PHYSICALLY AND FISCALLY FIT
Living a healthy lifestyle is important to many Americans. But at times it feels like a bragging contest — especially with the popularity of social media. Expensive activewear, matching sneakers, and pricey headphones get more attention than actually working out. Practical fitness enthusiasts can find cheaper alternatives to the pricey gear listed here.
SMART WATER BOTTLE
Staying hydrated is important during workouts, but do you really need a water bottle that electronically tracks H2O intake? The Hidrate Spark smart water bottle ($55 on Amazon) uses flashing lights to show progress toward a daily goal. Instead, use any well-made, BPA-free bottle, which can be found for $10 to $15 — or even less. Just be sure to refill as often as necessary to get enough water before, during, and after exercise.
Studies have found that toe shoes — the kind shaped like a human foot — aren't actually more beneficial than conventional, round-toe sneakers. Vibram USA, creator of FiveFingers running shoes, settled a class action lawsuit alleging it made false claims about the health benefits of its glove-like footwear. And considering a decent pair of athletic shoes can be found for as little as $40, there's little reason to opt for pricey toe shoes — some of which sell for more than $100.
HIGH-END YOGA MAT
Yogis don't need much to stay sturdy and comfortable. Yoga mats should be considered for their texture, grip (so sweaty hands and feet don't slide), thickness, and material. Brands such as Manduka and Amara carry mats for upward of $100, but you can buy a good-quality mat for less than $20. Gaiam's basic mats start at less than $20.
HIGH-PERFORMANCE BLUETOOTH EARBUDS
Bluetooth earbuds are convenient for workouts, with no wires to get tangled and a design less likely drop out during burpees. It's hard to discern any difference in audio quality over the whir of a treadmill, though, and it would be a shame to leave expensive earbuds behind in a gym locker. A wide variety of Bluetooth earbuds with good reviews can be found on Amazon for less than $25.
NAME-BRAND WORKOUT TOPS
The Lululemon Athletica and Michi sportswear lines have been all the rage, but their tops also cost as much as $200 apiece. If you're not obsessed with the "athleisure" fad, opt for practical workout shirts available at bargain prices. Discount retailers such as Old Navy, Target, Kmart, and Walmart offer affordable, moisture-wicking tops and tanks without hefty price tags.
A gym bag carries the essentials: sneakers, workout clothes, a water bottle, and toiletries. Luxury brands sell duffels for more than $100, but gym-goers who toss their bags around and bring them everywhere should consider cheaper options. Adidas and Nike sell inexpensive duffels for about $20 to $35. Older styles can be found for less than $20 on discount sites such as 6pm.com and eBags. More important than high-fashion design are features such as water-resistant material and plenty of compartments.
THIS YEAR'S SNEAKERS
Quality sneakers are crucial for workouts, because they support the feet and affect form and posture. But there's no need to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest and trendiest versions. Brand-name shoes with proper arch support in last year's colors and designs can found at a discount on many shoe sites. Also consider discount retailers such as Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, and outlet stores.
Adjustable weights are convenient because you can buy only one set and change the weight as you please. They're not cheap, though. A Bowflex dumbbell that adjusts from 10 to 90 pounds sells for just under $300 at Walmart. Individual dumbbells are the more sensible choice for most people. Lighter ones (5 to 15 pounds) start at a few dollars each. A no-cost option is to do exercises that use your body weight for resistance.
Fitbits are useful for tracking health stats and motivating users to work out, although you can't always trust the devices' accuracy and they often end up stuck in a drawer somewhere. All the more reason to stick with something basic. Good fitness trackers start at less than $60. Steer clear of branded Fitbit bracelets from the likes of Tory Burch that pump up the price without adding anything but style.
HOME TRAINING SYSTEM
Home training systems, such as Bowflex home gyms, Lynx Fitness boards, and Power Press push-up training systems from Maximum Fitness Gear, offer convenience at a steep price — and they may just wind up in a corner gathering dust. For every muscle group targeted by a special training system, there are calisthenics or body-weight movements that yield similar results. A few minutes of online research will generate plenty of free exercises to target the abs, arms, glutes, quads, and more.
PRICEY SPORTS BRAS
Some gym-goers sweat in sexy sports bras and crop tops rather than shirts. But luxury brands that feature details such as mesh, straps, zippers, and cut-outs can be overpriced — take the Michi Le Mans Bra ($160) — and often sacrifice function for fashion. Shoppers in need of support without extravagant pricing should check out brands such as C9 by Champion, Under Armour, and Jockey, which offer sports bras in a variety of fun styles and colors for $15 to $25.
PILATES REFORMER MACHINE
Pilates reformer classes go for more than $30 a pop, so a reformer machine for use at home can be tempting. But even refurbished or preowned machines can cost hundreds of dollars. Save money by practicing with free online Pilates videos, which incorporate light dumbbells and stretch bands for resistance.
DESIGNER BOXING KIT
No one needed a Chanel boxing kit with an extravagant $5,500 price tag. Those who plan to take up the hobby rather than just show off the equipment can spend thousands less on the essentials. Gloves, hand wraps, and mitts from brands such as Title and Everlast can be found on Amazon and from sports retailers for about $15 to $20.
LUXURY PUNCHING BAG
For something heavy to hit with the boxing gloves, a punching bag may be a worthy investment. A limited-edition Louis Vuitton punching bag designed by Karl Lagerfeld was priced at about $175,000 — an amount that would require a mortgage for most people. Respected alternatives from brands such as Everlast and Ringside Boxing are available online for less than $60. Accessories for hanging the bag start at about $10.
HIGH-FASHION WORKOUT LEGGINGS
Leggings aren't just for exercise anymore. Many people work out, hang out at home, run errands, and even go to work in leggings. Luxury brands such as Fendi sell leggings for hundreds of dollars. But comfy leggings can be found for cheap, whether from a fast-fashion brand such as Forever 21 for just a few dollars or from a big-box retailer such as Walmart ($15 for two).
These crazy-looking jumping shoes — running and working out in them is like being on a trampoline — cost between $120 and $300, not to mention the cost of buying a bag or belt to transport them. No matter the health benefit, the big question is whether you'll use them enough to warrant the initial expense, not to mention that it seems inevitable these high-impact devices will have to be repaired at some point.