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7 Cost-Effective Alternatives to Gym Memberships

From goat yoga to Zumba, there are plenty of fitness crazes out there that carry some kind of cost.

There’s nothing wrong with paying to do something that helps you get in shape. But if you’re trying to pay off debt, does that mean you can’t get your exercise on? No way! You can still have fitness on a budget. You just have to know where to look!

Here are seven alternatives to gym memberships that can still get your heart pumping on a slim budget:

7 Alternatives to Gym Memberships

1. Stream It!

Instead of paying retail price for an elite workout, why not replace a few of those expensive gym sessions with workouts you can stream at home? You can find plenty of workouts on YouTube (for free!) to get your heart rate up. Or download one of the many fitness apps available onto your smartphone. You’ll still get a great workout without getting bored!

And if you start to miss the community you had at the gym, start a running club or an exercise group in your neighborhood. You’ll be exercising with friends and have built-in accountability partners! Win-win.

2. Invest in Used Equipment.

One of the easiest alternatives to gym memberships is just creating your own version of a gym at home. Let’s be clear: We’re not telling you to go out and buy a brand-new elliptical.


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Instead, try looking for that small set of hand weights, yoga mat, or secondhand stationary bike on Craigslist or your local buy/sell/trade pages. These small investments on the front-end can be much cheaper than "renting" fitness equipment at the gym for year after year.

And saving up for a one-time purchase is going to be much cheaper than a reoccurring monthly membership. The average gym membership runs around $58 a month.(1) That’s almost $700 a year! You could buy a decent, used treadmill for under 200 bucks and apply that extra $500 toward your other goals throughout the year. Plus, you get the convenience of not having to drive to the gym.

3. Take Advantage of Parks.

When the weather is nice, take advantage of running trails at parks near you. And if running isn’t your thing (because hello, it is running, after all) shoot some hoops at the basketball court, go bike riding, or make use of the tennis and volleyball courts. Get your whole family in on the fun! Even if that’s just taking a nightly stroll together, there are plenty of outdoor alternatives to help you burn calories at no cost.

And if you’re a dog owner, get that pup in on the action too! Your four-legged friend is so excited to see you when you get home—put that no-cost energy to good use by taking them for an extra jog around the neighborhood. Their get-up-and-go enthusiasm just might rub off on you!

4. Move at Work.

Just because you have a desk job doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in some time to get moving. If the weather is nice, use your lunch break to get some fresh air and take a walk outside. Or if it’s the dead of winter, listen to a podcast and walk laps inside your office building.

If you need a little bit of group accountability, team up with some coworkers and start an exercise group. This can be as intense as a marathon training club or as easy-going as going for a walk together.

Whatever you do, don’t sit all day. Look for little ways you can sneak some extra movement into your day. And don’t forget to opt for the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can!

5. Do Yard Work.

One of the most over-looked alternatives to gym memberships is gardening and doing yard work. Just taking care of the things around your house can give you several opportunities to burn plenty of calories. You can cut your grass with a push lawn mower, pick up leaves, trim hedges, and more. The yard will look great, and so will your wallet!

Just make sure you’re not overinvesting in yard upkeep. Planting a few too many shrubs can add up quickly to end up costing more than any gym membership.

6. Rent DVDs From the Library.

There’s nothing wrong with kicking it old school with some of Jane Fonda’s famous workout videos. Your local library is probably full of fitness classics from yesteryear, as well as some new ones too. Rent a couple of different DVDs from there for free to see what suits you. If you find something you love, see if you can buy it on eBay at a discount. Don’t forget to look through the media section at thrift stores and yard sales. You never know what you might find!

7. Search for Discounts.

If you absolutely can’t part with the gym or your favorite kickboxing or yoga class, you can still find ways to practice fitness on a budget. Look for discounts on sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to help curb some of the expense. Plenty of gyms and fitness studios offer deals through these sites just to get you in the door. A little hunting on your part can equal big savings!

Hitting your fitness goals requires accountability, and the same goes for your money goals! Let our free budgeting app EveryDollar help you to stay on track to making your goals a reality this year.

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.

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