Utkarsha Mayekar, 32, used to be a member of a gym. But she had to pay separately for an instructor and some of the allied facilities, such as the sauna and steam room.
"I ended up paying so much, and then the gym routine soon began to bore me," said the store manager. "I lost the motivation to drag myself there every day and eventually did not renew my membership."
Mayekar then discovered the pay-and-play option, where you use facilities at sports complexes - including badminton courts, tennis courts and swimming pools - and pay per hour instead of for a full, usually exorbitant membership.
"This is working much, much more for me," she said. "I'm not committed, so it doesn't feel like a chore."
Mayekar now uses the pool at BodyRhythm, a private club, in Churchgate, buying a Rs 500-day pass each time. "I end up going twice a week, swim and take aqua-aerobics lessons. It's actually cheaper than a membership," she said.
Mayekar is among a growing number of what aqua-aerobics trainer Deepali Jain calls "weekend warriors" - people who work demanding hours and only find the time to work out a couple of times a week, usually on the weekends.
"Not being bound to a particular membership but paying per hour for facilities also has the benefits of cross-training," said Jain. "You have the option of mixing your routine - go swimming for a few weeks, dancing for a few days, taking up badminton for a month - and exercising different muscles and ensuring that you are never bored."
While a gym workout, unless supervised, usually works out the same muscles over and over, experts say that wear and tear is less when playing a sport. You end up moving more muscles, having to run and bend, and addressing the muscles from different angles.
Take Mayank Mehta, a 28-year-old research analyst. He plays badminton regularly at the Mulund Gymkhana, where he pays Rs 200 per hour for the court, a cost that he splits with his badminton partner. "I feel really rejuvenated after each game, and I am glad I can pay per session, because the gymkhana membership costs run very high," he said. "Even if I play two or three times a week, my fitness requirements are met. I feel energetic, alert and focused."
The Mulund Gymkhana, like others across the city, offers facilities such as table tennis and badminton, with costs ranging from Rs 100 to 200 per court per hour. Other establishments, such as the YMCA, which has branches across the city, have economical short-term membership options. At the YMCA, for instance, you can be a member for eight months for just Rs 355, gaining access to the indoor and outdoor sports facilities.
"Any sport activity works as well on your body as a gym workout, if not better," said Payal Gidwani Tiwari, yoga trainer to Bollywood celebrities. "On a treadmill, you end up burning 150 to 300 calories in half an hour, while an intense sport like tennis can have you burn between 400 and 500 calories in the same time. The entire body is at work in a sport, so more energy is expended."
Remember, however, to warm up before you play. "Never start an intense cardio workout, as a sport is, on a cold body," said Atheya Shah, CEO of Gold's Gym.
"Spot jog for at least five minutes and then do some basic stretches to make your body supple and to get the blood circulation going," Shah recommended. "Ideally, you should be working out every alternate day, but if you only play a sport over the weekend, then try to supplement your workout by climbing the stairs or walking briskly, at least for short durations, through the week."