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Recession-proof your fitness resolutions

  • Story Highlights
  • Getting in shape doesn't take a lot of financial resources
  • Survey: Lower-priced gyms rated higher than expensive clubs in user satisfaction.
  • Most advertised fitness gadgets' instructions include diet and aerobic exercise
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By Linda Saether
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Are money worries making your get-in-shape resolution harder to achieve? Nothing like a tumbling stock market to make you reach for that extra slice of chocolate cake, right? But don't hang up the towel just yet. Fiscal fitness doesn't have to tank your physical fitness. There are ways to recession-proof your goal for a new you.

You don't have to join a fancy club to get an effective workout.

In fact a recent survey done by Consumer Reports National Research Center found that pricey gyms or trendy gadgets were not the answer for a fitter or firmer new you. The survey, of more than 10,000 Consumer Reports subscribers, clearly established that cost doesn't count when it comes to getting a better physique.

The survey showed that lower-priced community centers, YMCAs, YWCAs, schools and even office gyms rated higher in user satisfaction.

That came as a surprise to Jamie Hirsh, an associate editor with Consumer Reports. "The survey did find a discrepancy between independent chains, like YMCAs and community centers, and the big chains. We were expecting people to have problems with billing and contracts but it was compelling to see how local places beat out the larger health clubs" in a variety of areas, from staff to cleanliness.

The survey, which is not a national representation because its respondents were all Consumer Reports subscribers, does offer some insight into how a portion of the population thinks when it comes to working out. And the basic message is that getting fit doesn't have to break your bank.

The same group also looked at health gadgets, usually advertised on late-night television or in infomercials, and found that they aren't really necessary. "Overall a person can get the same results that these machines or gadgets could produce, just by doing some exercises using maybe some weights, a ball and a mat," Hirsh said.

The survey also found some pretty important details weren't mentioned in the ads. "A lot of what these products claim is weight loss," Hirsh said. " If you look at the fine print, almost all the products we tested referred to some sort of 'system.' Usually that 'system' was using the product but also following a diet and doing some sort of aerobic activity." Video Health for Her: More on inexpensive ways to get or stay fit. »

For those late-night shoppers hoping these devices would be the miracle ride to lean and mean, Hirsh has this dose of reality: " If you take diet out of the picture, to lose one pound of fat, the average (160-pound person) would need one to nine months" (of working out regularly) on almost all of the devices they tested. Hmmmm one pound --that's it?

But if money isn't the issue in keeping or obtaining a new, fitter you, what is?

While "there is no correlation between health and how much you spend, the biggest determining point is consistency," said Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise

That means you have to commit the time -- something a lot of us complain we just don't have. "The number one reason people give for not exercising," Dr. Bryant said, is, "they don't have the time." To that Bryant counters, "We just need to make people feel that exercising is necessary, because we all find time for things we feel are necessary."

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It's important to think of the big picture, Bryant said. "Exercise has so many side benefits that people need to remember they are not just getting a better toned body." Regular exercise, he said, "gives us more energy, helps us sleep better at night."

And in these turbulent financial times, it helps us lower our stress level. that is certainly one decline we can all be happy about. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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