Frugal Ways to Get and Stay in Shape

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For most people getting or staying in shape brings about connotations of joining a gym, getting a trainer or going on some new fad diet. This can all be quite expensive and act as a deterrent to people who are on a tight budget and don’t want to spend on such luxuries. However getting fit and staying healthy has been shown not only to be good for our overall well-being, but even our finances. Luckily you don’t have to spend big bucks to get and stay fit. Here are TEN frugal fitness ways and ideas that you can incorporate into and around your everyday life that will keep you motivated without blowing your budget.

1. Not sure what exercises to do or how to do them. Instead of hiring a personal trainer or joining expensive group classes, check out exercise videos from your local library. Most have a decent collection and if even they are dated, the basic and most beneficial exercises haven’t changed much in the last 30 years. Check out a different exercise DVD or tape each week, and you’ll never get bored with your fitness routine. You can even find free exercise programs on TV to record. Turn time in front of the TV into workout time by following along with one of the many exercise programs on TV. Even public television has exercise programs, so lack of cable is no excuse! (Cost = $0, assuming no late returns)

2. Take Steps Instead of the Elevator. I am sure you have heard this tip before, but most people forget it because it is too difficult or use the old “I don’t want to sweat at work” excuse. However, this is a very effective exercise that can be incorporated into most people’s lives. Climbing one level of stairs burns as much calories as walking 5 times that distance. So skip the elevator and head for those stairs (going up!).

3. Cleaning your House isn’t work; it’s exercise. Get out those cleaning supplies; then, scrub and vacuum your way to a more fit you. The pay off: A 150-pound person can expect to burn 216 calories with 30 minutes of housework. Also, like me if you get a cleaner, this can save you $65 per week. So get fitter and save money. A great combination.

4. Walk away the pounds. The simplest way to stay in shape. We all do this everyday, but not nearly enough. Most experts say you should walk 1-2 miles per day to stay healthy and at a brisk pace. The best bet to track this is to buy a pedometer (Cost ~ $25) and aim to walk 10,000 steps every day. One way to get some walking in your daily life, if you mostly drive to work and other places, is to park your car a couple of blocks away from where you normally would, and then walk that extra distance. Or, in a garage park it at the lowest or highest level and then walk up or down respectively. This will force you to walk a bit and who knows, you may save a bit of money on gas as well.

5. Seek Out Used Equipment. If you do want to use weight lifting or other fitness equipment, then don’t buy retail. Check with friends and family who probably have unused or stored exercise equipment they don’t want anymore (most of us do). You can also check out community sites like Freecycle and Craigslist, for heavily discounted or even free equipment. There are two pieces of exercise equipment I recommend is to get for your home based on personal experience. One is an exercise ball (Cost ~ $25 to $40). This is best piece of exercise equipment if you have a bad back like me. You can also use it work on almost all “core” exercises. The second one is a jump rope (Cost ~ $10) for your cardio exercise needs. I used to have this as a kid but hadn’t used it in years until recently. It is now making a resurgence in gyms and fitness guides as a 10 minute daily jump rope/skipping routine is equivalent to walking for 30 to 40 minutes. Saves time and you can do it indoors.

6. Avoid Junk Food and Shop Smart. Eating out and having junk food while you’re busy or traveling is one of the main reasons for getting unhealthy. You can kid yourself that it’s cheaper than real food (granted sometimes it might be) but over the long term the costs to your health and savings will be much more. With some planning you can transform your diet to include mostly healthy foods. For example, look at the grocery stores flyers you receive in the mail or newspaper and generally plan out each meal for the week. Cut or get coupons online for the healthy items so you save money on what you buy. Grocery stores that I like include Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, which often have samplers of their healthy food items in case you are looking for ideas. Go to the grocery store when you ARE NOT hungry and earlier in the morning to save on purchasing those unneeded impulse buys.

7. Take advantage of local parks and community recreation programs. Check with your local center (you can search for them on-line) to find out what programs they have to offer. This could range from low-cost exercise and wellness classes to free gym access. Best of all you could meet other people in the same boat as you, looking to get fit and healthy.

8. Following on from the above point you can also use the Internet to help find fitness clubs or groups in your local area. For example: Google search running clubs in your area and you will find various clubs that are free or little cost. This way you will save while also keeping the motivation with the group camaraderie. I have used this to join a local tennis group where we play a doubles competition once a week – great fun and good exercise.

9. Turn on Some Music and Dance. Grab your favorite music or turn on a TV music channel and get your body in motion. Dancing is great exercise (how many overweight dancers have you seen?) – and it doesn’t cost a dime. Get your kids involved and make it a family dance affair. It also helps to get the little ones really tired and off to bed early!

10. Got little kids? Well then put them in the stroller and take them for a walk. If it is raining and cold, walk indoors in places like malls. Form a mothers (or parents) group to go walking – you will be surprised what a response you will get to this. You can place an ad at Craigslist or local community centers to start a walking mothers group.

With summer upon us, now is as good a time as any to start focusing on your health if you slipped over the last few months (or years!). Use the above tips to jump start your road to better health, wealth and happiness. Make sure you track your progress as well by keeping a plan and set targets on what you want to achieve. Write them down and you should only have 3-5 fitness goals at most. Keep them simple and time bound as well. For example, Lose 10 pounds by the end of August. Or, be able to walk 2 miles in less than 20 minutes by October. This keeps you motivated and accountable. The reward is a healthier and better looking you.

This is the second post in the monthly “Frugal ways to…” series. The first article in the series was “Frugal ways to keep your home safe”. 

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