What Should You Spend on Exercise?

When trying to decide where to spend your money on exercise and fitness, it can be a bit overwhelming.  You could spend your hard earned dollars on a gym membership, on yoga or pilates classes, on a personal trainer or on home exercise equipment.  Not to mention, all of the products on the market, including:  books, DVDs and ‘Wii Fit-esque’ technologies.  When budgets are tight (and even when they aren’t), getting value in what you pay for is especially important.

In short, the best exercise or fitness investment is going to be in those activities, gadgets or systems that continue to keep you motivated.  Everyone is motivated differently and knowing how you are personally motivated to stick to a program will help you choose wisely.  The chart below provides you with a breakdown of what fitness options are least and most expensive, what each option’s benefits are and for whom the option is best suited:

Option

Benefits

A Good Value if you…

Cost

Exercise Books
Specific to a certain type of exercise, such as weight training, pilates or yoga.  Books:

  • Show pictures of moves in stages
  • May provide information beyond exercising (such as nutrition)
  • Provide an indepth explanation of the exercises
  • Like a very specific type of exercise
  • Don’t mind repeating the same exercises when you workout
  • Don’t feel a need for video instruction
  • Can learn from reading, instead of imitating
  • Can self motivate to push yourself through the exercises
One Time(per book)

$

Exercise DVDs and Videos
Specific to a certain type of exercise, such as weight training, pilates or yoga.  DVDs and Videos:

  • Provide visual demonstrations of the exercises
  • Provide an ‘instructor-led’ experience
  • Allow you to exercise at home
  • Like a very specific type of exercise
  • Don’t mind repeating the same exercises when you workout
  • Want to workout at home
  • Don’t have a lot of equipment for exercising
  • Can self motivate to push yourself through the exercises
One Time(per DVD)

$

Group Fitness Classes Offered at many gyms and at private studios.  Yoga, Pilates, Jazzersize and Kettle Bell studios, specifically, are very common.  A lot of cities and towns also have dance studios that offer dance classes to individuals of all levels.
  • Are social and are motivated by interaction with others
  • Like to be led through exercise routines
  • Enjoy dancing, choreographed or repetitive routines
  • Don’t like exercising on cardio or weight machines
On-going(per class)

$

Gym and Club Memberships
Whether you are a beginner or an avid exerciser, gyms are the most versatile solution. They:

  • Have a good variety of equipment
  • Offer group fitness classes
  • Have personal trainers on staff
  • Like variety in your workouts
  • Are comfortable working out among others
  • Use a lot of equipment for cardio and strength training
  • Enjoy social interactions when you exercise
On-going(per month)

$ – $$$

Home Gym Equipment A gym at home can be wonderful if you have the space and money to make it:

  • Consistently motivating
  • Robust enough to keep you challenged
  • Are already comfortable and well-versed in exercising
  • Don’t need (or want) a social experience while you workout
  • Rather not work out in public
  • Want the convenience of working out at home
  • Have the space and money to set up a decent and effective at home gym
One Time

$$$ – $$$$

Park and Recreation Passes
Exercising outdoors is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, while staying fit.
  • Like to exercise outdoors
  • Don’t like gyms
  • Are in a climate that is temperate most of the year
On-going(once a season
or once a year)

$0 – $$

Personal Trainers Not all personal trainers are good. So it is important to do your homework when you select them. However, if you find a good one, they:

  • Continually challenge you
  • Keep your workouts fresh
  • Give you a targeted and effective workout helps you see results in the shortest amount of time
  • Teach you proper form to prevent injuries
  • Consistently need someone to motivate you to exercise
  • Are new to exercising
  • Are not in shape at all and want to see results fast
  • Have hit a plateau in your own workouts
On-going(per session)

$$ – $$$

Private Fitness Classes Sort of a cross between personal training and group fitness classes.  They are:

  • Given in a format where there is one instructor to one or two students
  • Focused on a specific type of exercise system, such as pilates and yoga
  • Are more intense and personalized  than Group Fitness classes
  • Want private instruction
  • Are looking to have a more intense and personalized workout
  • Want to advance quickly within a certain type of exercise
On-going(per class)

$$ – $$$

Wii-Fit and other ‘Game-type’ Exercise Technologies
‘Games’ that are meant to get you in shape.  Although I’m leeryof how effective they really are, they come with lots of gidgets and gadgets to:

  • Help you monitor yourself
  • Keep you interested
  • Inspire you to stay active
  • Make exercise seem fun
  • Need or want to be entertained
  • Enjoy video games
  • Are not comfortable going to the gym
  • Want the convenience of working out at home
One Time

$$

$ = < $50    $$ = $50 – $150     $$$ = $150 – $500     $$$$ = > $500

Realize that it is important to look at the short term cost versus the long term cost.  For instance, if you put in a gym at home, you will most likely spend a lot of money upfront.  However, you won’t have to spend that money over and over again, as you would if you were paying for a gym membership every month.

Again, know how you are best motivated to get active, and that is where your best investment will be made.

What do you think is the best value when paying for exercise?  Do you pay for more than one of these options?  Do you pay for other options that are not listed?

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  • http://jessicastanton.com jess

    I was introduced to kettle bell exercises by my ex-boyfriend. He’s gone, however I still use the kettlebells ;) they’re awesome for calorie burning. Just questioning if there may be a more effective fat burning and muscle toning (building) exercise around? Btw, love the blog!

    • Brett

      Supposedly, Kettle Bells are a great workout. You might want to try the P90X Program. I’ve started doing it and reviewing it under the “P90X Blog” on this site.