Fitness and finances may be more interrelated than you think. I am not just talking about your gym membership fees, thought we’ll certainly address them in this blog. I am talking about your health – namely stress. 

Did you know that over 80% of doctor’s visits are attributed to stress? Stress is the leading cause of diseases such as metabolic syndrome, the precursor to diabetes. Did you know that finances are the #1 stressor for Americans?  In a recent case study with a major health care provider, we found that heavy users of financial education actually had reduced overall health care costs.

You can directly impact stress reduction with regular exercise AND if you can do so “on the cheap,” even better!  Let’s examine some ways to exercise in a financially efficient manner, either getting the most out of what you are paying or taking advantage of free or super low cost ways to exercise.  Here are some options:

The gym:  The best exercise is the one you actually do.  If you are using it, then the cost might be worth it.  Analyze your cost per use. For example, if you pay $100 per month for your family but you only use it twice a month, you have an expensive gym membership at $50 a visit.  If you use it four times a week, it is only a little over $6 a visit.  Compare those numbers to the cost for a drop-in visit.

If you want to keep the membership because you really enjoy working out at the gym, consider ways to bump up your usage such as going to regular classes or getting a workout buddy.  I don’t know about you, but the buddy system works well for me. I’ll go to support my friend when I’d end up lounging on the couch if it were just for me.

Get a virtual coach:  There are a plethora of great fitness apps and websites out there and here are three I use personally:

  • Nike Training Camp. This app has hundreds of workouts to choose from in these categories: get lean, toned, strong or focused with beginner, intermediate and advanced workouts.  I love how it just walks you through the workout like a coach taking you from one workout to the next.  For example, “conditioning workout” starts with a 2 minute jog, then high knee kicks, followed by 1 minute of mountain climbers, plank row, single leg dead lifts, and so on for a half hour to 45 minutes.  I was shocked at how good some of these workouts are.
  • Cross Fit.  I don’t know if they have an app but they have a great website that gives you a daily workout.  Cross Fit is not for the faint of heart as many in the police force and Navy Seals use it but if you look closely, they have a modified beginner workout.  They name the workouts things like “fight gone bad” and women’s names such as “Nancy.”  My namesake workout (Nancy) is: 400 meter run and 95 pound overhead squat for15 reps.  Hmm.  No 95 pound squat for me so I lighted up the weight. Or I go to the modified workout section on their sight. Go to “getting started” on the Cross Fit site.  Whichever workout you start with, they’re good strength builders and the website is free.  You can also pay a small fee of $25 a year to get their videos and newsletter.  (Worth it, I think.) Cross Fit gyms are popping up all over too. If you are a gym rat, check them out, though they are kind of pricey.
  • Endomondo. Are you social and somewhat competitive?  You might like Endomondo.  This app uses the GPS on your phone to track your miles and speed – obviously great for runners and bikers but also for hikers and walkers.  The fun part is you can compete against yourself with your previous times and can also connect with your friends to compare your times with them. It tracks calories burned and a whole host of other interesting information. Free!

Track your nutrients.  About to eat a doughnut?  I know I think twice before eating it because I use a fitness app to track everything I eat.  Studies have shown people lose weight just by tracking their eating and it is probably due to the awareness of what you are consuming.  Here are a couple of free apps that do the trick:

  • My Fitness Pal.  There is a web link as well as the smart phone app.  You simply log in once a day and track what you put in your body as well as any exercise you did that day.  Whether you want to lose weight or maintain it, you set a daily calorie intake goal and the good news is that when you exercise, it bumps up your calorie intake.  I loved it when I do a long hike or workout and watch the daily calorie allowance jump!  It also gives you a summary of your daily or weekly nutrients so you can tell where you have a deficit and can make adjustments in your diet.
  • Fit Day. This site is very similar and their free site is very comprehensive.

I just use My Fitness Pal since my son and a few of my friends are on it. Check and see if any of your friends use either one and you can support each other to be fit and healthy.

Exercise helps our finances in other ways too.  According to the Mayo Clinic, it has  psychological and emotional benefits like gaining self-confidence, taking the mind off our worries, more social interaction and coping with life’s challenges in a healthy way.  Sounds like some of the benefits of counseling or therapy to me!  All of these benefits are free too.  You have to love it.

What fitness apps or technology do you use to get healthy?