How Much Does It Really Cost to Get Into Fitness?


dumbbell and money

Photo: Peerayot (Shutterstock)

Almost everybody who sticks to their workout routine has found a type of fitness they love. That may mean Crossfit classes multiple times a week, going for a run every morning, or hiring a personal trainer to walk them through a customized workout. Everything comes with a cost, though.

So let’s talk about what you’ll be spending in a variety of scenarios, from the cost of each type of gym, to the upgrades you’ll probably go for, to the comparative cost of at-home alternatives.

Joining a no-frills gym

What it takes to get started: The main cost here is the membership itself. Budget chain gyms can be as low as $10 or $20 a month, with slightly nicer places around $50 or more. Watch out for extra fees in the fine print, though.

For your first day, you’ll need athletic-appropriate shoes, clothes, and a gym bag with some basic essentials, like a water bottle. Cost for these varies, but you probably already have these items at home.

Possible upgrades: A good personal trainer can walk you through a workout, easing your uncertainty about what exactly to do while ensuring that you’re following a program that will lead you to your goals, whatever those might be. Lessons estimates a one-hour session with a trainer can average anywhere from $35 to $120 depending on how fancy your gym is.

If you don’t work with a trainer, you’re on your own to plan your workouts and hold yourself to your goals. Free or paid training programs or online trainers can fill the gap; prices vary wildly on those.

Do it at home: There’s no way to fully recreate the gym experience at home, since the whole reason to go to a gym is that they have all the stuff. But you can get by with a collection of dumbbells or resistance bands, a barbell with weights if you can snag one, and maybe a cardio machine or some running shoes. The price for this investment varies wildly depending on how much gear you want to accumulate.

Crossfit

What it takes to get started: Crossfit boxes (as they’re called) are among the priciest gyms out there. A typical membership in the U.S. costs $156/month, according to Rounds for Time, but that’s an average of unlimited memberships (often around $200) and more limited ones (say, $100 for access once or twice a week). Like a regular gym, you’ll need basic athletic clothes and gear to get started.

Possible upgrades: Crossfit enthusiasts often end up accumulating specialty items, like multiple types of shoes, rope-climbing socks, and more. Since the sport combines components of lifting, gymnastics, and cardio, you may need more gear than in a gym where you’re only doing a few of the same things all the time. If you get serious about the sport, you may also find yourself paying extra for more gym time or classes.

Do it at home: As with a commercial gym, buying the needed equipment will get real pricey real quick. But plenty of Crossfit-style workouts can be done with little to no equipment: think burpees and running. You can google free workout ideas, or sign up for an online service like Street Parking, which offers at-home workouts for $19/month.

Indoor cycling

What it takes to get started: Classes at a swanky studio usually range from $20-40 each, with packages and memberships bringing the cost down slightly. My local CycleBar offers a 10-class pack for $169 or unlimited rides for $149/month; in the same area, SoulCycle charges $280 for a 10-class pack.

Commercial gyms and community fitness centers sometimes include cycling classes as part of membership or as an add-on package, for substantially less than trendy studios.

Possible upgrades: If you do this long enough, you’ll end up wanting your own shoes, which run around $100.

Do it at home: Peloton is the classic option here, and there are other companies that will sell you a similar smart bike. Peloton’s standard package is $2000 for the bike and accessories, and the membership is $39/month on top of that.

You can also use the cheaper Peloton app (or another app, like Apple’s Fitness+) with an indoor bike you already own, or you can put your bike on an indoor trainer for a fully DIY experience.

Running

What it takes to get started: Shoes, for starters. If you have some old sneakers that don’t hurt your feet, you’ll be fine, but pretty soon you’ll probably buy a pair of real running shoes for around $100.

And if you have boobs, a quality sports bra is a must. Depending on how much support you need, you’re looking at $20 to $50 or more. (Hand-wash it after each run, and you can get away with just owning one or two.)

Possible upgrades: Once you get serious about running, chances are you’ll want a watch that can keep track of your pace and other metrics like your heart rate. (Garmins are beloved by serious runners; Fitbits or Apple Watches do the trick for most of us casuals.)

And then there are races. An entry fee for a local 5K might run $25 or so, but marathons and halves are easily $100 and up. Big ticket marathons can be $300, if you can even get in, and then sometimes runners will plan a vacation around their dream race. This is a sport that can cost as much or as little as you want.