Chances are, your last round of New Year’s resolutions had something to do with bettering your health. But while you might have been excited to head out and work up a sweat in January, setting your alarm clock for your 5:30 workout at this point in the year might have you asking the age-old question: Is a gym membership worth it?
With more ways to stay in shape outside of the gym than ever, making sure you’re getting the most out of a pricy gym membership — especially if you’re not all that jazzed to go in the first place — can seem like more work than it’s worth.
But does that mean it’s time to pull the plug and move on with your life? Or should you try to rekindle your relationship with your gym bag? Here are a few things to think about as you’re budgeting for a healthy lifestyle this month.
Pros and Cons of Gym Membership
A gym membership can play a vital role in your well-being. The benefits of staying healthy today extend far into the future: The physical perks of exercise are obvious, but it’s huge for mental health as well, from stress, anxiety and depression to trauma. The gym isn’t the only place to reap these rewards, but it’s designed to make it easy for you to do so.
If you pay the price, that is. The average gym membership costs almost $60 a month. One of the major downsides of keeping your membership is that if you don’t use it, it can actually have negative consequences. Stress from financial straits is real, and it can wreak havoc on your health. Plus, paying for a gym membership might leave you feeling guilty if you can’t keep up with the hectic workout routine that you’ve calculated will make your investment worth it.
So, if the only thing having a gym membership changes about your life is that more money is leaving your account each month, it might be worth cutting it out of your budget. However, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to chronic illnesses like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even cancer, any of which could take a toll on your long-term health and finances. While it’s no good paying for something you won’t use, it’s worth deciding whether you can step up your gym game before you quit.
Maximizing Your Gym Membership
If you’re set on getting the most out of your gym membership, you have several options to consider.
- Look for deals. If the financial strain is getting to you, ask if your gym offers any low-cost or free training classes as part of your membership. And if you’re part of an employer’s wellness plan, find out whether they will reimburse you for some or all of the price of your membership. This can take some of the pressure off of your wallet and allow you to focus on enjoying the time you spend pumping iron.
- Team up. If your goal is to go to the gym more, try out the buddy system. Bring a friend to keep you accountable, or, in a pinch, make new workout pals in a class setting! You can also schedule a small number of sessions with a personal trainer to make sure that, going forward, your workout routine is right for the results you’re looking for. Knowing what you’re doing and being able to see progress is a great way to stay motivated.
- Plan for convenience. Is the sheer inconvenience of getting to the gym throwing up a mental roadblock? For starters, check that you’re going to the closest location to your home or work. Especially if you can get an introductory discount, switching to a different gym instead of canceling altogether might ease some of the financial burden. Second, focus on going when you really have the time and energy to make the trip worthwhile. Don’t be afraid to question what seems fixed in your schedule: There may be no need to drag yourself out of bed before dark if you can go after work, or even during lunch, if your employer is flexible. Also consider taking advantage of any remote working policies your job offers to save yourself a commute and buy yourself some extra time during the day.
Staying Healthy Without the Gym
Dropping an average of $700 a year on a gym membership is a sizable chunk of almost any budget, and if you aren’t using it, it can really start to add up over time. If you’re ready to say goodbye to your monthly bill — and you’re not too broken up about losing the membership — then the internet can lend a hand.
Online, you can find workouts that are free, convenient and still great for you. If you’re looking to really save some cash, skip the home gym equipment and opt for exercises that don’t require a bunch of extras. Try out yoga, body-weight exercises or jogging to see if any scratch your fitness itch. You might have to make some upfront investments, but you won’t see a continuous drain on your bank account. With home workouts, just be sure you’re staying safe, since an injury won’t leave you off any better. Look out, too, for exercise groups and free classes in your community — you might find a public yoga session you’d been missing.
So, is a gym membership worth it? Only you can answer that question for yourself. The important thing is that your long-term well-being is protected. Whatever it takes to achieve that is fair game; just focus on what you need to put your health first.