Exercise on the Cheap

by April Borbon

You want to get in shape but hesitate to spend money on a contract with a health club that, you know from past experience, you may not use. You want to improve your health, control your diabetes, lower your cholesterol or just be able to climb a flight of stairs without hyperventilating but many of the exercise programs you have found are expensive, time intensive or intimidating.

There are many ways of staying fit without spending a lot of money, making a huge commitment or strutting your spandex-clad, not-so-in-shape body in front of a group of gym regulars. The following are easy, inexpensive ideas for getting in shape.

Walking - You can walk in your neighborhood. You can walk to do errands. You can walk at the mall. You can walk with the Volksmarchers. It's as simple as slipping on a pair of shoes and starting.

Videos - Exercise videos are free to check out from the library, come in a multitude of levels and skill sets and can be done in the comfort of your own home. There are also many local, national and cable TV exercise shows on each day that you can follow along with at your own pace.

Stair climbing - You can dole out many hundreds of dollars for a top of the line stair climbing machine or you can do it the old fashioned way and climb real stairs. Many buildings, sports stadiums, outdoor parks and maybe even your own home have stairs that you can climb for free as many times as you want.

Weight lifting - Hand-held weights and the more elaborate weight benches with all the bells and whistles are fine. However, so is lifting canned goods, old (well sealed) milk containers (half or full gallon sized) filled with water or basically any other item that has some weight to it and a handle of some sort.

Jumping rope - Jump ropes are fairly inexpensive, or as they did in the "olden days," use a piece of rope.

Calisthenics - Decades ago, there was no such thing as spinning class, Bowflex and Treadclimbers. The military, Jack LaLanne and anyone else who wished to get into shape used plain old-fashioned calisthenics such as sit ups, push ups, squats, etc. All of these can be done in your own home at absolutely no cost.

A field - What can you do with a patch of grass or concrete? You can get your kids or a friend and play catch with a base ball, kick a soccer ball back and forth, toss around a football, or play tag. Anything that gets you moving and works up a sweat is exercise!

Play tennis or basketball - Many cities have free outdoor (and occasionally indoor) tennis and basketball courts for the public to use at no charge.

Ride a bike - The old bicycle you have gathering dust in your garage can be dusted off, tuned up and used to ride on quiet country roads, nature trails or any other out of door location that is reasonably safe for cyclists. Be sure and wear your helmet!

Swim, roller skate, or ice skate - Many communities have recreation centers that charge very little to use their pool and skating facilities. Check out their prices; often mornings or mid-week cost even less than the more popular weekend and evening sessions.

If you do want specialized exercise equipment, check the ads. Personally I placed a treadmill in front of my TV and walk while I watch TV. It's convenient, it's in my own home, and I can use it when I would otherwise be sitting on the couch. If you want to purchase a treadmill, stair climber or other spendy exercise item (especially if you are concerned you may not use it very much), check out the want ads, Freecycle or Craigslist. Let someone else pay full retail for the machine while you get a little used item (why else would they be selling it?) for pennies on the dollar.

Getting in shape and staying healthy doesn't have to be expensive. You can use the items you have on hand, along with a healthy dose of motivation, to lose weight, get healthy and put together a successful exercise program for next to nothing.

Take the Next Step

  • Start moving! What can you do to get the excerise you need?
  • Follow our readers tips on Exercise Alternatives.

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