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Quick Tips: Getting in Shape Without Spending Money - Get started

When you stay active, you feel better and have more energy for work and leisure time. You're more able to do the things you enjoy, like playing with children, gardening, dancing, or biking.

Staying fit helps you sleep better, handle stress better, and keep your mind sharp. It's good for your heart, lungs, bones, and joints. And it lowers your risk for heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers.

And although it's easy to spend a lot of money on sports and activities that help keep you in shape, it's just as easy to get into shape and stay there without spending any money at all.

Remember to work on all three types of fitness: flexibility, muscle strength, and aerobic fitness.

Flexibility

  • Warm up your muscles for 5 to 10 minutes before you stretch them. Warm up by doing aerobic activity such as walking or jogging.
  • Stretch all your major groups of muscles. These include the muscles of your arms, your back, your hips, the front and back of your thighs, and your calves.
  • Stretch slowly and regularly to help yourself be more flexible. Combining stretching with other fitness activities is best.
  • Try to hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Do some stretches first thing in the morning.
  • Take a "stretch break" instead of a coffee break at work.
  • Try activities that include stretching, such as dance, martial arts (aikido or karate), tai chi, or yoga.

Muscle fitness

  • Do housework and yard work on a regular basis: Scrub the bathtub, wash walls, till the garden, or pull weeds.
  • Do basic muscle-conditioning exercises such as push-ups, leg lifts, and other familiar exercises.
  • Try muscle-strengthening exercises using weights. You can use cans of food instead of buying dumbbells.

Aerobic fitness

Experts say to do either of these things:

  • Moderate activity for at least 2½ hours a week. Moderate activity means things like brisk walking, brisk cycling, or shooting baskets. But any activities—including daily chores—that raise your heart rate and increase your breathing can be included.
  • Vigorous activity for at least 1¼ hours a week. Vigorous activity means things like jogging, cycling fast, or playing a basketball game.
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