The internet is filled with so many conflicting health tips and healthy lifestyle advice articles that it can be hard to know who to listen to — or what stuff you really need to buy. The industry is dedicated to convincing you that the latest gadgets, contraptions and healthy diet plans are the key to achieving the perfect you. But most people are on a budget, so every splurge has to count.
Click through to find out cheap ways to invest in your health — and then check out where you should splurge.
1. A Fitness Tracker
Johns Hopkins cardiologist Seth Martin is just one of the many experts who touts the potential of fitness trackers as legitimate heart-healthy weight-loss tools and not just novelties for the fitness chic. In fact, they can help you get out in front of potential health problems before they get out of hand. If you don't plan to splurge on a gym membership, trackers and apps are nice replacements for that. Fitbit dominates the big, name-brand industry players, and the company has a product lineup for a range of budgets. In the middle is the Fitbit Charge 2, which measures your heart rate, fitness level, sleep and activity for about $150.
2. A High-Quality Exercise Mat
You don't need a gym membership to get in shape — but no matter how you choose to exercise, you'll eventually have to make contact with the ground. Good exercise mats are light, portable, strong and durable. They provide protection by diffusing impact and resist dirt and bacteria. By providing comfort, exercise mats let you focus on form instead of pain. There are specialty mats for disciplines such as Pilates and martial arts, but a good all-purpose fitness mat will span most genres. You can score a highly rated mat from GOYoga for around $18 on Amazon.
3. Mindfulness App Subscription
Business Insider recently profiled podcaster and author Tim Ferriss, whose book "Tribe of Mentors" revealed that a vastly disproportionate number of industry leaders meditate or pray in their daily lives. Sure, sitting quietly will do, but a good mindfulness app can help newbies integrate the practice into their routines and expose veterans of the practice to new techniques and emerging ideas.
Among the highest-rated apps is Calm, which you can dabble in for free. To unlock all the best stuff, however, the cost is $12.99 a month. If you don't mind paying upfront, a full year costs the equivalent of $4.99 a month, and $299.99 nets you lifetime access.
4. A Kettlebell
Shaped like cannonballs with handles, kettlebells have been used for centuries as fitness tools by everyone from martial arts masters to elite Russian military squads. Provided you're willing to put in the effort with this workout accessory investment, just one kettlebell can open the door to an essentially limitless combination of cardio, core, flexibility and strength training moves. You can score a standard 35-pound kettlebell for less than $45 on Amazon, but if you really want to make an impression, shop Onnit's line of Primal or Star Wars kettlebells.
5. Good Shoes
If you're serious about getting fit, footwear is not a place to cut corners — your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back all depend on a good set of kicks. You can find ways to save on the quality shoes you're buying, but GQ insists that one good pair of sneakers eliminates the need for a variety of sport-specific shoes. It recommends the Nike Metcon 3 and the Reebok Crossfit Nano 7, both of which retail for about $130.
6. An Organic Upgrade for the Dirty Dozen
You can't be healthy if you don't eat right, but with each trip to the store, shoppers are confronted with an avalanche of industry buzzwords like "superfoods," "whole foods," "natural" and, of course, "organic." In many cases, the organic label might not be worth the higher price tag, but the Environmental Working Group names 12 foods — called the Dirty Dozen — that are so commonly doused with so many pesticides that it's worth it to spend more on organic goods.
7. A Serious Mattress
Good health isn't possible without good sleep, though tens of millions of Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. A good mattress can't cure them all, but quality bedding can help countless people finally enjoy a good night's sleep. Mattress giant Casper launched a revolution in how mattresses are made, bought and sold, according to Inc. Casper's most popular and highly rated mattress will run you just shy of $1,000 for a queen-size.
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8. A Powerful Pillow
If you're not ready to splurge on a modern mattress from one of the many hip new startups disrupting the industry — don't worry. Most of those companies also sell pillows which often come with trial periods and warranties similar to what you get when purchasing their mattresses. A standard Casper pillow retails for just $55.
9. A Quality Blender
There's no shortage of cheap blenders that can do a fairly good job of whipping things together. But if you're serious about eating well, a good blender can open the door to a whole new world of healthy smoothies, shakes, sauces and dips, and it could even save you money in the long run. When it comes to blenders, Vitamix is among the priciest but is also among the most highly regarded brands — it's almost a religion to loyalists. The brand's three lines start at $249, $329 and $469.
10. A Multivitamin
Most Americans can — but generally don't — get most of the vitamins they need by eating healthy food, according to Consumer Reports. Whether your diet hasn't yet quite caught up to your goals or you have special nutritional needs — such as a pregnant woman or someone with osteoporosis — a multivitamin can help shore up your body's critical functions. MegaFood is highly rated, and the brand's men's and women's daily multivitamins run you about $0.47 per pill.
11. A Sports Shaker
More than three out of four Americans now take dietary supplements, many of which come in powdered form and need a healthy shaking to completely mix with liquid. To avoid chewing on gritty, chalky fitness drinks, invest in a good shaker. Among the most popular is the BlenderBottle, which you can pick up on Amazon for around $9.
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12. A Meal Delivery Service
Time crunches make it easy to justify cheating on your healthy diet. If your frantic schedule makes grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning a fantasy most nights, consider subscribing to a healthy meal delivery service, which takes the hassle out of eating right. One popular service, Nutropia, starts at about $29 a day for three meals and two snacks every 24 hours. If you still want to take time to cook, you can also consider a grocery delivery service to save time on the shopping.
Much more than just a luxurious pampering for the rich, massages are a form of alternative medicine that are shown to have a positive effect on anxiety, headaches, pain, insomnia, digestive issues and joint inflammation. If you have the means, the $60 it costs for the average one-hour massage might be well worth the hit to your wallet.
14. A Personal Trainer
You can get in the best shape of your life with little more than commitment and discipline — but a few sessions with a personal trainer can add rocket fuel to the process. Personal trainers are exactly that — personal. They can craft workouts and regimens specifically for you to meet your goals while inspiring you, holding you accountable, adding variety and making adjustments along the way. The average session will run you about $60 to $80 for an hour of self-improvement.
15. A Zen Retreat
Forgo the backyard barbecue one weekend and indulge yourself in a zen retreat instead. You'll be fully immersed in Eastern philosophy and healing, decompression, self-examination and spiritual renewal. Zen Mountain Monastery invites beginners and advanced practitioners alike to join them for an Introduction to Zen Training Weekend for just $250.
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