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10 Ways To Exercise On A Budget (And Not At The Gym)

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If you’re a fitness buff, you know working out can be awfully expensive. This is because even though there are cheap membership alternatives, it’s easy to get sucked into the sales pitches for higher-end gyms.

All that shiny equipment can be very seductive!

Not to mention crazy health club perks. One gym in Denver tries to lure customers in with luxurious whirlpools. And right next to them, in beautifully woven baskets, face cloths infused with Ravensara essential oil.

All chilled to perfection…like a fine wine, for a delicious sensory experience!

If you have the willpower to resist the seductive allure of these perks, you won’t have to spend money to get great workouts. This also means no more driving to the gym. And that means more time and money for you.

Because when it comes down to it, you don’t need fancy equipment, or a gym membership loaded with fancy amenities. There are hundreds of ways to exercise for no money whatsoever.

And if you’re reading this, frugality is something that’s dear to your heart, because that’s what this website is ALL about.

Here are some of the best low-cost gym alternatives:

1. Walking

Walking is a low-impact exercise that’s great for your heart.

If you do it briskly, it burns more calories than you might think. It’s also easy to do and can be done by anyone at any level of fitness. And, you can adjust your workout depending on your current fitness level.

The fitter you are, the faster your pace can be. Try to incorporate walking into your daily regimens.

For example, walk to work. Or, if you’re not quite ready to do that, hop off the bus a few stops early. Ask your buddy to take a power walk with you during your lunch hour.

Bring your canine friend out for an afternoon stroll when you get home. She’ll love that.

Go for longer walks on the weekends to enjoy the fresh air instead of being a couch potato. You can pick up a few groceries at the store while you’re out.

Always take the stairs instead of the elevator. Did you know climbing stairs burns more calories per minute than jogging? Taking the stairs whenever possible can make a HUGE difference in your health.

Or, walk to your favorite bookstore…if you can even find one these days.

In bad weather, try walking at the mall. The only trouble with malls is that they’re dying off just as fast as bookstores. The one near me just closed down for good.

If you can find one, malls are great places to walk. They provide a sheltered location free from bad drivers, free from bad weather, and free from bad air quality. There’re many benefits to walking in the mall, and you can walk alone or in a group.

Even if you arrive alone, you’ll soon meet other walkers. The support of others can keep you motivated.

It’s fun, as well as social.

Make sure that wherever you’re walking, you’re moving briskly enough to get a good workout. Start out at a moderate pace, and then go faster.  Regardless of how and where you do your walking, all you need to benefit from this activity is a good pair of shoes.

Try to keep increasing the amount of walking you do everyday until you get to a level that’ll keep you in tip-top shape.

2. Running

Running is better than almost any other exercise under the sun at keeping the pounds off.

Plus, you can do it anywhere. Many parks have beautifully scenic trails that are a joy to run on. And when classes aren’t in session, almost every high school in the country lets runners use their track for free.

There’s a Little League field a couple of miles away from me that doubles as a track. It’s always swarming with runners and walkers. A track is a great way to get into shape because you don’t have to risk running out in the streets, dodging all the crazy drivers.

To get a rocket boost of energy that’ll carry you through the rest of the day, try running early in the morning. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve accomplished your exercise goals…and did it so early.

Besides, if you wait until later in the day, you might be too tired to do anything else but couch surf.

3. Fitness Trails

Fitness trails were HUGE in the 1980s. If you don’t know what they are, they’re these wonderful little exercise stations.

Each exercise station has a piece of fitness equipment, complete with instructions on how to use it.

For example, you might see a pull-up bar where you can do chin-ups to pump up your biceps.  Or, benches at varying heights to do step ups to strengthen your legs. Fitness trails are a great way to get fresh air and beautiful outdoor scenery.

For a real challenge, give yourself a time limit.  And sprint as fast as you can between stations to increase your fitness gains.

You get an invigorating workout that’s also good for the soul. And of course, it doesn’t cost a cent. Fitness trails were at their greatest popularity in the 1980s. There was one near me that I liked to use.

It was so much fun being out there in the fresh air and sunshine, getting a great workout with all the fun stations.

Unfortunately, vandals ended up destroying it. I hope another one gets built in my area.

4. Mobile Apps

Fitness apps give you a great workout that’s free or low-cost. They’re great for losing weight. There’re hundreds of them out there, so narrowing them down to only the best is almost impossible.

Apps like the 30-Day Fitness Challenge or the 7 Minute Workout will get you fit as a proverbial fiddle in no time. And to use them, you don’t need much more than floor space.

There’s also Nike Training Club.

You get more 185 workouts for all levels, along with expert tips to help you maximize your fitness gains. You also get videos of Nike Master Trainers guiding you through every drill.

There’re short regimens for those who don’t have a lot of time in their busy schedules. And, they give you recommendations based on previous sessions.

Nike has another well-designed app, Nike Run Club. This app has all the tools you need to improve your running performance. Things like GPS tracking and customized coaching plans will level up your running game.

Freeletics is another app you don’t need equipment for. There are over 900 workout variations that only demand 10-30 minutes of your time.

5. Use Your Own Body Weight

Even without an app, you can do exercises where the only equipment is your own body weight.

You might think that strength training requires weights. The fact of the matter is the body itself is a spectacular piece of workout equipment.

By using your body and a little something called gravity, you can build muscle and burn off unwanted fat. There are many exercises of this type you can do to help you tone muscle. These include lunges, squats, push-ups, crunches, and jumping jacks.

6. Swimming

You and your family may love the water.

One thing you might not love is paying for a pool membership. You don’t need an Olympic-sized pool to get a good workout. From county and state parks to lakes and wide rivers, there are plenty of places to swim without having to pay a cent.

Take a dip in a community pool. Or, go for a refreshing swim at a local pond.

What’s great about swimming is that it’s one of the best low-impact workouts you can do. Water resistance builds muscles and strengthens the cardiovascular system. It provides a great, whole body workout, because nearly every muscle in your body is used.

If you don’t like swimming, try these aquatic exercises:

  1. BICEP CURL: Do a normal bicep curl using a weight. The resistance of the water will force you to work harder in both directions. This is especially true if you use a weight designed to be used in the pool like Trademark Innovations Aquatic Exercise Dumbbells. These dumbbells exercise your upper body, lower back, and abs.
  2. DOUBLE LEG LIFT: Leaning back on the pool edge, lower your legs straight down. Then, raise them up as high as you can, keeping your legs straight and together. By fighting your body’s natural buoyancy, you build muscle tone.
  3. HALF-SUSPENDED JUMPING JACK: Push your legs out like a regular jumping jack. Don’t let your feet touch bottom when you bring them back to the center.
  4. AQUATIC BICYCLE: Get in the water and pretend you’re bicycling. This exercise is great for your abs, shoulders, and legs. Rest your elbows on a pool noodle if you don’t have a pool edge to use.

7. Exercise Videos and TV Shows

You can use videos for more than making money online. You can also get some great workouts with them.

With videos, you can exercise in the privacy of your own home whenever you have free time. To stay motivated and get the most out of your workout, ask a friend to join you.

YouTube has lots of workout videos. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s some decidedly weird ones on the channel. For example, there’s Prancercise, a workout touted as “a springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, like a horse’s gait.”

Or, for a delightfully retro feel, find the “20 Minute Workout,” a staple on television in the 80s. These videos are almost hypnotic, with instructions delivered in a fun sing-song voice. It’s a blast working out with these leotard and headband-wearing relics of the 80s.

One of the quality channels is HASfit.

Six years ago, they set out on a mission to make the personal training experience available to everyone. They’ve created over 1,000 free full-length workouts. And, they’ve created routines for all fitness levels and goals.

They also have 30-90-day fitness and meal plans, a website that complements the channel, and a mobile app.

You can also borrow fitness DVDs from your local library. DVDs cover every type of workout available, from step aerobics to Tae Bo to yoga. You won’t get bored with your selections if you constantly swap them with friends.

8. Bicycling

As far as I’m concerned, the bicycle is one the greatest inventions to emerge from the mind of humankind. You can even use one to make money.

You can also use a bike to get a great workout while running errands. And if you buy a cargo bike, you can haul hundreds of pounds of stuff. With one of these bikes, you can even replace your car.

If you ride your bike to work, you’ll also be getting a great workout.

I used to do that. Even in the worst blizzard of the year, I would ride 4.8 miles to my job. I was a trouper, fanatical about saving money and the planet.

If you’re not quite ready to do that, then ride on one of the many rail trails that are popular all over the country. Biking on rail trails is a fun way to get your exercise in without having to contend with cars. Plus, the ground is level, so you don’t have to huff and puff up any hills.

One of the best is the Great Allegheny Passage in Cumberland, Maryland. This is a 150-mile crushed limestone trail. If you connect with the C&O Canal Towpath, you can ride all the way from Pittsburgh to D.C. without having to put up with the hassle of dodging cars.

Another good one is Katy Trail State Park. This 237.7 trail extends from Machens to Clinton, Missouri. It’s one of the longest trails in America and has lots of historical sites along its length. If you want to sample the amazing wines of the Missouri wine country, this is the trail for you.

9. Disc Golf

Disc golf has become popular over the years. It evolved from recreational frisbee to its current incarnation as a golf substitute. The first disc golf course was built in 1975. Now, there are thousands of disc golf courses all over the planet just waiting for you to try them.

Many public parks have them. If you play at a quick pace, you can get an amazing aerobic workout.

There’s a disc golf course about 4.5 miles away from me, at a place called Kirvin Park. This is a nine-hole course with a course map and a small box holding brochures explaining how to play the game.

The brochures explain the rules of disc golf so that newcomers can quickly learn how to play.

And it’s completely free. To play, participants complete a hole by throwing a disc from a tee area toward a target. Then, they throw again from the landing area of the disc until they reach the target. You keep score by adding up the number of throws a player makes. This is like par in regular golf.

And like regular golf, players try to complete the course in the lowest number of tries.

10. Exercising At Home

Why would you want to drive clear across town to get a gym workout, when working out at home is so easy to do?

Besides, gymtimidation can happen anywhere. Even at Planet Fitness.

You don’t need super-expensive gear or equipment either. By making the most with what you have, you can put together a gym at home that’s easy on your wallet.

In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there’s a training montage where Bruce Wayne pulls a tire, pushes a sled, and does squats…all in the privacy of his home gym. Batman may have cool gadgets and toys, but when it comes to his gym, he’s definitely low-tech.

If it’s good enough for Batman, it’s good enough for you!

With a home gym, you won’t have to waste gas money to cart your tired butt to and from a sweaty gym. And you don’t have to pay any stinkin’ membership fees either. Just set a timer for 20 minutes, get your workout in like a boss, and then move on to other things.

Exercising With Furniture

You have everything you need for working out in your house already.

Like what, you ask? Well, for starters, there’s the couch. Here’s a few ways to turn this piece of sedentary furniture into a fitness accessory:

  1. INCLINE PUSHUP: Get into a high-plank position by putting your hands on the couch. Make sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders. With elbows bent, move your chest towards the couch. Make sure you keep your body in a straight line. Once you touch the couch, push through your chest and arms and return to the starting position.
  2. TRICEPS DIP: Sit on the floor with your back against the long side of the couch. Place your hands behind you on the edge of the couch, hands spaced shoulder-width apart. With your legs straight out in front of you, push through your hands to straighten your arms. Lift your torso off the floor so your body forms a straight line. Pause for a few seconds, then lower to the starting position.
  3. FEET-ELEVATED GLUTE BRIDGE: Lie on your back perpendicular to the floor. Place your feet on the couch. With your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to raise your body until it forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Pause for a few seconds, then lower to start position.

Think of other ways to use your furniture to get in shape.

For example, you can use chairs to do leg lifts or calf raises. To do calf raises, stand next to a chair. Place one hand on the back of it for balance. Push through the balls of your feet to raise your heels from the floor as high as possible.

Pause for a few seconds, then lower to starting position.

A bed is another piece furniture you can use to exercise with. To do leg lifts, lie on the bed on your back so that your legs hang off the edge. Extend them straight up in the air so your body forms a L-shape.

Brace your core. Then, keeping your legs straight and together, slowly lower them until they are below the top of the bed. Then, squeeze your abs to raise them back to the starting position.

Other Ideas

Get a cheap exercise ball to add to your home gym. If you watch Portlandia, you might think that they’re only good for sitting on. This is what the mayor (played by Kyle MacLachlan) does on the show.

But they’re more than a trendy mayoral accessory. Exercise balls are excellent for core work, and you can use them for everything from glutes to arms. There are TONS of full-body workouts you can do with one.

You can pick up dumbbells for about $20 each new. Or, find them on Craigslist to get them even cheaper. Dumbbells are an excellent addition to your home gym because they’re one of the most versatile pieces of fitness equipment you’ll ever see.

You can also make your own weights by lifting canned goods or filling soda bottles with sand or water.  Get creative and look around your house for other things to use as weights.

Here’s a few other ways to exercise at home:

  • Get some resistance bands. You can buy these at Amazon for around ten dollars. They come in different tensile strengths, so you can customize your workout. Or, make resistance bands out of old nylons or tights.
  • Instead of a Stairmaster, run up and down your stairs as quickly as possible. Try to skip every other step on the way up.
  • Get a jump rope (which cost almost nothing) for a terrific and fun cardiovascular workout.
  • Buy a rowing exerciser on Amazon for under $10.
  • Make your own workout sled using rope, wood, and a tire.
  • Get a doorway chin-up bar for between $20 and $40. They work way more body parts than your arms.
  • Pick up a cheap exercise bike from Craigslist or a thrift shop. To make sure you exercise, only watch television while on your bike.

Final Word

So, there you have it.

I hope I convinced you that you don’t have to break the bank to get a great workout. There’re frugal ways to do everything under the sun…including exercising.

With all the terrific ways to get a free workout, you don’t need overpriced and sweaty gyms.

There’re so many ways to get into shape without breaking the bank. There’s fabulous frisbee golf and using your own body as exercise equipment. You can go retro by getting out on a fitness trail and working up a sweat out in a beautiful natural setting.

You can even take a page from Bruce Wayne and make your own hardcore gym at home.

Get fit, get muscular, and above all, have oodles of fun! As with other frugal activities, make a game out of it. Involve your friends and your relatives as you devise fun and creative ways to get into shape.

Pick one idea and get to it! Soon, you’ll be in the best shape of your life. And you’ll do it all without stepping into a germ-infested gym.

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