12 Ways to Improve Fitness on a Tight Budget

by Karen Kuebler


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Have you ever felt frustrated because you haven't been able to stick to a regular fitness program, but you know that it's important in order to enjoy a better quality of life? I've often been disappointed in myself for not sticking to my exercise program for one reason or another. It takes commitment to stay dedicated and to keep your self motivated.

Some people enjoy the convenience of a gym membership, but many find the monthly fees too expensive and cost prohibitive. Even more frustrating is paying the monthly fees and then not getting to the gym to profit from your investment! I have found many ways to achieve the benefits of exercising without having to spend a lot of money.

Following are several cost-effective ideas to get you moving and enjoying the benefits of a regular exercise plan. As your body slims down, your bank account will grow!

  1. Walking is one of the best all around exercises you can do. It doesn't strain or injure joints, and it can be done anywhere. If you are bored walking in the same neighborhood day after day, drive to new areas to liven up your routine. While you are walking in new neighborhoods, look around and gather free ideas for landscaping and improving the curb appeal of your home. Select areas with some hills to increase your aerobic walking.

  2. If you have young children, don't use that as an excuse not to exercise. If they are small, pushing a stroller while you walk will give you an even more strenuous workout. If they are toddlers, or older, they have the energy to walk faster than you! Use their energy to help you walk faster. You can also use this time as quality visiting time with your children.

  3. If you don't have a dog of your own to walk, offer to walk your neighbors' dogs. Maybe someone is too elderly to take their dog for a walk, or they are working long hours, or recovering from surgery. Or, maybe they just don't like to walk! You'll not only be doing a good deed, but usually the dog will keep you walking at a faster pace. Get creative about marketing this idea, and walk others' dogs for a small side income!

  4. Select activities you enjoy and derive a double benefit from exercise. Do you enjoy playing tennis, volleyball, or basketball? Buy the equipment for these activities at garage sales or thrift stores. Enlist a friend or spouse to be your partner. Here's another way to create some quality time together while enjoying the benefits of exercise. Use the facilities available at community centers or local schools.

  5. Combine exercise with a favorite hobby such as hiking, photography, rock collecting or gardening. Early morning and late afternoon are the perfect time of day for taking beautiful photographs. Gardening is an excellent exercise for toning muscles. Hiking provides you with an opportunity to explore new places while getting fit at the same time. Using a hobby is a wonderfully motivating technique to get you off the couch and enjoying exercise at the same time.

  6. Join a walking club or hiking club in your community. You'll not only make new friends, but you will also find the buddy system to be motivational.

  7. Buy a jump rope for a couple of dollars and use that intermittently throughout the day to work in some aerobic exercise. It only takes a couple of minutes of jumping rope to get your heart rate up and increase your metabolism for several hours. Use other opportunities throughout the day to increase your exercise. Take the stairs whenever you can, walk around the block during a coffee or lunch break, or park your car a few blocks from your destination so you can walk.

  8. Keep track of your blood pressure regularly without purchasing expensive equipment. Check it whenever you are visiting a store with a machine. Carry a little record chart to record the results. You will have a thorough record to share with your Doctor, providing valuable information, whenever you go for a visit.

  9. During inclement weather, take advantage of your local mall for brisk walking. Take the stairs several times to get the strength building you would get from walking hills outdoors. Just don't stop at the food court to buy a treat, or get sidetracked spending money in the shops!

  10. If you are fortunate to work at a company with exercise facilities, take advantage of that benefit. Membership dues are generally very low, and often companies will provide a discount on health insurance premiums if you are involved in an active wellness program. The convenience of having the facilities at work makes it much easier to work fitness into your busy schedule.

  11. Check out aerobics and yoga videos from your library for indoor workouts to conveniently fit your schedule. Alternate different videos every couple of weeks and you will find yourself with fresh new workouts that won't grow old and boring. If you discover certain workout tapes to be especially effective and enjoyable, check eBay or Half.com to purchase a used copy for a few dollars.

  12. If you live near a lake or beach, take advantage of the beautiful scenery while exercising. Check out hiking trails in nearby areas. Combining your exercise with the beauty of nature might even make you forget you are working out!

Making an exercise routine a regular part of your life is really all about making it a habit. I've heard it said that if you repeat a behavior for 21 days, it will become a habit. Personally, I think some habits take much longer to develop the commitment. In the words of Emerson, "That which we persist in doing becomes easier; not that the nature of the thing has changed, but our ability to do has increased."

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