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Can you Ditch the Gym Membership Expense and Stay in Shape?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- At an average cost of $42.55 per month according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, gym memberships don't come cheap. If you belong to a gym but are considering quitting and opting for jogging, cycling or other free fitness activities instead, experts say it can be done.

Although sweltering summers and frigid winters may send you running back to the gym as quickly as you left, thankfully many gyms allow memberships to be "suspended" rather than deactivated completely. We checked in with fitness and medical experts to find out when to walk away from the gym and when to keep riding yours out.

Today, about 50 million Americans are members at a gym facility or health club, according to the IHRSA. Inevitably, some of them start wondering what they could do with an extra $500 a year. When deactivating memberships, 44% of former members cite price as their main reason for leaving, and 49% of non-members say they exercise somewhere else for free or participate in an activity outside of the gym.

"You can absolutely get in a great workout anywhere you are," says Keri Lynn Ford, certified personal trainer and founder of IgniteGirls online fitness community. "A beach can provide sand or water resistance workouts, while an outdoor track can provide bleachers, distance or interval-based workouts."

To exercise outdoors frequently, however, often requires that you live in the "right" kind of place, says Dan Collins, spokesman for Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

"I'd say that it is not realistic to trade your gym membership in for the great outdoors unless you live in a place like Colorado because you can get fit riding horses or hiking in the mountains. A lot depends on where you live. Denver, yes. Detroit, maybe not so much," Collins says.

Unfortunately, modern heat indexes mean that working out outdoors is not always as blissful as it may sound, Collins cautions.

"For older folks especially, running on hot, hard asphalt is not as appealing as a nice treadmill in cool indoor temperatures while watching ESPN on a flatscreen," Collins says.

If your gym allows the temporary suspension or "freeze" of your membership for a few months, it can be a great way to save money, but it's not always realistic, Ford says. Especially during the summer months, as many people still prefer to workout indoors to escape the heat, UV rays, humidity or rain.

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