October 13, 2020

Edited 12/30/20

The Cost Savings of Staying Active, Even Without a Gym

Live streaming, tracking your daily steps, and other fitness and health hacks that can save money and keep you safe without sacrificing calorie burn.

Many or all of these products are from our partners who compensate us. This does not influence our evaluations or our opinions but may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. Learn More

Working out on a regular basis improves our health and wellbeing. But the cost of staying active can be steep: Monthly gym fees typically range from $20 to $150 per month, while a single, hour-long boutique fitness class can cost as much as $30-$35. These options pale in comparison to an hour with a dedicated personal trainer, which can run as high as $200 per hour. 

But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t need to go to the gym to get in shape, stay in shape or live our healthiest lives. Since the pandemic, both online fitness and downloadable fitness apps have grown, as the technology that makes remote fitness great seems to be getting better and better. In addition to keeping us safe from viruses like COVID or the common cold, working out gym-free can save us a bundle of money.

The Cost of Fitness Memberships

On-demand online fitness apps, which enable people to work out anytime and anywhere, typically cost less than $20 per month. Live-streaming fitness classes, which occur at set times but allow real-time interaction with fitness instructors, can cost as little as $40 or $50 a month. It’s like having a fancy boutique gym membership for a fraction of the price.

Think of it this way: If you’re shelling out  $150 a month on a high-end gym membership, that’s $1,800 a year. But if you opt for a high-end virtual program for $20 a month, you get access to unlimited virtual classes, anytime and anywhere AND you save $1,560. That’s money that can be slashed directly into your retirement savings, and can improve your Retirement Score significantly. 

You’ll also save time. If it takes 10 minutes to walk or drive to the barre studio, you’ll save 20 minutes per day by swapping that class for a live-stream version at home. That’s one hour, every single week, you can use to engage in other enjoyable activities.

Remote Fitness in 2020 

High-tech fitness at home has come a long way since the 1990s, when fitness DVDs were all the rage. Today, there are hundreds of on-demand exercise videos that can be downloaded and watched at your convenience, and a growing number of livestream fitness classes. The latter option is better for extroverts, who are motivated when a trainer is cheering for them, and pushing them, in real time through sequences of push-ups, jumping jacks, yoga poses or other exercises. 

For example:

  • Yoga International, a digital platform, enables users to download yoga classes in multiple styles and levels, for workouts that range from 20 minutes to 90 minutes. With more than 1,000 classes from 500 expert teachers available on demand, there’s a class on demand for every type of person and lifestyle, from basketball players who want to increase their agility to hot yoga enthusiasts who yearn for more complex, challenging routines. The platform also offers daily live classes at different times, for individuals who prefer a more engaging experience.
  • The Mirror, one of the coolest high-tech fitness concepts to emerge in the past three years, looks like a full-length mirror but is actually a portal to more than 100 cardio, strength, yoga, boxing, Pilates and barre classes. The idea is simple. When the user looks into the full-length mirror, they see a trainer working out right alongside them – which is super motivating. While the initial investment is equivalent to the price of a Macbook Pro, the payoff — access to world-class fitness instructors, engaging content, and oodles of workout options to stave off boredom – is absolutely worth it. It’s also more affordable than the typical boutique studio membership, which costs about $100 to $150 per month.

Long-Term Savings From Exercise

Most of us are well-aware of the short-term physical benefits of health, like improvements in sleep, elevated mood, and a more svelte, muscular physical appearance. But as we get older, the long-term benefits of being healthy are just as important — and even more financially impactful. 

Engaging in regular physical activity can significantly lower the risk of developing a chronic health condition, like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These are just a handful of the multitude of illnesses that require daily medications and ongoing management to stay out of the hospital. 

But while health plans cover some costs, even Medicare doesn’t cover everything. As many individuals who live with these conditions will tell you, “nominal” fees of $20 to $100 for a lifesaving medication, or health plan copays for routine visits with primary-care providers and specialists, can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. Emergency care, which can happen when a chronic disease flares up, can set you back more than $1,000 for a single visit.

The bottom line: Now is the time to begin or improve an exercise routine, even if you’ve never set foot in a gym.

Other Ways to Save Money on Health & Fitness

Online fitness programs aren’t the only way to safely get in shape and maintain physical health, while saving money.

Insurance Incentives

Many insurance companies and wellness outlets are offering huge discounts and incentives to healthy individuals, so it’s worth checking with yours to see if it does. Many major national insurers like Cigna, for example, offer members incredible discounts of 25% to 50% off dietary counselling, yoga equipment, virtual video classes and more through a rewards program. And a handful of emerging virtual platforms, like Oscar, offer cash-back rewards for exercise to the tune of  $1 per day (up to $100) for members who walk at least 8,000 steps per day.

Prescription Savings

Prescription savings cards, like Hippo, can be downloaded to your phone’s digital wallet or carried in your wallet, and consumers save up to 97% off the cost of prescription drugs — including many pricey, brand-name prescriptions. For individuals who depend on prescription medications to maintain health, Hippo can save hundreds of dollars a month.  

Health Savings Account

Another time-tested option is a Health Savings Account (HSA), which allows individuals to save toward healthcare expenses over time. Downloadable apps like Lively to simplify the process of saving, making it easy to transfer a portion of one’s monthly income into a tax-deductible account that can be accessed for health expenses. 

HSAs are an excellent option for multiple reasons. Nearly 20 percent Americans polled earlier this year indicated they would struggle to pay an unexpected medical bill, so having a dedicated slush fund for health costs means you don’t have to run up a high-interest credit card bill. And with any HSA, unused funds can be rolled into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), 401(K) or other retirement-savings vehicle.

As you’re nearing or living in your retirement, staying healthy and saving money has never been more important. While thinking outside of the box – or outside of the gym – might feel challenging, the rewards are more than worth it.