PHYSICALLY AND FISCALLY FIT
Adopting a healthier lifestyle has become an important part of many Americans' lives. But at times it feels like a bragging contest -- especially with the popularity of social media. Expensive sportswear, matching sneakers, and pricey headphones are just a few examples of workout gear that's a waste of money. Sports enthusiasts looking to save may want to consider cheaper alternatives to the pricey gear listed here.
HIGH-END YOGA MAT
Yogis don't need much for practice, but a sturdy, comfortable yoga mat can improve performance. 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 good-quality mats can be bought for less than $20. Gaiam's basic mats start at $13.
Studies have found that wearing toe shoes -- the kind shaped like a human foot -- aren't actually more beneficial than conventional, round-toe sneakers. Vibram USA, creator of the 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.
SMART WATER BOTTLE
Staying hydrated is important during workouts, but do you really need a water bottle that electronically tracks H2O intake? The MyHydrate smart water bottle ($40) uses LEDs 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.
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.
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, 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.
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 waterproof 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 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 lifters can buy only one set and change the weight as they please. They're not cheap, though. A Bowflex dumbbell that adjusts from 10 to 90 pounds sells for $280 at Walmart. Individual dumbbells will be the more sensible choice for most users. Lighter ones (5 to 15 pounds) start at a few dollars each. A no-cost option is to use bodyweight for exercises.
Fitbits are useful for group challenges with friends and family, and for tracking health stats such as heart rate during a workout, although you can't always trust the devices' accuracy. All the more reason to stick with the basics. Good fitness trackers start at less than $50. Steer clear of branded Fitbit bracelets that pump up the price without adding anything but style.
HOME TRAINING SYSTEM
Home training systems, such as a Bowflex home gym, Lynx Fitness board, or Power Press push-up training system 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 bodyweight movements that yield similar results. A few minutes of online research will generate plenty of free exercises to target the back, 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 Stealth Bra ($165). 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
DESIGNER BOXING KIT
No one needed the Chanel boxing kit and its 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 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 a big-box retailer such as Walmart ($12 for two).
These crazy-looking jumping shoes -- running and working out in them is like always being on a trampoline -- will 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 they'll be used enough to warrant the initial expense, or enough to reach the inevitable point where the high-impact devices have to be repaired.