When it comes to fitness and health, staying interested in your routine is key to the longevity of any plan. For most people, this means changing things up, whether it’s a new type of workout or experimenting with healthy eating. Sure, some people can eat the same lunch every day and do the same workouts every week, but most will tire of the routine and start slacking off.
The health industry is driven by trends. From recent wave-makers such as Pilates and Zumba, to the ThighMasters of the past, nothing much stays the same across the fitness landscape. Depending on what’s trending this week and how it’s marketed, you may be considering something new and wondering where to start. It’s a tricky business on a budget, though – how many people do you know own unused fitness equipment, supplements or gadgets that each promised to improve health? In fact, the only thing many consumers have to show for their investments is a tighter budget.
In order for something new in your routine to stick, it has to have a few key features: general ease of use, enjoyment, health value and long-term affordability. Ease of use does not mean your new workout has to be easy. On the contrary, you might find that short workouts of high intensity have the greatest ease of use, because you can squeeze them into your schedule with no problems. The need for enjoyment is clear: Because you only answer to yourself for your health, your best chance of sticking with something is to actually like it. Last but not least, it must fit into your budget. If you can’t pay for it in the long term, don’t even tempt yourself by trying.
If you plan on adding a new type of training or want to try a new diet to see if it suits you – but you don’t want to break the bank – you’ve come to the right place. There are a lot of ways to get fit on the cheap, and practices like eating lots of veggies, running and working out to online videos each offer a great value. But what about today’s trends that offer much less bang for your buck? Here are three trends to steer clear of if you want to get more for your money.
Health Trend #1: First-Generation Fitness Gadgets
Fitness gadgets are all the rage these days, and the trend began with simple pedometers and heart rate monitors. The field of fitness technology has come a long way since the first belt pedometers, rapidly becoming the next big thing in fitness by appealing to info-hungry consumers. The problem with that is the information is rarely everything you want with no extras – and you’ll pay for all the extras (which won’t seem so impressive soon). When it comes to technology in general, the first generation of any device is never the best. This was as true for the first television as it is for current fitness gadgets, so think twice before hopping on the bandwagon.
Even though many of these gadgets seem like they offer a lot for the money, the technology is not quite optimized, and the features offered may not be useful for you. For example, if you wake up rested or just don’t want to wear a watch to sleep every night, you probably don’t need a sleep tracker. If you’re interested in tracking your sleep, the gadgets that do it best are expensive, bulky and often weak at calculating heart rate during workouts. Technology innovation is exponential, so for the $200 sticker price of this year’s best gadgets, you’re likely to see much-improved versions for the same price next year. The same goes for this year’s $50 gadgets – you’ll only end up wanting more in the future or cursing when your first-gen fails. What’s more is that second- and third-generation gadgets will be smaller and easier to wear 24/7 in order to optimize benefits.
For this fitness trend, your best bet is to just wait until these things offer more value for the money. While the models on the market may seem cool today, there are better features on the horizon. For instance, gadgets will soon come with metrics to measure how hydrated you are, or apps that include your medical history for a full picture of health. Given every other technology trend, they’ll probably only become smaller, sleeker, and less expensive as more big competitors jump into the fitness gadget game.
Health Trend #2: Meal Delivery Programs
In the past few years, companies offering to deliver low-calorie meals right to your door have sprung up all over the place. They tend to offer a variety of food that requires little to no effort on your part, and they often boast fresh, local ingredients or trained chefs on staff. The problem is that the fresher the ingredients, or the more specialized the diet, the more you pay. In fact, if you really expect farm-fresh or organic ingredients, you can expect to pay about $50 per day. For just one month’s worth of meals, that’s $1,500.
Of course, those high-end programs are not the ones you’d usually see on TV, marketed toward working folks. The more affordable diet meal delivery programs send mostly frozen meals and dry foods, such as baked goods and granola bars. These plans can be as cheap as $240 per month for a basic woman’s plan from the leading vendor, NutriSystem. However, what you make up for in dollars, you’ll lose in quality – most of the low-calorie staples have long ingredient lists and must be microwaved. And getting your five servings of healthy vegetables and fruits will be difficult with these meals. In fact, you’ll have to supplement your own since the meals focus on lowering calories, not packing in nutrients.
This diet trend may be as easy to use as they come, but that’s where the value ends. Most people wouldn’t enjoy eating microwaved food day-in and day-out, and if you want a truly healthy plan packed with nutrients, your bank account will suffer. If it’s the convenience that appeals to you, there may be a cheaper alternative out there. To save money and still eat healthy, check out meal planner websites that offer free or cheap meal recipes you prepare yourself. These offer time-saving weekly planners so you can eat healthy on a budget and still have time to spare.
Health Trend #3: Boutique Gyms
Highly specialized gyms started popping up around big cities years ago and have begun to spread in true franchise fashion. These gyms focus on a single activity, such as spinning, yoga or dance, and they’re just gaining momentum. They advertise a solution to your crummy, one-size-fits-all gym that isn’t making you any healthier, along with reserved spots for members in classes. In some ways, they have a point. Certain individuals need external direction and motivation to stick to a routine, so these gyms may seem worth the high cost of membership or classes. That cost: up to $30 per class or $150 per month spent on a single activity.
In the long run, paying more for a gym – no matter how many features it offers – probably won’t make you stick to the activity. Why is that? It’s for the same reason there are unused fitness machines in basements all across the country: Doing the same thing in the same environment all the time is boring. This leads to decreased enjoyment down the road and health value that will taper off. That’s why running and biking outdoors is often easier to stick to – there’s always a new route you can take to challenge yourself and change the scenery.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be left out of the conversation when everyone else is talking barre or CrossFit. Many boutique gyms offer a free first class, free guest days or reduced rates for groups if you can gather a couple friends to join you. If you really enjoy a class after trying it, don’t sign any contracts. Instead, opt for a drop-in rate, and supplement with a budget-friendly gym with $10 monthly dues like Planet Fitness or Youfit to keep your routine varied and interesting.