Financing Fitness

Financing Fitness

Long gone are the days of dirty gym floors and lacking equipment. The typical gym facilities of yesterday have transformed into a wide range of expansive, unique offerings that attract a wide variety of fitness levels, but a public exercise setting isn’t for everyone. Home gyms are becoming increasingly popular, especially for people who appreciate the privacy.

If a public-facing fitness experience is what you’re looking for, there are options for you, whether you want to belong to an intimate yoga studio or a major gym franchise with nationwide locations. However, if a more isolated exercise routine is your thing, home equipment is readily available across a range of price points.

As more people begin to invest in their health, though, it’s important to question how effective preferred methods are in comparison to how much they cost. We surveyed over 1,000 people who exercise regularly to find out which fitness plans may produce the most motivated exercise hobbyists.

Among our survey participants, who ranged from people working out for free in the great outdoors to those exercising in top-dollar fitness clubs, we found a vast array of crucial takeaways about their motivation and dedication. Keep reading to discover our full findings.

Connections Between Workout Spending and Satisfaction

The amount that someone spends on gym-related costs and the level of personal fulfillment that a person gains from exercising appeared to have a linear relationship: As someone’s personal spending increased, they were more likely to enjoy, be motivated during, and be confident in their fitness efforts.

Does money buy happiness when it comes to fitness?

Overall, our participants spent around $360 per year on gym membership fees, equating to $30 per month. Workout apparel and shoes racked up a $170 annual bill, on average. The highest spenders were more likely to be extremely motivated by their workouts, perhaps justifying their $500-plus investment with a commitment to both mental and physical health-related results.

Costly, trendy fitness facilities speak to millennials who see time and money spent on fitness as a direct investment in their personal health. This mentality also led to the rise of specialized gyms and popular brand names that approach wellness in the same light, such as Lululemon, whose cult-like following brought workout clothes out of the gym and into the daily lives of its customers.

Most Motivating Home Gym Equipment

When it came to people without gym memberships, respondents who worked out at home or outdoors turned to a variety of equipment types, such as exercise machines and handheld weights, to stay fit.

Money and motivation

Again, a direct correlation appeared between investment and fitness, this time within the relationship between the total cost of personal exercise equipment and overall levels of motivation and enjoyment: People who owned exercise bikes, treadmills, or ellipticals were among the most motivated, while those who had their own yoga mats or bicycles tended to have the most enjoyable workouts.

Saving money on gym memberships allows home exercise enthusiasts to direct their financial investment directly into their own equipment and allows for more flexibility when planning workouts. Since the rise of home fitness celebrities in the 1980s and the emergence of home-based exercise equipment prominently featured in infomercials, exercising at home has become easier than ever.

What’s Your Cost per Workout?

Fitness centers operate on a variety of pay scales, including all-in monthly membership dues, individual or unlimited class packages, or pay-per-class models. These packages can be steep, but the actual cost per workout totaled less than a cup of coffee from most well-known chains, even for the most elite fitness club dues.

Cost of a workout

The value of a fitness center membership is dependent on a member actually taking advantage of their dues. The more often someone goes to the gym, the cost of that membership per day will continue to drop, allowing members to get the most bang for their buck. Some fitness seekers opt to go back to the basics with high-value, low-cost (HVLC) gym models, which promote a no-frills approach to exercise.

Consistency is one of the most important aspects of fitness. It takes around 66 days to establish a routine, which can be the difference between sticking with fitness habits and giving up. But the type of fitness routine you establish can also impact your overall success in keeping consistent workouts. Those who went to locally owned gyms were most consistent when it came to their workouts: On average, we found it had been 5.1 months since they went a week without a workout.

Importance of Workout Environment

While it’s perfectly possible to enjoy fulfilling workouts in any gym type or setting, the environment of a workout can be just as important as the workout itself. Distractions, noise, and other outside factors can interrupt or inhibit a workout, which can decrease motivation. When it comes to a workout’s location, survey participants were most likely to feel extremely motivated and to report more regular gym visits when attending a specialized fitness studio.

Best workout locations for fitness motivation

A specialized fitness studio is a gym that has only one type of workout or class. For example, clubs that focus on fitness formats like yoga, Pilates, cycling, CrossFit, or barre. Specialization allows people to focus on their personal interests while also offering the opportunity to try something new, which can make workouts feel less like “work” and more enjoyable overall.

Those who took part in outdoor workouts were least likely to feel extreme motivation (16%). This may not be caused by the workout itself but by the difficulty of planning around inclement weather or extreme temperatures.

Striving Toward Fitness Success

Goal setting is extremely important when trying to establish a strong fitness routine. Whether you are looking to tone muscle or simply get in shape, crafting personalized goals can help get someone closer to their desired results. These goals don’t need to be lofty, unattainable dreams. In fact, starting with easier workout goals can be a more realistic way to get on track.

Achieving goals at the gym

People who spent the most on memberships were most likely to fully reach their fitness goals: Those respondents racked up an average of $46 per month on memberships. Those who hadn’t set any fitness goals in the last year spent half that amount at $23 a month on average.

Accountability from friends also seemed to be an important factor when aiming for and reaching fitness goals. Over 38% of those who worked out with friends reached or exceeded their most recent goal, as did the 37.5% who told people about their workout plans. Having a fitness community can push you further or help create more consistent workouts.

True Costs of Fitness

Being motivated to go to the gym can be tough, especially for someone with a full-time career or a family. Thus, it becomes key to craft a workout regimen that operates within your lifestyle, not against it. If a gym membership or specialized fitness club isn’t for you, perhaps working out at home is a feasible alternative.

Looking to bulk up your home gym? Do you know you want to commit to the fitness and wellness lifestyle, but you just aren’t sure where to begin? Head over to to discover why exercise bikes scored highest among the machines keeping people extremely motivated in their workouts. Check out our personalized buying guide to learn everything about the main types of stationary bikes and which ones can help bring your fitness goals to reality.


We surveyed 1,028 people who work out at least once per week. 433 did not have a gym membership, and 595 had a membership to a specialized fitness studio, a national gym chain or franchise, or a locally owned gym company. We grouped CrossFit-style gyms into specialized fitness studios since the members train in a specific fashion in a group format.

49.9% of participants were male, 49.8% were female, and less than 1% were nonbinary. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 82, with a mean of 38 and a standard deviation of 11.7.

The average gym membership cost was found by adding the monthly membership fees for each participant. If they were members of more than one gym, their fees were summed, then multiplied by 12 to represent an annual cost. To find the cost per workout, we divided the monthly gym membership fee by the typical number of workouts respondents completed each month.

We excluded outliers from all numerical survey data. Any number above or below three times the standard deviation plus the mean was excluded from the analysis.

We did not have validated scales for workout motivation, fitness confidence, or workout enjoyment, so we created our own. When asked about their level of motivation to work out, respondents chose from five options:

  • Not at all motivated
  • A little bit motivated
  • Somewhat motivated
  • Very motivated
  • Extremely motivated

When asked about their level of confidence in their physical fitness, respondents chose from five options:

  • Not at all confident
  • A little bit confident
  • Somewhat confident
  • Very confident
  • Extremely confident

When asked about how enjoyable their workouts were, respondents chose from five options:

  • Not at all enjoyable
  • A little bit enjoyable
  • Somewhat enjoyable
  • Very enjoyable
  • Extremely enjoyable

In some cases, we grouped answer options to maintain a quality sample size, such as “not at all motivated” and “a little bit motivated.”


This study was based largely on self-reported information from our participants, and as such, some of their responses may have been influenced by minimization, exaggeration, telescoping, and other issues. This study was based on means alone and is purely exploratory.

Fair Use Statement

Next time you find yourself making small talk in the locker room, bring up the results of this survey. Help inform your workout friends about popular workout types and let them know if their favorite workout methods are among the most trusted. Be sure to cite us by name when you mention our findings and only share them for noncommercial use, please.