How to Find the Right Gym or Get Fit on Your Own

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Getting in shape has always been one of the most popular goals, for obvious reasons: It feels good, you look better, and you save on health costs (maybe food costs too) down the road. And as a nation, we could sure use the exercise. Nearly 60 million Americans are obese, according to Fitness.gov.

Probably because they don’t know where to start, a lot of people turn to the three-letter word that’s supposed to magically cause weight loss: gym. But while a membership is guaranteed to slim down your wallet, it won’t automatically slim you down. You have to work hard to get your money’s worth.

In the video below, Money Talks News reporter Jim Robinson discusses what gyms can offer, and how to differentiate the good from the bad. Check it out, and then read on for more.

So what can a gym offer? Safety, guidance, and perhaps some motivation. But price comparisons aside, not all gyms are created equal. Let’s recap what to look for…

  1. Longevity. Find out how long potential gyms have been in business. A structure that’s proven itself is probably more reliable than a new place you’ve never heard of.
  2. Good management. You want a well-staffed gym with fitness experts who can answer your questions and make sure you’ve got a routine you can handle – that’s the one thing a home workout doesn’t offer. If you aren’t getting that attention, you’re not getting your money’s worth.
  3.  Cleanliness. A well-maintained and organized gym says a lot about how the business is run. One way to get a quick assessment is to peek in the bathroom.
  4. Trial period. Nearly every gym offers a trial membership, say, for a week or two. Use this free period to evaluate the gym, as well as your ability to stick with it.
  5. Contract. Some memberships are annual, but with all the competition out there, there’s no reason to commit that long. Get a month-to-month contract.

Of course, the best way to save money is to skip the gym altogether. You don’t need fancy equipment to get in shape: I’ve never had a gym membership, and I lost about 30 pounds last year just by cutting back on soda and going for four-mile walks every other day. If you do want to use equipment, try to get it cheap from yard sales, classified sites like Craigslist, or second-hand shops like Play It Again Sports.

According to Health.gov, adults should get at least 2.5 hours of exercise a week. Older adults and people with health conditions should consult a doctor before establishing an exercise routine. For people who find workouts monotonous, it may be easiest to start with an activity you’re comfortable with and enjoy doing, like walking, jogging, swimming, skating, or playing a sport. But if you’re looking for more traditional exercises, here are some you can try at home…

  • Pushups. They taught these in P.E. class for a reason: It’s a full-body workout, targeting your abs, arms, back, and the front of your legs. Lie face down, and keeping your back and legs straight, lift yourself with your arms. Women, who have less muscle mass than men, may want to keep their knees bent and touching the floor.
  • Curls. This is the most common exercise for the biceps, and also part of the traditional images of “working out.” Using small weights or water bottles, hold your arms out with palms up and elbows near your body. Curl the weight up toward your shoulders without moving your elbows, then lower it.
  • Leg drops. Good for your abs and legs, this exercise involves lying flat on your back, with your arms spread wide. Slowly lift your legs upward, trying to keep a straight line from your toes to your hips.

For more exercise ideas, check out SparkPeople demos. For exercises you can do at work, check out About.com’s office chair exercises. Set up your own workout and you’ll be on the way to physical and financial fitness.

Of course, exercise is only part of the health equation; eating right is the other half. You might be interested in Eating Healthy by Eating Cheap and 10 Places to Find Cheap Antioxidants.

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