Gym memberships and fitness clubs can cost a pretty penny, but you don’t have to spend big bucks to get in your daily calorie burn.
Try these low- to no-cost exercise fixes that will keep you and your budget fit and trim.
1. Go back to school. Many local high schools offer their field houses, gymnasiums, basketball courts and running tracks for use by the community after hours or on weekends for free or very little cost. Also, check in with your local junior college or university, which may offer membership fees for much lower than your neighborhood hard bodies club.
2. Be your own fitness editor. Magazines like Self and Shape offer extensive expert advice, exercise trackers and workout plans online, as do independent sites like FitTracker, so you can create your own customized routines. They also have calculators, meal plans, community outreach and inspirational tools to keep you on track—all for free. All you need is the motivation to log on and challenge yourself.
3. Think outside the gym. Good workouts don’t have to involve sets and reps. You can burn more than 200 calories an hour just doing chores. Gardening, shoveling, painting all do double duty: They spiff up your home while keeping you in tip-top shape. Sure, overhauling the garage stinks, but if you knew you could bank almost 300 calories for clearing clutter, suddenly the proposition is less daunting. And not only is it free, you don’t have to pay your kids to do it.
4. Take the stairs (over and over again). If it’s good enough for Olympic athletes and big-league pros, it’s likely going to give you good sweat, too. Any set of steps will do: the stairs in your house, the bleachers at your local football field, or do it Rocky-style and hit the walk-up at your local library or museum. Climb to the top and bottom a few times to give yourself a warm-up, then increase your speed. You should get a good workout in 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Look inside your park. At a bare minimum, Mother Nature’s gymnasium will offer you a patch of grass to throw a Frisbee, chase your dog or toss a football. Grab some friends and create your own yoga or body-weight class. Other parks have a freestanding handball wall (also good for tennis for one), hiking trails, skating rinks, hoops and more—all you need is some gear or a little imagination.
6. Learn to negotiate. If you’re truly a gym rat, don’t give up your fitness center membership without a fight. Ask your current club what they can do to lower your rate. If nothing, do some comparison shopping and a little wheeling and dealing (especially at the end of the month when many gym sales teams are trying to make quotas). Many of the larger gyms have flexibility in their fees and are offering no initiation fees and extremely low monthly dues for new members. A little legwork could save you a lot.
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