One of the first things to cut when we're struggling to pay the bills is often our gym membership or exercise classes.

But before you go cancelling your fitness regime, let me share a few cost-effective ways to keep up your workout resolutions with these money-saving strategies:

Wheel and deal at the gym

If you are at a gym or thinking of joining a new one, check them out thoroughly first. Many have great sign up specials or deals. Talk to friends and ask about what they pay or even check out Trade Me where you'll often find discounted gym memberships.

Once you've identified a few clubs in your price range that you like and know are convenient to your home or work, take a close look at membership options.

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Do you need the priciest membership that includes all the services and pool access? Or, if you really only plan to use the treadmill and some weight machines will the basic membership, which may be as low as $20 or $30 a month, suffice?

Many gyms offer a menu of services or options. Ask for some free passes to try gyms out at the times you would normally go. And when you've picked a favourite, don't sign up on the spot. Wait a few days and see if you get a call about even better rates. Determine if it's better for you to pay monthly or yearly (keeping in mind the latter won't be cost-effective if you stop going).

Also inquire about whether the joining fee is negotiable. If you're already a member of a gym and considering quitting due to cost, talk to the membership office to see what they can do to help keep your business.

Partner up

Personal training can cost $50 to $100, or more, for an hour. But if you're game for some personal training that's a little less personal, you can pair up with a partner or even a few friends and share the cost.

It's called "partner training" or "small group personal training" and it's popularity is on the rise. A survey of more than 900 personal trainers showed that 84 per cent of respondents offer partner training where two clients share the session. And 49 per cent offered small group training with three to five clients. If the buddy system isn't your style, ask about personal training specials. Often personal trainers can offer packages or discounted sessions if you commit to a program.

Home buddy workouts

This is a great idea if you have friends who want to work out but are deterred by signing on to a pricey membership deal. If one of you has a little space in the garage or inside, think about creating your own group gym.

Purchase Swiss balls, mats, skipping ropes, some weights and perhaps a bench or box and you're away. You could pick these items up from Trade Me or even stores such as The Warehouse for next to nothing. If you need help with a set-up and exercise routines, hire a mobile personal trainer for a couple of sessions. You can split the cost between your group and ask the trainer to help you get started with some exercise programs designed around the equipment you have and your groups goals.

Exercise that doesn't cost anything

With this list, there's no reason not to keep up your exercise program.

Mall walking, beach walking, window shopping
Jogging, stair climbinhg, hill sprints
Hiking
Ocean swims
Circuit training in the park
Frisbee / basketball
Kite flying
Dancing to your own tunes
Skipping
Gardening / lawn mowing