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6 Ways to Build a Better Body on a Budget

Lean times don't mean you have to skimp on fitness. Try these easy ideas for workouts on the cheap.
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WebMD Feature

Gym memberships, personal trainers, pricey equipment for the home gym -- all these expenses can make it tempting to use tough economic times as an excuse to avoid exercise. But the truth is you can build a better body on a budget. From simple workouts with no equipment to getting some of the benefits of a trainer for free by clicking a mouse, there are lots of ways to stay in shape and still save money.

To help point you in the right direction, fitness experts share advice on how to get fit for little or no money.

1. Schedule Your Workouts

When you've got a membership at a high-tech gym or a standing appointment with a personal trainer, the expense means you're less likely to skip workout time. But it's essential to approach your "no frills" workout with the same convictions.

Susie Shina, author of 60-Second Circuits: 1,000 Easy Exercise Combos You Can Do Anywhere says, "This means putting it on your schedule, making a specific time for when you're going to do your workout, and doing all you can to limit interruptions -- like turning off the phone, making sure the dog is walked before you start, and, if necessary, letting family members know that for 30 minutes or so, they are on their own."

You can also help keep your workout on track by laying out your exercise clothes the night before, Shina says. "This acts as a reminder that you don't want to skip out on your session."

Choosing a playlist of your favorite exercise songs and loading them into your mp3 player or creating a workout CD can also help. And timing the music to fit the length of your workout will help keep you on track for the whole routine.

"Motivation and music go hand in hand," Shina says. "So it's another way to ensure you stay motivated."

2. Choose Workouts That Work at Home

When you're starting a workout program, it can be hard to figure out what exercises you should be doing -- particularly if you don't have the budget for pricey equipment or personal training.

Charla McMillian, creator of FitBoot.com, a training program for fitness professionals, says all you really need to do is follow a few simple guidelines. "You have to ensure that all your major muscle groups are targeted at least once each week -- and no more than three times a week," McMillian says. "And your program has to include 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise three to five times a week."

And don't forget to stretch. Stretching helps with both strength and flexibility.

"Always begin every workout with a few simple stretches," says personal trainer Adrian Garce. "And always end with at least two to three minutes of stretching."

McMillian and Garce suggest the following basic, no-equipment-needed exercises to get you started:

  • Squats. Standing upright, feet wider than shoulders apart. With your arms extended forward or your hands on your hips for balance, squat down. Push your knees outward as you descend until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Continue pushing your knees outward as you stand.
  • Partial-body push-ups (with knees on the floor).
  • Modified jumping jacks. Instead of moving your arms over your head, do these while you press the palms of your hands together at chest level, holding your elbows out to make a straight line.
  • Chair crunches. Sit on a chair with your hands under your behind, arms straight, and fingers facing inward toward one another. Contract your pelvis and lower abs, and, keeping your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, lift your feet off the floor and tuck your knees in toward your chest while bending your upper body slightly toward your knees. Do as many as you can until you reach fatigue.
  • Chair dips. Place your hands on the side of the chair and wrap your fingers around the edge. Scoot forward until your bottom is on the edge of the chair and your arms are fully extended. Keep your feet about 3 inches apart with your legs extended, so your knees are at approximately a 150 degree angle with your heels grounded. With your elbows pointed back and tucked in tight alongside your body, do 15 to 20 dips, 3 seconds down and 1 second up. Keep your chest up and your shoulders back.
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