Why gym memberships can be a smart investment

Photo illustration of a woman using a gym membership

I've just come from the gym. My arms are so spent I can barely type. My glutes are killing me as I sit on my wooden chair. I am guzzling ice water and still sweating a little. An hour of concentrated exercise with a trainer — part of my gym memberships — has left me feeling both exhausted and accomplished. I love my gym.

My gym membership costs us $158.46 per month. I can hear the gasps of horror from the frugal corner: that's 1,901.52 a year! Over the next 10 years, that's almost $20K I could be putting into my Roth IRA. That's $5,704.56 we could be putting into the 529 college account for our second child (you remember him, the one we call Hope He Gets A Soccer Scholarship)! I could use that to open a stock investment account and invest in electronic-traded funds. I could purchase corporate bonds!

I could. But I'm not going to. I'm going to continue to use that money to “invest” in myself, and here's why: Because nine months after joining this gym, I have lost nearly 4 pounds of body fat, 12 pounds on the scale, am back to wearing clothes I haven't worn in more than two years, I feel better than I have in a long time (mentally and physically), and I have made new friends! To me, that's a great investment.

Related content: Investing in your health

My family actually has two gym memberships. We also belong to the local YMCA, at a cost of $936 a year. The Husband swims at the Y three to five days a week, and our two children use the gym equipment there to supplement their training for their team sports. My son also goes and plays pickup basketball in the winter with his friends. Yes, I could use the Y, but I don't. When I tried using the Y on a regular basis I was sporadic at best in my work outs. I hated the locker room (a little dirty and a lot shabby), the class schedules didn't really match my schedule, and I didn't like using the equipment (again, a little dirty and a lot shabby).

A little background: I have been a consistent exerciser for probably 25 years – primarily walking and running, but it kept me shape and got me outside every day for a period of time. Having a dog is a great incentive to get outside and take a long walk every day – and running was a good way for me to do some thinking and have some quiet time.

And then … I turned 50. I got laid off. Menopause started. My 90-year-old father fell and broke his hip. I had to invent a new career. My 91-year-old father died. My daughter had to get ready to go to college.

I was a wreck. Emotionally and physically. Menopause is Latin for “one day you will wake up and weigh 10 pounds more and you won't even know how it happened and oh by the way you will want to cry all the time and sweat buckets at a moment's notice.” My career uncertainty, the illness and death of my dad, my daughter's looming nest-leaving all coalesced into a nice big meltdown and I pretty much gave up on myself and was just trying to get through each day without sobbing in front of strangers.

Enter my wonderful doctor, who sent me to a wonderful therapist, who helped me see that it is helpful to control the things I can control in order to feel better about life and its associated chaos. So when a local gym offered a 21-day fitness challenge special that included personal training, group hugs and a diet plan designed to burn fat, I joined. It was $97. That was back in January.

At the end of the 21 days I had lost 3 pounds of body fat, 10 pounds on the scale, made some great new friends and developed a real support network. I. Felt. Better. About everything. Control.

Of course the genius of an offer like a 21-day challenge (for a low, low price) is that then they suck you into joining. There were lots of price levels, and I knew I couldn't afford to join at the level of training that the challenge had offered (which included personal sessions as well as group classes), but The Husband and I sat down and talked about it.

“It's a lot of money,” I said.

“You feel better,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Will you stick with it?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Ok,” he said. “Do it.”

So I joined for a year, the level in which I can take unlimited group classes and use all the equipment at will. Included in that is a customized exercise plan that they will update for you every 6 weeks. The price with tax came to $158.46/month. I go 5 days a week without fail (I put it on my calendar), which breaks it down to $7.92 a day. Sometimes I go 6 times a week, which is $6.60 a session. Add to that that I have started running 3 times a week again (I'm going to value that at $20 a pop), and somebody owes me money!

In all seriousness, though, the mental and emotional stability that I have gained in the last 9 months is due in large part to the sense of control I have gained through my gym. It's worth every penny to me (and The Husband). What about you? How much do you pay for exercise? Are you getting your money's worth? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.

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Jenna Harvey
Jenna Harvey
4 years ago

You go, girl!

Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass
4 years ago
Reply to  Jenna Harvey

Thank you!

Mrs. Picky Pincher
Mrs. Picky Pincher
4 years ago

I think gym memberships are great, as long as they’re used. My main beef with them is that people will sign up and then never go. Not good!
I’m not a gym person, since I can lose motivation to work out really easily. So I actually bought an elliptical and exercise ball, which I keep in our spare bedroom. I wake up early every morning and work out in the comfort of my own home. 🙂 The elliptical cost just $130 since we got it on super duper clearance, which made it even better!

Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass
4 years ago

I had a rowing machine that lived under my bed. The I had a stair climber that served as an awesome clothes rack. I find this to be the most consistent with hard exercise that I have ever been, and I recently stared running again using the C25K app on my phone! Shooting for the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in my town!

Mrs. Picky Pincher
Mrs. Picky Pincher
4 years ago
Reply to  Elissa Bass

That’s awesome!! Good luck on the Turkey Trot!

Mustard Seed Money
Mustard Seed Money
4 years ago

Right now I am really lucky and I pay nothing. My company has a free gym and I utilize it everyday. I feel great but I at times there is something missing. I feel like I am plateau and missing that extra push. I am hoping in a couple of months when my schedule eases up to start taking a local bootcamp for fun to supplement the workouts that I get at work.

Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass
4 years ago

It’s that plateau, right? When we hit one at our gym the head of training makes us a new plan to keep pushing us!

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disqus_66PPTskNmf
4 years ago

Gym memberships at most places like YouFit or Planet Fitness are $10-20 a month and that’s totally doable. Planet Fitness offers classes and you can bring an additional person for free every single time for the $20 monthly fee. That is totally doable. I’m not sure what gym the writer is going to, but it sounds like it’s crossfit.

Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass
4 years ago

Hi! Yes we have lots of much cheaper gyms around us. Mine is not a Cross Fit gym, but rather a personal training gym that offers similar activities but also small group, personal and individualized training. The neatest thingis, there are folks at the gym working with trainers in their 90s! They customize every member’s plan, which is why I think I have stuck with it.

Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass
4 years ago

Absolutely! My husband is a swimmer, so the Y is valuable to us – and we have 2 Ys near us and he uses both pools depending on his schedule. And my $7-ish/gym session pays for itself in the fact that I don’t get Starbucks or fast food anymore since I graduated the 21-day program and really understand about eating healthy foods – which means food from home!

Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass
4 years ago

It is a fact – absolutely. To me the lesson here was I found something that really helped me in many ways and then we figured out a way to be able to pay for it.

Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass
4 years ago

The dog is the best trainer! Doesn’t care what the weather is, she just says let’s go!

Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass
4 years ago

Hmm. So the body fat is measured with little pinchers they use on you on 4 parts of your body. The scale is obviously the scale. And the trainers actually hate the scale because they say it isn’t a real reflection of your level of fitness – body fat and how your clothes are fitting is what they say to pay attention to!

Katelyn
Katelyn
4 years ago

The non-fat mass you are losing is a combination of muscle and water weight.

Katelyn
Katelyn
4 years ago

The results she saw in the first 21 days are very typical for a new crossfitter. Before I joined crossfit I was an avid long distance runner, averaging 6 half marathons and 2 full marathons a year, and had a typical runner’s physique. A month into crossfit my weight was the same but my body fat had dropped 3%. The best part was that I could get a better workout in an hour than I was previously getting from my 2-3 hour long runs.

Diligent Dividend
Diligent Dividend
4 years ago

I’ll agree with you, that $158 a month made me cringe. I workout 4-5 days a week and Planet Fitness is good enough for me. I have started to out grow the gym (pun intended) so I may look at a change soon but I feel like $30 a month is a big hike for me.
As long as it is paying off for you keep on keeping!

Zorro75
Zorro75
4 years ago

Fantastic. I died when I saw 158, however, it is an expense I would take on. I like going to a gym and do so a few times a week. Luckily in my small town there is a gym with weights and some cardio equipment – good enough for me. And if I feel blue, that is the first place I go. It is the best!

Josh
Josh
4 years ago

Let’s also not forget the long-term return on your investment, which hopefully/statistically would mean a lowered risk of ailments like heart disease, diabetes, etc. that tend to come with a sedimentary life style. Thinking of it this way, you are most likely lengthening your life and improving the quality of said life. Having that extra money socked away doesn’t mean much if you later have to spend it on co-pays, prescriptions, etc….or if you are dead.

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