8 Ways to Get Fit for Less

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Louisiana, my home state, recently came in second in WebMD’s fattest states, with a 33.4 percent obesity rate for adults, beaten only by Mississippi, where 34.9 percent of adults are obese. Other states that made the list:

  • West Virginia — 32.4 percent.
  • Alabama — 32 percent.
  • Michigan — 31.3 percent.
  • Oklahoma — 31.1 percent.
  • Arkansas — 30.9 percent.
  • Indiana — 30.8 percent.
  • South Carolina — 30.8 percent.
  • Texas — 30.4 percent.
  • Kentucky — 30.4 percent.

Those are scary statistics, especially considering that obesity can lead to a host of health problems like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. But many people are doing something about it: They’re getting fit. And some are doing it without emptying their wallets on pricey gym memberships — like Carol Sanders.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson recently interviewed Carol about her fitness plan and the scholarship she got from the YMCA. Check it out and then read on for more ways you can look and feel better for less.

Now, let’s break down all the ways you can get into shape and save money:

1. Find a scholarship

Carol was in a tough spot. She knew she needed to get into shape, but she didn’t have the cash to join a gym. So she asked for help, and she got it. The YMCA gave her a scholarship so she could attend a local YMCA gym without stretching her money too thin. If you’re in a tight spot and can’t afford the monthly fee, ask your local community gyms and fitness centers for help. Some places worth checking:

  • City-owned gyms.
  • Local high schools, universities, and community colleges.
  • Community centers.
  • The YMCA.

2. Shop around

If you don’t qualify for a scholarship or grant, you can still save some cash. Start by comparing the base cost of your local gyms. Call three to five gyms in your area and ask for a price quote on their one-month and annual basic memberships. Some gyms might be cheaper (or more expensive) than you thought.

3. Work out on a pass

Get a trial pass before you commit to a full membership. Most gyms offer free trials for a week or a month. Check out the gym’s website or its social networking sites for free trials. If you don’t see any listed, visit the gym in person and say you want to try before you buy.

4. Look for discounts

Don’t sign up before you find out what discounts you might qualify for. For example:

  • Health insurance discounts. Some health insurance providers have partnerships with gyms. Check out your health insurance policy or call to see what they offer.
  • Employee discounts. If your company doesn’t have an on-site gym, it might have a deal with one in the area. Ask your HR department about possible discounts.
  • Promotions. Gyms also run their own promotions. Ask about special pricing before you sign up.

5. Check for coupons

You might not associate gyms with coupons, but some do offer them. I’ve seen coupons for gym memberships in my local paper and in advertisements that come in the mail. You can also occasionally find good deals on memberships through sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

6. Negotiate

Finally, don’t sign on the dotted line until you try some negotiation tactics. For example, if a gym in your city is offering a promotion better than one closer to your home or job, ask the local gym to match the competitor’s price. You could also simply ask a gym for a better price. Say something like “I’m interested in signing up, but this is out of my price range. Can you give me a lower price?”

7. Protect yourself

Gyms have two main goals: to help you get in shape and to make money. Unfortunately, some employ shady tactics to accomplish the latter. In “Tricks of the Trade: Fitness Clubs,” Stacy mentioned two big ways you can lose money at the gym — auto-renewal and auto-pay. If your membership is set to auto-renew, you’ll automatically keep paying long after you’ve stopped going there. To avoid this, make sure your contract doesn’t include an auto-renewal policy.

You’re also safer skipping the auto-payment option. The gym will push this feature, saying how much easier it will be to pay automatically, but some gyms have continued withdrawing monthly fees long after the person canceled the membership. Avoid the hassle and pay the old-fashioned way.

8. Skip the gym

Of course, you could just skip the gym altogether. Walking or jogging will help you burn calories and shed pounds. If you like the classes gyms offer, consider buying some at-home workout tapes or borrowing them for free from your local library. If you prefer workout equipment, there are low-cost alternatives. Check out “4 Alternatives to Pricey Fitness Equipment” for examples.

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