor-led class -- if not more so. Plus, with this gym alternative, you won't have to fight for mat space.

4. Follow a home fitness regimen.

Not all training requires specialized equipment or machines. Dozens of strength exercises use your own body weight to tone and sculpt muscles. Combine some of the hundreds of at-home exercises and routines available online, and see how much you can accomplish with just the floor and maybe a chair. Take these cheap workouts to the next level with the addition of some inexpensive weights, an exercise ball, or a jump rope.

5. Replace a machine with its original inspiration.

If your equipment of choice is a treadmill, swap the gym for the great outdoors. Runners World explains that running outside is more demanding than running on a machine. Opt for a more challenging (and interesting) workout with changes in terrain, elevation, and scenery. You'll save money and burn more calories at the same time.

6. Bring the gym home.

If you favor a machine or live in a cold climate, invest in equipment for your home. A cheap elliptical or cheap treadmill should pay for itself in less than two years. Biking enthusiasts can buy a cheap exercise bike for less than the cost of an annual gym membership. This can save you years of fees, plus the time and cost of getting to the gym. Without that hassle, you may find yourself working out more often.

Photo by lululemon athletica

If these cheap workouts don't appeal or you really want to stick to a fitness club setting, here are a few tips:

Find a Groupon or membership discount.

Sign up for Groupon and other social buying sites to see if they offer discounted membership rates to local gyms. But keep in mind, the more popular the deal, the more crowded the facility may be.

Join with friends or family.

You may be able to negotiate a better rate if you bring along a friend or family member. With more than one potential new member on the line, a gym may try to seal the deal with discounts and special offers, such as massages or spa privileges.

Sign up for a limited plan or pay as you go.

Instead of locking yourself in to an expensive yearlong contract, ask the gym about a more limited plan or a pay-as-you-go membership deal. Some gyms offer heavily discounted plans for members who visit only during off-peak hours or on certain days of the week. One of these plans can help you feel (slightly) better if you fall off the fitness bandwagon for a while.

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