Fitness On A Budget – BearMoney Blog

BearMoney Team

BearMoney Team

BearMoney is the balanced finance blog for new and old Canadians alike. We are a team of people living international that research, write, and share

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Fitness and the Balanced Lifestyle

Fitness goals are part of any balanced lifestyle for a number of reasons. Firstly, your health is a valuable resource that is used in the achievement of every other target. Your mental and physical sharpness is integral to your success.

Second, safeguarding health is a core financial concern that is relevant over the entire course of your life. Hospital bills eat savings for breakfast.

Finally, fitness equals happiness. This might seem a bit redundant but given how much we struggle in our personal and professional lives, the endorphin boost from exercise can often help us get over the line. It can even open up new opportunities in life/business.

Taking a balanced approach to physical fitness is one way to achieve realistic goals while maintaining your momentum in other areas of your life. Research has shown that people can take unbalanced approaches to fitness/wellness when factoring in their employment and education situation. Achieving balance is about making sure that your stress is as low as possible and your fitness is as high as necessary.

Like everything on the internet, fitness is a giant maze of a topic with plenty of advice from well-meaning and well-informed people. Also within this maze are toxic personalities and ideals that can cause lasting harm. As always at BearMoney we recommend that you think mindfully and build your own pathway to success. So, what does it actually mean to be fit?

Disclaimer: You should consult your medical care providers before adopting any lifestyle changes that may impact your health, including those within this article.


What it means to be Fit

Fitness can be a confusing concept

Somehow fitness is both an abstract and concrete concept simultaneously. The person that jogs four times a week is fit, but so is the ultra-marathon runner. The only solid comparison is that both are fitter than the person on the couch.

Obviously this reality covers and incredibly broad range of ability and activities. What fitness means to you is going to be unique, but it will should fit within some general trends. For the benefit of this article we’re going to use the following markers of health : Body Mass Index (BMI)/Body Fat Percentage, cholesterol, liver function, heart rate, and last but not least, stress/sleep.

Some of these are monitored by your medical care provider, but a few are easily estimated at home and are the solid foundation on which your balanced fitness journey begins. It is worth remembering before we dive in that for our purposes, balanced means operating within general boundaries far away for extreme fitness or extreme unfitness.


You will see these two terms floating around the internet a lot especially when it comes to dieting. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) are measures of how much energy your body uses to survive and function day to day.

At the most basic, your BMR is how many calories you burn doing absolutely nothing and your TDEE is how many calories you burn when all of your activities are included.

In more specific terms;

-BMR Man = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5

-BMR Woman = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161


1. TDEE for a lightly active person = BMR X 1.375

2. TDEE for a regular exerciser = BMR X 1.425

3. TDEE for a highly active person* = BMR X 1.55

*Think a postman that hits the gym 5 days a week


If this sounds a bit confusing, take a look at our fitness calculator to get approximate numbers and recommendations for accuracy testing.

Once you have your TDEE, you have a general idea of what your body needs to keep going at current levels.

Adding/Gaining weight is a matter of increasing or decreasing your percentage calorie intake in line with the advice of your healthcare provider. At BearMoney we think that a balanced fitness approach never goes below 80% or above 120% of TDEE.

BMI and Body Fat Percentage

Body Mass Index, BMI, is one of the most popular measures of ‘healthy weight’ across the internet and media. It’s also pretty terrible at doing its job and needs to be taken with a big grain of salt.

BMI will give you a range between two dangers zones of 18.5 (below this you’re underweight) and 25 (above this you’re overweight). Obesity kicks in at BMIs over 30.

That means in the USA, over 40% of people have a BMI greater than 30 and are obese. The extra healthcare costs for these people is ~$1,400 a year each. So whether it’s your taxes or your hospital bill, fitness affects your financial potential too.

Once you have your BMI from our fitness calculator you can quickly find out general healthy range for your weight. But this will only tell half the story.

Your Body Fat Percentage (the percentage of you that is made of snickers) is a more accurate and important assessment of where you are on your fitness journey. It’s also a pain to measure accurately.

We recommend using the US Navy method which although old, is the most straightforward method. It’s possible to get a more accurate reading through services provided by your healthcare provider. Just bear in mind these can be expensive and not covered by insurance.

Underweight 15.9-19.9
Normal Weight 20-24.9
Overweight 25-29.9
Class 1 Obese 30-34.9
Class II Obese 35-39.9
Class III Obese >40
BMI Comparison Chart

General Health Markers

There are so many different markers of health that you can use to judge your fitness progress. It’s very important as above to monitor these with the help of your healthcare provider.

Normally your doctor will look at things such as blood pressure, resting heart rate, liver function, kidney function, and cholesterol.

While a lot of these can be positively affected by dietary and fitness changes they are more complex medical issues and possibly require individuals plans from your healthcare provider.

When you get your general health markers checked and are cleared to start a new exercise regime, it’s time to set balanced fitness goals.

What Should My Core Fitness Goals Be?

Fitness goals are unique to every person and should be mindfully set

Fitness goals are a very personal thing. In fact, they can be personal to the point where people refuse to share them with anybody, not even their family or personal trainer (if you’re lucky enough to have one).

Setting fitness goals is the second step of the fitness journey after your general health assessment. Getting this step right is just as important as the actual exercises themselves.

If you can’t follow through with your fitness plan you are risking ending up less fit and less happy than when you started. Therefore, it’s important to get even the most simple plan down on paper, thought through, and committed to before you lace up your sneakers.

Consider the following areas when setting up your fitness plan.

Realistic and Time-Limited

Realistic Weight Loss

Fitness is a process that is rooted in hard science. While it is true that we are all different, none of us disobey the laws of physics. Although your BMR can vary up to 30% in extreme circumstances, for the average person this is going to be at most a 750 calorie difference.

While that sounds substantial, for the majority of people the difference is going to be more similar to a candy bar a day, around 250 calories. So first the first dose of realism, a slow metabolism isn’t an excuse.

Diagnosed medical conditions aside, you can confidently establish your accurate TDEE within as little as 14 days. If you eat at TDEE for 14 days and track your weight you will be able to calculate your accurate TDEE based on if your weight increased, decreased, or stayed the same.

So, to set a realistic weight loss goal you can multiply your TDEE by 0.8 which for the average person will lose you up to 4lb a month. You can then simply count the number of months you need to reach your weight goal. The is a realistic and time-limited starting point for your goal

Realistic Muscle Gain

Muscle gain is a goal of many people. It can be functional, aesthetic, or a mixture of both. In terms of success, it’s definitely going to come a lot slower that fat loss, in fact it might even come with a fair amount of fat gain.

There are thousands of resources out there for creating a strength training plan such as the wildly popular strong lifts program. Whatever you choose it’s important to be realistic about you goals.

Depending on your status as a beginner, intermediate, or advanced exerciser, your results will vary. The bad news is that you’re looking at a really long term process. You can expect to add possibly 1-2 Lbs of muscle a month under ideal conditions. You’re also going to get at least a little bit of fat along with those bigger muscles.

It’s important therefore to set a realistic goal in a bracket of at least 3-6 months. Unless you can train multiple times a day you’re unlikely to have significant results before then.

Improve or Maintain Health Markers

This goal is pretty straightforward. You healthcare provider will give you an overall rundown of your current fitness and general health. Most of these can be improved or maintained through diet and exercise.

No fitness goal should leave your health markers worse off than they were before you started your journey. This sound obvious but many people overdo certain aspects of fitness and end up suffering health issues.

For this article, and fitness in general, the goal is to improve/maintain your cardiovascular health, and improve/maintain your body fat percentage in an acceptable range. You can add other goals as you want in terms of muscle mass, definition, personal best etc. but these are aesthetic and not functional.

Fun and Draggable

There are two parts to any successful fitness journey: having fun and maintaining discipline. Motivation is not going to be a useful tool to succeed in the goals. It will come and go.

You have to find something that you enjoy that requires minimal efforts to undertake. It is great if you love rock climbing, but if the closest venue is 1hr away from your home, it’s not going to sustainable long-term. At least, it can’t be the foundation of your fitness goals.

Fun: Make sure the activity is enjoyable on a good day. It doesn’t have to be the most exciting thing in the world but it does have to seem relatively effortless once you’ve established a positive rhythm. If you enjoy running on most days, you can consider it fun. It won’t be a great time every day but it should feel natural and stress free when you’re in the zone

Draggable: Make sure the activity is achievable on a bad day. Again, it’s doesn’t have to be triathlons or parkour just something that you can struggle through successfully when you’re in a bad mood. This aspect of your chosen activity will save your progress again and again over the course of your fitness journey.

So spend some time to figure out what the right activities are for you, from yoga to bouldering to biking.

Talking About Aesthetics

It would be a lie to say that aesthetics aren’t a factor in every fitness journey. In fact, when done properly the ‘looking good’ and the ‘feeling good’ become a unified process.

Of course we can always take things too far and an overfocus on aesthetics can cause problems that are just as serious as obesity. Keeping a balanced view of your ‘looking good goals’ is more difficult than general health and weight markers but it can be tracked.

The key is to establish as healthy a body image as possible for your overall fitness target. If you can find out healthy BMI and healthy body fat percentage for your situation then you can establish red lines for fitness.

This is going to be difficult as there is a very unhealthy atmosphere around fitness in society and on social media. One of the best ways to view your fitness journey is to set your aesthetic goal ‘within recommend ranges’. That simply means that whatever your looking good goal is, it has to match the feeling good goals set by your healthcare provider.

If you want to get to 10% body fat and put 2 inches on your biceps that’s fine, so long as your healthcare provider agrees and passes you fit to do so.

If you have been given a weight and body fat range and want abs then your goal becomes ‘how can I get abs while maintaining good health?’

Overall then, your fitness goal can be summed up in one sentence;

The level of physique that I am happy to maintain for life within measurably healthy ranges.

Fitness On A Budget?

The entire fitness industry makes their money by making you waste yours. Gym memberships are priced with the understanding to you’re unlikely to use them often enough to get value from them. Health supplements are as expensive as some medications despite many having no established scientific benefit .

Luckily, fitness on a budget is very doable. There a numerous resources out there for people who don’t even want to use equipment.

For most people however, the goals you want to achieve are going to require either spending some extra money or diverting money away from spending that isn’t helping your goals.

One area that many people don’t need to spend extra money is their food budget. It’s pretty easy to swap fatness for fitness.


It you are embarking on a fitness journey, your goal should be to spend 90% of your food budget on healthy foods* that meet your macronutrient goals.

There are plenty of ways to ensure that you get the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats in your diet. Check out our general food budget here for more info.

You should be able to fill your needs based on your budget if you shop smartly and look out for bargains. Plant proteins such as beans or tofu can be a great money saver, delivering more protein per $ spent than meat. Meat is however, a great source of protein and great to include in any diet.

*healthy food means food that is low in sugar, saturated fat, and that hasn’t gone through a lot of processing (e.g. prepacked lasagna) before you buy it.

To successfully implement the budget food approach, follow these steps;

  • Source a highly pure protein powder such as whey isolate – This will give you a meals worth of protein for about $1.50
  • Avoid protein bars – These are twice the price of powder and loaded with unneeded ingredients.
  • Make at least 1/3 of your protein plant based – Four meals worth of Tofu protein is approximately $5, potentially half the price of the equivalent meat protein.
  • Don’t consume more that 40g of protein per meal – Your body can only absorb so much protein at one time. To avoid wasting money, spread your protein throughout the day.
  • Make a meal plan and follow it. – Consistency is the key to both physical and financial fitness.
  • Just drink water, black coffee/tea – Seriously, ditch the liquid calories.

Of course, you can taper this to your own financial circumstances and dietary preferences so long as you meet your macronutrient goals with health, nutritious food (well, at least 9 days out of 10).

Calories In vs Calories Out – It is and isn’t that simple.

We covered this a bit above with regard to TDEE but it is worth going over the whole Calories-In Calories-Out or CICO rule again. Actually, it’s less of a rule than an immutable law of physics. To lose body weight you need to use more calories than you eat and drink.

The issue occurs either when people take a generalist approach to their TDEE or they misunderstand the difference between weight and fat. Misunderstanding of metabolism is probably the single biggest contributing factor to failure in reaching fitness goals.

We don’t want to go too far down the internet rabbit hole on this issue. What we will say is that you will most likely fall within the normal ranges for calorie requirements and your body will treat calories within the laws of physics.

So no special herbal teas, no fad diets, no fasting protocols or fake gluten free living.

Eat within your goals relative to your TDEE, try to hit your macros, and try to avoid overly-processed foods. You don’t need to apply any more detailed logic than this. If you take a balanced and planned approach you will avoid both changes to your metabolism and unnecessary fat gain. Don’t let debate around this issue distract you from following a sensible science-backed path.


There are so many different form of exercise that you can definitely find one suited to you. As above, if you’ve found a path to your goal that is realistic, fun, and ‘draggable’ you’ve made great progress.

The challenge is marrying your financial reality to your fitness aspirations. If you can’t be consistent you’ll never be fit. Most of us struggle with this in general so it’s very important to avoid easy mistakes that disadvantage you from the start.

We’ve put together a few fitness plans below to illustrate what approach you can take and where your level of investment is likely to get you. These plans assume that you already have access to a pair of trainers/running shoes. Most people have some form of these so it isn’t really something you should be especially budgeting for.

The $0 Down Fitness Plan

Purchase: If you can get free second-hand equipment take it, but otherwise, nothing.

Fitness Activity: Walking/Jogging, bodyweight fitness, swimming if you live near the sea/a lake.

Frequency: Up to 5 or 6 six days a week depending on fitness levels. One possible split is 3+3 alternating bodyweight and cardio sessions of 30-45 mins each.

Limitations: Your muscle growth will peak quite quickly

Good For: Absolute beginners, people with limited funds.

If your fitness plan is going to involve no spending it’s going to give you limited returns. However, these returns are not going to be as poor as social media might tell you. Decent results can be achieved using just your bodyweight and the environment around you. Bodyweight exercises are also quite easy to modify for people who might not be able to go through the full range of motion.

Generally these workout plans will involve a significant number of squats, lunges, press ups and dips. You will be able to scale your workout up quite quickly but you will also plateau early in terms of progress. Even so, this will be useful to maintain a decent standard of fitness.

The $100 Down Fitness Plan

Purchase: Trail Running Shoes, Yoga Mat, Exercise Bands

Fitness Activity: Walking/Jogging, Yoga, Band Training

Frequency: Up to 5 or 6 six days a week depending on fitness levels. One possible split is to do a 3+2 with three days band training and two days Jogging+Yoga. Alternatively you could do walking every day.

Limitations: Although you can get similar results to using free weights with bands, they will be less efficient in terms of muscle growth and have their own form requirements.

Good For: People who want to maintain an average physique, people who want to tone and increase flexibility.

Yoga and exercise bands are a strong combo for building good overall fitness and strength. While not as well liked as free weights, bands can give a serious workout and lead to decent muscle gain. Paired with yoga they can give serious muscle tone alongside a moderate amount of hypertrophy (muscle growth).

If you are tight for time or live in a small apartment, this plan can give you all the fitness tools you need to succeed. In addition, yoga is a phenomenal core workout and can even help your posture, sleep, and flexibility. Walking/Jogging are good fat burners or cardio workouts that you can do in your neighborhood.

The $200 Down Fitness Plan

Purchase: Trail Running Shoes, Free Weights

Fitness Activity: Jogging, Strength Training

Frequency: There are different strength training splits out there. Try to get at least one rest day per week. A possible split would be 3+2 with three full body workouts and two jogging days followed by a couple of rest days.

Limitations: Depending on the free weights purchased you may have a limit to muscle growth. However, this plan can theoretically meet any goal you have. There is an increased risk of injury vs the previous two plans however.

Good For: People that want to build mass, people who are already at an intermediate level of fitness.

The $500 + Down Fitness Plan

Purchase: Gym or Fitness Class Membership

Fitness Activity: As many as the gym/class provides. This plan is about getting access to multiple activities to keep your body guessing and results coming.

Frequency: Depending on your program/schedule between 3-6 days per week. The staff or instructors should provide you with a workable split when you sign up.

Limitations: You have to go to the gym or class. This is a much larger obstacle than just rolling out the yoga mat at home.

Good For: Everybody. With access to the right machines and fitness tools any goal can be reached. Also probably the best for people who are already fit and looking to go to intermediate-advanced fitness.

This is the most expensive plan on the list (we’ve left out home gyms because we think they’re a bit too much). However, it’s also the most versatile one. Joining a gym can open up multiple avenues of fitness including strength training, swimming, and rock climbing.

$ for $ it’s probably the most beneficial plan but it can also function as a future goal for those starting out. Doing bodyweight fitness and yoga at home until your results stall could help ease you into fitness and see if a gym membership is the right fit for you. Just make sure you shop around for good deals as fitness prices can get ridiculous, some places charge $200 a month!

Why Health Is A Core Part of Financial and Personal Growth

It might sound a bit odd at first, but physical health and financial health are very interdependent. Your energy levels and ability to avoid illness are key contributing factors to your success. Different fitness activities can even open up tremendous networking opportunities for your small business or personal finances.

Fitness goals are also generally straightforward and practicing your planning and discipline on your body first is going to reap benefits for achieving all your other goals.


Ok, some of you reading never want to exercise outside of your house, we can relate to that. For most of us however, we at least enjoy a little social interaction from time to time. Sports clubs and groups can be a great opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t normally encounter in your everyday life.

This can be great for networking as the broader a social circle you have the more access to have to different resources. In addition, the coordination that physical activity requires will teach you different social skills, even if it’s just to wipe down the squat rack!

Fitness can often be the most efficient networking/social activity. Given that it’s also incredibly productive for your life, this is a win-win.


We don’t need a source on this, people who are healthier tend to live longer. This means that if you adopt fitness as a core part of your growth strategy you are likely to have more time as well as more energy.

Getting sick less often or working longer while maintaining performance are solid advantages for both personal and professional growth. Of course, you will also theoretically have more years in your life to enjoy the results of all your growth.

Even in times of sickness, having a strong and healthy body will reduce negative impacts such as being bedridden or having to take time away from work. Fitness isn’t some magic shield but it will definitely help you more than you thought possible.

Confidence and Superficial Gains

Of course everybody has a bit of vanity when it comes to fitness. Some people set six-pack abs as a goal, others ultramarathons. Either way there’s a bit of your ego involved in reaching both. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, at least in terms of achieving goals.

It’s always possible to take ego too far but it is also a sad fact that superficial factors can have real world effects on your opportunities. In an ideal world this wouldn’t be the case but sadly we have to play the game as it stands now. People will treat you differently if you appear healthy versus if you appear unhealthy.

Now, the confidence boost from increasing your fitness is absolutely a positive result and that will definitely feed into a lot of your personal and business interactions. It can even make us do things we didn’t think we were capable of, just through that little boost of self-esteem.

So you will achieve some superficial benefits that if used properly help you toward your other goals. If you can stay grounded you can ride that wave all the way to where you want to go.


We’ve already talked about how exercise makes you happy earlier. Suffice to say that if you go on a successful fitness journey you should end up in a happier place. The role of happiness in our personal and professional success cannot be overstated.

Although a lot of people can muddle through and have some great results while not being happy, the power of happiness to provide motivation and resilience is well documented. Every entrepreneur is, at their heart, and optimist, as are most people who succeed in their interpersonal relationships.

There are many reasons to not be in a good mood these days, especially with the world as crazy as it is. So, gaining in your general happiness if going to give you an advantage over many other people. It will also allow you to help others if you want, or just to weather the storm a bit when things get tough.

Even at the farthest end of the spectrum, using fitness as a coping mechanism is the least bad option out there. 100%, healthy is happy.


Fitness can be a big maze of competing ideas, products, and services. This is a very sad state of affairs given the many benefits we can gain from successful fitness journeys. Like all journeys, this one starts with a single step, your nutrition.

Finding your calorie needs and adjusting your diet appropriately is going to help you focus and plan in a way that carries over into other areas of your life.

Selecting fitness spending and routines that match your situation will help turn you into a disciplined scheduler and financially savvy thinker

Leveraging your ‘gainz’ into social capital before using it to further your personal/financial goals is going to hone your soft skills to a high level.

Tying this all together, and meeting your idea of success is going to make you happy. Increasing your overall health markers and fitness levels is going to make you resilient. When you are both happy and resilient you’ll be ready for anything.

Let us know in the comments what fitness plan you follow!


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