Fads come and go that promise to quickly buff up our bodies and reduce our waistlines. From Curves to Weight Watchers diets and workout "boot camps," there is no shortage of new fitness trends promising a perfect, healthy human frame -- for the right price. Unfortunately, many of these crazes also flatten out our wallets at the same time.
But is all that expense necessary? Isn't there a simpler, cheaper way to get in shape?
In some cases, a budget workout routine is best. But for other people, spending a little money can make a big difference, says Scott Silveira, an exercise physiologist at the California Health & Longevity Institute, located inside the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village.
"Like many spending decisions, one must weigh out the costs to benefits," he says.
Getting fit on the cheap
A back-to-basics approach can work great when concerned about exercise price, Silveira says. Walking, hiking, jogging or running are inexpensive exercises that can help people get fit for next to nothing, he says.
"The best no-cost or low-cost modes of exercise are going to be those where you don't have to buy specialized attire, equipment or fitness studio access," Silveira says.
In fact, some of the best exercises simply use your body as a form of resistance and cost nothing to perform. They include:
- Calisthenics, including pull-ups and push-ups
- Isometrics, including planks and wall sits
If you plan to exercise in this no-frills way, remember that you still have to work hard to earn that healthy body, Silveira says.
"Just because someone adds push-ups and a walk to their schedule two times a week doesn't mean that they will necessarily lose weight and get fit," he says.
To succeed, you need to have the right mindset. Make sure you exercise regularly at the right intensity and duration. A good diet is also essential to getting fit, Silveira says.
Penny wise, pound foolish
While some people can sculpt a fit body with just a pair of sneakers and a running trail, others require more specialized workouts. For these folks, paying a little extra money can reap major rewards, Silveira says.
"Spending extra money on a personal trainer, counseling sessions with a dietician or exercise classes may be worth the investment," he says.
Examples of situations where paying for help pays off include:
When you have more ambitious goals. Experts can provide the expertise and motivation to bring your workouts to a higher level.
When you have health concerns. In some cases, spending money on an expert-guided exercise program can help slow or even roll back health problems. Spending a little money on exercise now can prevent you from having to spend a lot more money on health care down the road, Silveira says.
When you lack the motivation to exercise on your own. About 50 percent of people who start an exercise program quit within six months, according to a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Physiology.
"What is your exercise and health history?" Silveira asks. "Is there a history of failing to follow through with an exercise plan?" If so, a more formalized – and expensive – training regimen can help.
Ultimately, only you can make the call about whether or not spending money will pay fitness dividends.
"For some, $10,000 a year spent on a fitness program might be totally unreasonable," Silveira says. "But for others with more disposable income, this investment could enhance quality of life better than putting it towards other luxuries."