12 Ways to Workout on the Cheap

I’ve done boot camp. I’ve joined a gym or two. I’m pretty committed when I join things—I like to get my money’s worth. But, I’ve found that the best workouts for me are those that I do at home or on my own.

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of people like the socialization and motivation that comes with belonging to a gym or going to a class. I like to take a yoga class once a week, but for everyday activity, I’m more likely to exercise when the time and place are convenient for me.

Jan practicing yoga on the cheap.

To help you tackle your fitness goals at little or no cost, I’ve compiled the following tips for working out on the cheap this year:

  1. Walk! For many years, walking has been my go-to exercise. When we lived in the country but on a busy highway, I sometimes drove to nearby less-trafficked neighborhoods to walk. Now, I live in a small village in Central New York. It’s a walker’s dream. There are sidewalks. I can stroll to a nearby park and take a trail by 9-Mile Creek. The sound of the rushing water is soothing; there’s green everywhere in the summer and the trees are leafed in a riot of color in the fall. (Recent research points out that being in nature is good for your brain and body.)

Since I got a FitBit, I’m adamant about getting in 10,000 steps a day. It motivates me to move and it’s good for maintaining a healthy weight and a good barometer for how active I’ve been during the day.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

When it’s too slippery and cold to walk outside, I’ve found other ways to step it up.

  1. Loop around the perimeter of a big box store such as Walmart, Target or Wegmans before you fill your cart.
  2. Check with your local school or community center. Our middle school gym has a track that’s available for local use on weekday evenings. If your local school has a pool, they may open hours to the public to swim for free. Many communities have rec centers where membership is free (especially for seniors) or costs less than a gym. 
  3. Take the stairs at work, at home, wherever. I recently found a portable “stair stepper” for $40; when my sister asked what I wanted for my birthday, it was on my doorstep in a few days.

Other Ways to Move It

  1. If your workplace has a fitness facility like mine does, don’t waste this great benefit. Come in early, stay late or work out during lunch time.
  2. Make chores fun. Put on your favorite playlist and step to the music as you prepare dinner or make dusting an opportunity to improve your dance moves. It will make the work go faster and doesn’t feel like exercise.
  3. Exercise bands are inexpensive, but learn how to use them properly. Try out this printable 20-minute workout.
  4. Jump rope. I have a few co-workers who swear by jumping rope. Joy, for example, was an avid jump roper as a kid. She’ll occasionally get out a jump rope when she’s looking for an alternative (very intense!) cardio workout. A simple challenge is to see how long you can jump rope without stopping or getting the rope tangled and then working towards beating your record time.

Online, Anytime

  1. Exercise videos. Believe it or not, I still use exercise DVDs. Before you laugh – I did find a bunch of DVDs at Goodwill for a few dollars each. YouTube also has an abundance of free exercise and instructional videos that you can stream. My co-worker recently stumbled upon a 9-minute “Tank Top Arms Workout” that she now regularly follows. You can subscribe to exercise channels on the internet, stream videos from Amazon Prime or pick them up on cable TV.
  2. You don’t need to buy a lot of fancy equipment to lift weights. Websites like WebMD.com show you routines where you can use your own body weight to strengthen your muscles—lunges, push-ups and double chair lifts are a few demonstrated with this no-gym workout. (I guess this is where I should include the part about checking with your doctor before you begin any strenuous exercise routine.)
  3. There’s an app for that. One of my work colleagues, Erika, likes to use free workout apps to track steps or log workouts. Here are some of her favorites:

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em

  1. Bite the bullet, bundle up and try a winter sport such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or ice skating that lets you enjoy nature while you get in a work-out. I’ve decided snowshoeing is more my speed. Investing in the equipment several years ago has paid off and is a sport I can do on my own or with my son or friends. You can snowshoe or cross-country ski for little or no cost at many parks. Don’t own your own equipment? Lots of places rent it.

Just Do It

The hard part of exercising is getting started. Commit to exercise for five or ten minutes a day, and I bet you’ll find yourself making it part of your daily routine.

Once you get in the habit of exercising, it becomes an important part of your life. I do my yoga routine either in the morning to start the day or after work to unwind. If skip it, I feel as if something’s missing. Although I like to walk before work, I often have to squeeze in a few minutes during my lunch break. After dinner is also a nice time. If you have someone to walk with to share your day, even better.

Erika Gruszewski

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