Tight budgets are no excuse to let yourself get flabby. Sure, a pricey gym membership may be something you don’t want to spring for right now. And home exercise equipment with all the bells and whistles may be out of the question. Luckily, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to exercise. Some won’t even cost you a thin dime.
WebMD turned to three respected exercise experts: Steven Blair, PhD, at the University of South Carolina, Jennifer Huberty, PhD, at the University of Nebraska, and Andrea Dunn, PhD, at Klein Buendal in Colorado. Here’s what they recommend:
It may be child’s play, but jumping rope offers an unusually complete workout. It improves aerobic fitness at the same time that it strengthens legs, buttocks, arms, and shoulders. No wonder many boxers, wrestlers, and other athletes use jump ropes to train. Jump ropes are easy to pack. Basic jump rope: under $10.
They’re cheap, portable, and can be used to give virtually every muscle in your body an intense workout. A vigorous workout also burns calories, which can help with weight loss. A good set of bands starts at about $10. Most come with a basic set of instructions.
Having trouble motivating yourself to take a brisk walk every day? Studies show that step counters, or pedometers, help inspire people to be more active. Many versions are available, from basic ones that simply tally up steps to fancier models you can hook up to your computer to keep track of your progress over time. Basic step counter: $20 to $30.
A pair of hand weights -- also known as dumbbells -- offers a great upper-body strengthening workout. Another option: use everyday weighted objects you can easily grasp in each hand, such as a water bottle, socks filled with dried beans or sand, or a bag of rice. Basic hand weights: $15.
If you do yoga at home, you probably already own one. Even if yoga isn’t your thing, mats still come in handy for doing basic calisthenics such as sit-ups, push-ups, deep knee bends, and other exercises that use body weight -- and gravity -- to strengthen muscles. Jogging in place or doing jumping jacks add aerobics to your routine and burn calories. (For example, 10 minutes of vigorous jumping jacks burns about 100 calories, assuming a body weight of about 155 pounds.) Yoga mat: $15-$20.
About the size of basketballs, medicine balls are weighted and can be used to add intensity to a basic set of floor exercises. You can squeeze a medicine ball between your knees while doing reverse curls to strengthen abdominals, for example, or hold it above your head while doing lateral flexes to tighten up oblique muscles. Most come with instructions for a set of basic exercises. Medicine ball: About $20.
Big enough to sit on, stability balls offer another great way to add intensity to floor workouts. Because the ball is wobbly, your muscles have to work to help you keep your balance. The more muscles are activated, the more complete your workout. Stability balls are especially good for working out abdominal and back muscles. Stability ball: $10 to $20.
Walking or Running Shoes
If you love to walk or jog, decent shoes are critical. Comfort is the most important criteria. When you shop for shoes, try the pair on and take the time to walk around the store a few times to make sure you get plenty of foot support. Shoes should be snug without rubbing your feet the wrong way. Shoes: Typically $40 to $120.
Fitness is big business these days. That means celebrities, exercise gurus, and former athletes are all churning out exercise videos -- everything from George Foreman’s “Walk It Off, George!” to “Box Out -- the New Way to Exercise With Sugar Ray Robinson.” Fitness videos cost $10 to $20 retail. Used exercise videos show up in plenty of yard sales and flea markets for a fraction of that. Many are also available at local libraries or from Netflix.
Walking up and down stairs offers as good a workout as a fancy stair machine -- at no cost. If you live or work in a building with stairs between floors, use them for your gym. Or find a building or park nearby with steps you can use. Another option if you’d rather not exercise in public: buy a step platform, just like the ones used in step classes at the gym. Exercise videos featuring step platforms are available. Cost of a step platform: $100. Cost of a staircase: Free.