Using free calisthenics and cardio

Replacing Gym Membership Fees with Free Exercises

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

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You can replace hefty gym membership fees. In fact, you have a "gym" available anytime you want one: your own body. Calisthenics can replace dumbbells and weight machines. Round out your workout with cardiovascular exercise, also sans membership fees.

Gym class calisthenics use your body as the weight. The four-point jumping burpee provides one of the best examples. Plus, if you keep a brisk, steady pace, it's aerobic, since it raises your heart rate.

After warming up your muscles with walking and gentle stretching, stand with your feet shoulder's width apart, facing a step 12 inches away. (1) Drop into a squat with your palms on the floor, shoulder's width apart. (2) Kick your feet back so you're in a push-up position, body straight. Perform a push-up. (3) Return your feet to the squat. (4) Vault up from the squat position, jumping onto the step. If you don't have a step available, jump forward a couple feet. Perform as many burpees as you can while maintaining good form. That comprises one set. Rest for the half number of the set in seconds, so if you perform 30 burpees, rest 15 seconds between sets. Perform three sets and you have a good workout.

If you want to increase the difficulty level, you can add a snug, weighted backpack or wrist or ankle weights. If you want to decrease the difficulty, eliminate the jump at the end.

If you're not up to a movement as extreme as burpees, you can gradually increase your fitness to that level with sets of lower-impact movements. Alternate jumping jacks, calf raises, push-ups, and squats with walking, running in place, or jumping rope (many websites offer step-by-step instructions and videos on how to do these properly). Take short rest breaks between sets as indicated above.

You can also perform the callisthenic movements all at once and follow with an aerobic workout. Aerobic exercise helps keep your heart health and burns calories. To stay fit, you need at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise total weekly, says the Department of Health and Human Services, and more if you want to lose weight.

Walking, jogging, or running up and down stairs doesn't cost you a dime, yet gives your heart a good workout and helps build strong bones. If you have bad knees or hips, go swimming. Check with local high schools, which may offer "open swim" times.

Home workouts offers greater flexibility (your home gym is open 24/7) and you won't commute. Plus, you can listen to whatever music or audio book or watch whatever movie you want to stay motivated while running in place, for example.

Want more routine ideas? Check the plethora of books and videos available at the library.

Although you may need more equipment than just your body, try websites such as for the Workout of the Day (WOD), which appears front and center daily (scale down the weight or the duration if you're not at that level of fitness yet). Sites such as,,, and also offer ideas. You can use items around the house as equipment, such as soup cans for dumbbells and jugs of water for kettle bells.

What's really important isn't where you get fit but that you make the effort. Your health and happiness are worth the work.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to replace medical advice or treat or prevent illness. Change your exercise routine only as directed by a medical professional.

Deborah Jeanne Sergeant earned a second-degree black belt in Kuk Sool Won Korean martial arts. She has written on fitness for more than 10 years, including The Big, Fat Answer: Lifelong Weight Management for Good Health, available in paperback and e-book at and Visit her online at

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