How to overcome financial barriers to active living

Years ago, my family was considered a low-income family. Things like gym memberships and extracurricular sports felt out of reach for us when we were struggling just to put food on the table.

However, I was determined to make it work. So with a little research and creativity, I made it possible for our family to add more physical activity into our life. Here’s how.

Research local programs with subsidies

One of the ways I wanted to add physical activity to my children’s lives was to put them in swimming lessons. The only problem? I couldn’t afford the price tag. That is, until I learned that the YMCA had a subsidy program for people who need it.

It was difficult at first to overcome my pride and apply. I didn’t need to be embarrassed though, because the YMCA was extremely helpful and understanding of our situation. It created this program to help people like us and was able to give us a family membership for a price we could afford.

This not only meant swimming lessons for my children, but also access to YMCA sports programs and its exercise equipment and fitness classes.

Choose inexpensive sports

We may not have been able to afford hockey or dance classes at that time, but we found that we could afford soccer, which had one of the cheapest registration fees. And it’s one that seems to be well-loved by a lot of kids.

Buy equipment secondhand

One of the best ways that I’ve been able to add physical activity to my life is by purchasing exercise equipment from secondhand sources. People are always getting rid of exercise equipment. They purchase it in hopes that they’ll follow through on their New Year’s resolutions, but after a few uses it sits there collecting dust and in the end they decide to sell it for a much lower price than you would pay for a brand-new one.

At one point I purchased a used treadmill for just $50. It didn’t have any bells or whistles, but it gave me what I needed—the opportunity to run indoors. Seven years later, that treadmill still works.

Explore the outdoors

Another easy way we’ve been active as a family without spending a lot is to go hiking. When the kids were little, we’d strap them in a jogger stroller and hit the trails. It became second nature to them, and over the years my young kids would have no problem walking five kilometres if we chose to.

To make it really fun for them, we started geocaching. If you haven’t heard of geocaching, it’s basically like a worldwide game of hide-and-seek outdoors where you use GPS coordinates to hide and find containers with fun little treasures.

If you have financial obstacles standing in the way, know that there are ways to overcome them. I’ve been there, too. But by taking advantage of what you have available to you, you’ll be more active before you know it.


Further reading:

How to find sports equipment on a budget

My kids’ favourite toy? An old plastic barrel. Seriously.

8 ways to keep your kids active on a budget

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