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Five most affordable gym memberships

Gym memberships can be giant expenses. It doesn't have to be expensive to stay healthy. Look at these five options for cheap gym memberships.

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    Kim Jin-ah, 31, rests as she takes part in a crossfit class at a gym in Seoul, September 11, 2015. These five gym memberships might be cheaper than you think.
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A gym membership isn't cheap. IBISWorld reported that in 2014, the average gym member paid $41 a month in membership fees, or about $490 a year for the right to sweat on treadmills and stationary bikes.

But you don't have to spend that much on a membership. There are national chains that charge less each month — often much less. If you want to trim your expenses along with your waistline, check out the five inexpensive gym options below. But remember this: Even an inexpensive gym isn't a bargain if you don't go.

1. Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness advertises itself as a gym for people who don't like gyms, with ads referring to every Planet Fitness location as a "Judgement Free Zone."

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Their basic membership costs $10 a month, which gets you unlimited access to your home club. You can also spend $19.99 a month for the Black Card membership, which allows you access to any Planet Fitness around the country, as well as tanning and massage-chair services. You'll also have to pay an annual fee, which varies according to your membership type. It's $20 for the $10-a-month basic plan.

2. Cardinal Fitness

This storefront gym resembles Planet Fitness, though its color scheme isn’t quite as bold (Planet Fitness loves the purple and black). These gyms are small and basic, but filled with more than enough equipment — treadmills, bikes, weight machines, steppers — to get a solid workout.

The basic membership price is even the same: $10 a month, which gives you access to your single home Cardinal Fitness location. For $19.95 a month, you gain access to all participating Cardinal locations, virtual training each week, and a free personal training session each month. Expect to pay a $20 annual fee, too.

3. Your Local YMCA

There are plenty of benefits to joining your YMCA. Unlike Planet Fitness or Cardinal Fitness, YMCAs are larger facilities offering more amenities. Sure, YMCAs come with the standard treadmills, steppers, weights, and exercise bikes. But most of them also come with pools, saunas, whirlpools, racquetball courts, indoor tracks, yoga classes, fitness classes, and basketball courts.

For these extras, expect to pay more than $10 a month. YMCAs charge monthly memberships on a tiered basis, and these rates vary based on where the YMCA is located. For a good example, a YMCA in the Chicago area as of September of 2015 was charging $25 a month for a basic membership for youths 11 to 18 and $24.99 a month for adults from the ages of 19 to 26. Adults over the age of 27 were paying $62 a month — $744 a year — not bad for access to swimming pools, racquetball courts, and fitness classes.

4. Gold's Gym

You might be surprised at how affordable Gold's Gym is. A basic monthly membership costs $25. You'll also have to pay a $25 initiation fee when you first sign up. Be careful when canceling, though: Gold's Gym charges a cancellation fee of $89.99 if you break your contract before it expires.

If you pay on an annual basis, you'll spend even less every month. An annual membership to Gold's Gym costs $198, or only $16.50 a month. You'll still have to pay the $25 initiation fee.

Those costs are for basic membership, which gets you access to your local Gold's Gym. Premium membership, which provides access to any Gold's Gym, costs $34 a month or $348 a year for an annual membership.

Gold's Gym offers plenty of exercise equipment, but it also provides exercise programs such as Pilates, endurance training, mixed martial arts, group cycling, and yoga. Each Gold's Gym location includes a group exercise studio and a kids’ club where members can stow their children while they work out.

5. LA Fitness

LA Fitness is another affordable gym chain with locations around the country. It’s not quite as stocked with equipment and options as larger health clubs, but it does offer more exercise options than Planet Fitness and Cardinal Health-type gyms.

A basic membership here will cost $29.95 a month. You’ll also have to pay a $99 initiation fee.

LA Fitness offers group exercise classes, though you will have to pay extra for some, and an indoor heated lap pool, whirlpool spa, and saunas. Facilities often offer juice bars, onsite kids’ centers, and personal trainers, though usually for an extra fee.

This article first appeared at Wise Bread.

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