Whether you need to lose weight or not, regular exercise is vital to building a healthy, strong body.
Unlike what constitutes a healthy diet, exercise is one of the few pieces of health advice everyone agrees on. This is because researchers have proven the health benefits of exercise time and again.
Regular aerobic activity and strength-building exercise not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, it also elevates mood, gives you greater energy, helps you sleep better, helps protect you against chronic diseases like diabetes, improves your mental function, and even leads to a better sex life.
That’s a pretty impressive list of benefits for two-and-a-half hours a week of moderate exercise. If money is tight, you may wonder how you’ll ever reap all of those rewards. What do you do if you can’t afford a gym membership and a personal trainer to get in shape?
To start reaping the rewards of a more active lifestyle, all you need is a decent pair of shoes and the ability to carve 30 minutes out of your day. Add an Internet connection and a library membership, and you’re on your way to better health and fitness.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you have any chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, schedule a physical examination with your primary doctor before beginning an exercise program. This is also advised if you have never engaged in regular exercise.
Your medical doctor should have a good idea of your limitations. He or she can also discuss with you some of the best types of exercise for your physical condition to help you achieve your goals safely.
It Starts with Your Feet
There is only one expense necessary to begin exercising regularly: shoes.
You don’t have to buy the latest pair of name brand shoes or spend hundreds of dollars. All you need is a quality pair of shoes that feel comfortable as soon as you try them on.
Today, designers create shoes for specific activities, increasing support or cushioning, or decreasing weight, for particular activities. A good starter shoe when you’re operating within a budget is either a cross-trainer or a running shoe, since they support most aerobic activities. If you plan to hike, though, look into trail shoes.
Whether you exercise on a budget or join a gym, you need shoes that support your feet, stand up to use, and protect you from injury.
Time to Get Moving
Many people assume that an exercise program requires a gym membership. But, did you know that more than two-thirds of gym memberships are NEVER used?
The good news is that you don’t need to belong to a gym to exercise. What you need is the willingness to get moving, specifically for 150 minutes each week. That’s 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per day, five days per week. Spending 30 minutes each day walking, jogging, or running is 100 percent cost free and helps you reach your health goals.
Get Creative in Your Own Home
If you look around your own home, you will find many items that you can incorporate into your exercise program for free.
- Stairs –Use them as part of your aerobic activity
- Full water bottles or milk jugs can be used as weights
- Jump ropes – Use as part of your aerobic activity or as a tool to stretch your legs
- Sports equipment: footballs, basketballs, baseballs, Frisbees, tennis balls and rackets
- Pillows can be used to squeeze or to stand on to improve your balance
Mixing it up Online
One of the quickest ways to kill any exercise routine is boredom.
If you have a smartphone, or Internet access at home, check out YouTube. It has an enormous variety of fitness videos suited to every fitness level at no cost to you.
YouTube also has many routines available: dance, aerobics, yoga, strength building, Pilates, tai chi, and more. This lets you experiment and try numerous things until you find the activities you love.
Getting Fit at the Library
If you don’t have a library membership, or haven’t been in a long time, you may not realize that the library has a pretty solid video collection. They usually have many fitness videos to choose from and try out.
Just like YouTube, borrowing videos from the library is free, and it gives you an opportunity to try a variety of programs until you find something you enjoy doing.
By trying them out for free, you can see whether yoga is the right program for you before going out to buy DVDs and a yoga mat.
Buying Used Equipment
Most people use their home exercise equipment about as often as they use their gym memberships. That means you have a good chance of finding practically new exercise equipment at a fraction of the cost.
You have a couple of options: used sporting goods stores and individuals selling through an online platform like Craigslist or OfferUp. Check out the equipment and make sure it works properly before purchasing.
If you want a better idea of what type of equipment to buy, consider purchasing a day pass at a gym. If they don’t offer one for free, you can usually get one for around $10, and it lets you try out the equipment to find something that you think will use.
You can also purchase less expensive items that will provide great benefit. For example, resistance bands can be found for $7 to $20, and can be used to exercise almost every muscle in your body. If you search on YouTube.com for “proper use of resistance bands”, you will find many videos of various exercises, for free. These videos will help teach you about technique, posture and how to get the most out of your workout with resistance bands.
Dumbbells and physioballs can be found at a reasonable price at secondhand sports equipment stores, less expensive retail stores, on Craigslist, or even at yard sales. Again, watching videos on YouTube can provide you with some variations to incorporate into your exercise routine.
Exercises that Don’t Require Equipment
There are some exercises that you can do that utilize your own bodyweight, and nothing else:
You can research online for variations of these exercises to get the result you are seeking. The internet is an enormous tool for free information regarding exercise.
The Buddy System
If you feel the need for motivation and can’t afford a personal trainer, look toward your friends and neighbors. There may be someone you know who has a similar interest. A friend can help by working out with you, discussing results, or coming up with ideas to make your workout more fun and productive. It can be motivating when you have someone else interested in your results, and may keep you from skipping your workouts.
No More Excuses
With a good pair of shoes, items around your house or a few inexpensive pieces of equipment, anyone can get fit and healthy without joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer. It all starts with a commitment to yourself. Remember, consistency is key.
We would like to thank Ashley Williams, PT, DPT, for providing her professional input for this Guide.