If you’re feeling pinched financially but want to get in shape, never fear. You don’t have to invest in a costly gym membership. You don’t need to buy the latest high-tech treadmill or elliptical machine for your home.
Walking. Walking for 30 minutes a day can help you lose weight, control your blood sugar, and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Plus, strolling through nature is relaxing. When it’s cold outside, try mall-walking or walking at a local indoor track. Can’t do 30 minutes? Three ten-minute walks per day work just as well.
Cost: You’ll want to invest in good walking shoes. These range from $60 to $120 at sporting goods stores. Running shoes work, too, but can be pricey. Good shoes will serve you well, but be sure to replace them every 400 miles or twice a year, whichever comes first.
Skipping rope. Jumping rope is a great high-intensity cardiovascular exercise. Skipping rope for just 10 minutes a day will burn calories and also improve your endurance. If your joints aren’t as young as they used to be or if you’ve had a joint injury, jumping rope won’t be for you. Look for low-impact aerobic exercise alternatives — there are plenty of them.
Cost: Classic, weighted or digital jump ropes will all do the trick. They cost very little — from about $7 to $20 in sporting goods stores or online.
Exercise balls. Using an exercise ball will help you keep your abdominals, back and hips strong. It can also help you improve your balance and agility. Use the exercise ball for stretching after workouts, too. You can find good exercise ball routines online.
Cost: Exercise balls come in different weights and materials. They run from about $8 to $50 at sporting goods stores. Printing out an online exercise ball routine will just cost you printer ink and paper.
Dumbbells. Dumbbells can help you gain strength or maintain it. Weights range from 1 to 50 pounds. Start with the weight range that works best for you. When you feel ready, increase the load. Be careful, though — using weights incorrectly can lead to injury.Use your weights in front of a mirror to check your posture. If you have questions, consult an exercise expert.
Cost: Depending on their weight and design, dumbbells range from $3 to $50 in stores. You can also find a reasonably priced set of small weights on a stand.
Callisthenics. Forget past memories of gym class and focus on how well you’ll tone your body with push-ups, crunches, squats, lunges and leg lifts.
Cost: This is the least expensive way to exercise. All you need are comfy workout clothes. You can lie on a clean towel or purchase a yoga matt for as little as $7 in stores.
Exercise DVDs. When it comes to video workouts, there’s something for everyone: Pilates, yoga, Zumba®, kickboxing, even “Bollywood” dance. Using an exercise or dance DVD is like taking your own private aerobics class. However, don’t overdo it.
Cost: Exercise DVDs cost very little, considering how often you can use them. Many DVDs can be purchased online for $6 to $20. Choose what you like and build up a collection, then vary your routine. Local libraries also carry a few choices to help you add to the variety without spending anything.
A word of caution
Before starting or drastically changing any exercise program, discuss your exercise plan with your doctor to make sure it is safe.
“Exercise is appropriate for just about anyone,” says Ms. Nettle. “However, depending on certain conditions, diseases or injuries, exercise may need to be modified. Exercise should not be painful. It is important to start slowly, and gradually build up intensity and duration, to prevent injury.”
If you experience any pain or unusual symptoms during exercise, stop the activity and call your doctor.
With help, you can find a safe, affordable, effective way to stay in shape.