• 3-Minute Article
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  • Mar 21, 2018

How to Stay Fit for Less

Explore six strategies to save on health and fitness.

Smiling, standing middle-aged woman featured in an article about staying fit for less

Created in Collaboration with Kiplinger.

Questions this article can help you answer:
  • How can I stay active after retirement?
  • How can I save money on fitness?
  • Where can I find activities and trainers that meet my needs?

The physical, mental, and emotional benefits of exercise are well-documented – keeping a fitness routine can help maintain your health and independence.1 Remaining active can also potentially reduce future healthcare costs, which will continue to be one of the leading expenses that retirees face.2

Currently, 1 in 4 adults meet recommended physical activity guidelines.3 Those guidelines call for:

  • At least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity or an equivalent combination)
  • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week
  • Activities to improve balance for those age 65 and older

The good news is that committing to improve your overall fitness doesn’t have to be expensive. A range of exercise options delivers health benefits without sacrificing quality or putting a sizable dent in the budget. Here are six tips for achieving budget-friendly fitness.

Some recommended physical activities

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity

  Walking or hiking
  Water aerobics
  Bicycle riding (stationary or outdoors)

Muscle-strengthening activity

  Working with resistance bands, handheld weights
  Pushups, pullups, planks
  Heavy gardening

Balance activity

  Walking backward
  Using a wobble board

Sources: How much physical activity do older adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 10,2020; Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018.

Start With Health Insurance Benefits

Many employer health insurance plans, and certain Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans, include a wellness benefit that may discount, reimburse, or include the cost of joining a gym, or help fund a home exercise kit. You can find out by checking your plan summary, calling the membership number on the back of your insurance card, or asking a member representative at the facility you choose.

Did You Know?

You may be eligible for a range of no-cost fitness benefits provided by SilverSneakers.

Some Medicare Advantage plans, and more than 60 health insurance plans, have partnered with the membership program to offer people age 65+ access to benefits like:

Gyms, community centers, pools
Fitness classes designed for seniors
Instructors trained in senior fitness
Fitness apps
Healthy living discounts
On-demand video workouts

Dodge the Big Investment

Rather than devote space and money to a piece of exercise equipment, head outdoors for a walk or bike ride. A relatively inexpensive investment like a fitness tracker combined with a daily step goal may help you achieve the recommended physical activity target.

Consider Drop-In and Per-Visit Options

If a facility offers an extended trial period, take advantage of it. An extended trial period allows you time to assess the mix of offerings, including any fee-based, drop-in classes that help keep costs low – especially if a daily trip to the gym isn’t feasible. Another potential cost-saving strategy is to calculate whether a pay-as-you go plan, an option more widely available at boutique gyms or studios, would cost less than investing in an unlimited membership.

Sign Up for Local Classes

Attending fitness classes and programs offered by local recreation centers, community centers, YMCAs, or colleges can be a great way to connect with people who have similar interests. These community-based classes also tend to offer competitive rates and flexible terms and hours.

Share a Trainer

Hiring a personal trainer for one-on-one sessions can be expensive. However, you can recruit a few friends to participate in small-group sessions to make personal training more affordable. During each session, you’ll receive personalized workout advice and, as a bonus, the group becomes a built-in support network that can keep motivation and enjoyment levels high. When choosing a trainer, look for someone certified through a governing body such as:

  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • American Council on Exercise
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association

Take Up a Sport

Whether you miss suiting up for a game or want to try something new, you’ll likely have more time to devote to sports in retirement. There are many adult and age 55+ sports leagues across the country that can provide the opportunity to be active and social with your peers.

Saving money on fitness can help you maintain your health and put more money aside for other retirement pursuits. Discover more about the connection between health and wealth – and how physical and financial fitness can work together to support a better retirement.

Kiplinger has an in-house content studio, which reports on investing, retirement planning and wise money management for its partner organizations, providing trustworthy advice and guidance for their readers.