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17 tips to save money on gym memberships and fitness gear

While it's possible to spend thousands on boutique classes and fancy yoga pants, it's also possible to get fit on the cheap.

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If you're among the estimated 60 percent of Americans who usually make resolutions, getting fit is probably your goal in 2017. In fact, according to a recent survey of 2,000 people, the top three resolutions for 2017 are to eat healthier, exercise more, and lose weight, respectively.

The concepts of getting fit and saving money don't have to be at odds with each other. While it's possible to spend thousands on boutique classes and buy $400 yoga pants, it's also possible to get fit on the cheap — and that doesn't even involve heading to the meat locker to pummel some sides of beef, Rocky-style (unless you want to).

No one wants a lighter and slimmer wallet for 2017, so check out the tips below to save money on your fitness goals this year.

Gym Memberships

Look for Gym Promotions
The best gym promotions usually happen in January, when health clubs are trying to lure the New Year's resolution crowds. Attendance at many gyms increases 30% to 50% in January, the month when one in eight members joins. The next round of promotions happens in the summer, when resolutions have faltered and gyms are less crowded.

Shop Around
Gyms typically offer free trials for one, three, or seven days for new customers. Shop around and take advantage of the freebies, and maybe even wait until the end of the month, when gyms are more likely to strike deals, to make your selection.

Wait Until the End of the Month to Join
About 25 percent of people give up on their resolutions within the first week, but those who can hold off until the end of the month may be able to get better deals, when health clubs are trying to reach monthly quotas and may be more willing to waive fees or throw in extras, like personal training or spa sessions.

Negotiate
Fitness insiders will tell you not to sign up on your first visit. In fact, playing a little hard to get may result in a better deal, whether it's a cheaper monthly rate, no initiation fee, or a shorter contract obligation. Don't be afraid to negotiate, especially if you've shopped around and done some homework.

Be Realistic
Signing up for a gym commitment that spans a year or more may be cheaper than a month-to-month membership, but that's a good deal only if you actually go. About 67 percent of members don't go to the gym, and the average amount of money wasted per month on gym memberships is $39.

Being too optimistic about how often you'll work out can cost you in the long run. One study found that, when given an option of paying $70 per month versus $10 per gym visit, more people chose the monthly option, yet ultimately paid 70 percent more per visit because they didn't end up working out enough to make it a better deal.

Find Out if You Qualify for Special Rates and Discounts
Check to see if your health insurance company offers a fitness reimbursement program. For example, you could receive a partial reimbursement of membership fees at select fitness centers if you visit them a specified amount of times per month.

Colleges and universities often offer special alumni rates. Some fitness facilities, including 24 Hour Fitness and Gold's Gym, provide military discounts. It's also worth looking into hospital fitness centers, which often sell memberships to the public.

Check Out Budget Gyms
Some fitness chains offer budget alternatives. For example, Blink Fitness (from Equinox) has fees as low as $15 per month.

Specialty Studios

Search for Packages and Freebies
Like gyms, fitness studios geared toward yoga, barre workouts, cycling, and other classes often offer steep discounts and intro packages for new students. If there's a place you're interested in checking out, following the studio on social media might alert you to specials.

Consider ClassPass
Classes at boutique fitness studios that specialize in cycling, rowing, yoga, boot camps, and other workouts can cost about $25 to $40 per visit. ClassPass gives its members access to fitness classes at a variety of studios for a flat monthly rate of $30 to $135, depending on your location and plan.

Available in 39 cities worldwide, ClassPass lets members attend from 3 to to 10 classes per month, depending on which plan tier you choose. Be aware though, that ClassPass changed up its pricing strategy twice in 2016, unexpectedly hiking rates in select markets.

Get Daily Deal Coupons
Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer deals on fitness class packages and gym memberships, and can give you a chance to try out facilities without making any long-term commitments.

Keep Track of Extras
Some studios offer complimentary mats, towels, and locks, but extras — from cycling shoe rentals to bottles of water — can add up. Consider investing in reusable water bottles, such as the Novara 22-oz. Purist Water Bottle ($3.93 with in-store pickup, a low by $6).

Gym Alternatives

Find Local Fitness Groups
According to the Meetup website, there are more than 13,000 fitness groups worldwide, whether you want to hike or play group sports, like soccer or basketball, or find free local group classes. Local sports leagues can provide relief from gym tedium; to find leagues in your area, check out organizations such as SportsviteWAKA Kickball & Social SportsZogSports, and the YMCA.

Work Out at Home

While you can always pop in one of those old workout DVDs (or VHS tapes!), streaming subscriptions that offer workouts from top trainers are a good way to keep things fresh. For example, Daily Burn is $14.95 per month, with a free 30-day trial; AcaciaTV is $6.99 per month, with other packages available and a 10-day free trial; and barre3 online workouts are $10 to $15 per month. You can try workouts like P90X, Insanity, and TurboFire with a 30-day free trial of Beachbody On Demand.

Don't forget gaming systems that make fitness fun. One older option is the Wii Fit U with a Wii Balance Board and Fit Meter ($14.99 with free shipping, a low by $10).

Try Free Online Workouts
It's fairly easy to find free online workouts that require very little — if any — equipment. Fitness Blender offers free online workouts for a wide variety of fitness levels and time constraints, from 10-minute, low-impact beginner cardio sessions to a 79-minute workout to burn 1,000 calories. Fitness clothing retailer Sweaty Betty has a free online workout series that includes yoga, ballet, and dance.

Exercise Equipment

Look for Deals on Fitness Equipment
Fitness equipment is on the list of the best things to buy in January, when DealNews sees a range of deals from sporting goods retailers and department stores. For instance, right now you can get the Cap Barbell Deluxe Bench with 100-lb. Weight Set (($69 with free shipping, a low by $31).

Consider Wearable Tech
Wearable tech was the top fitness trend for 2016, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

As competition in wearable tech heats up, many fitness trackers can be purchased for $40 or less. DealNews has seen a variety of deals on fitness trackers, including one for the Bowflex EZ Pro Heart Rate Monitor Watch ($7.99 with in-store pickup, an $8 low).

Shop Used
There are certain things you should never buy used, such as bike helmets and bathing suits, but thrift store finds can include exercise equipment and sporting goods.

The thrift shop can also be a good place to find fitness DVDS — or even VHS tapes, if you still have a VCR — for some fitness moves that never go out of style, plus an extra ab workout when you're laughing at the headbands, hair, and leotards. For used sports gear, peruse thrift shop aisles and stores like Play It Again Sports.

This story originally appeared on DealNews.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

 
 
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