One of the most popular New Year's resolutions is to get into better shape. It's been at the top of my list many times and one that I've been thinking about yet again over the holidays. It's easy to stay fit on a budget during the summer, when you can take to the streets to walk and run or play a variety of outdoor sports. But when the streets turn icy and the parks are hidden by snow, the options are more limited. I'm not trying to make excuses, but winter workouts really do require more of an investment.
A thriving industry has grown around the expensive exercise equipment, gym memberships we invest in to maintain our bodies and our health. Is there a way to work out on the cheap?
Chaya Cooperberg answered your questions on how to set up a family budget.
At a recent holiday party, my friends and I discussed budget workout ideas. One, a mother of three, mentioned her routine of combining exercise with housework. While doing the laundry, she runs up and down the stairs, collecting and putting away clothes. She does deep knee lunges as she vacuums.
There is a whole movement dedicated to inserting fitness into everyday life activities. Books such as 1,001 Ways to Get in Shape recommend washing and drying dishes by hand to burn extra calories. "Thirty minutes' vacuuming burns 105, while walking briskly up and down stairs, putting toys and clothes away without stopping burns up to 150," writes Susannah Marriott.
Although free, house-ercise, as I call it, requires combining two activities I don't naturally enjoy. Adding exercise to my housework duties might have the unfortunate consequence of me cleaning less rather than working out more.
In search of other budget-minded options, I polled some of my fit, yet frugal, friends for their tips. One has eschewed a gym membership in favour of a pass to the pool at the local community centre. Rather than pay $500 in annual gym fees, the average in her neighbourhood, she spends $240 a year to go swimming.
Another has a Nintendo Wii system and likes working out with the digital personal trainers on EA Sports Active and Wii Fit. The Wii base hardware setup will run you $200 while each software package costs about $100. My friend finds though that she uses the system frequently because the workout games are entertaining. It's still cheaper than an average gym membership and you don't need to leave your home to use it. If you want an interactive home workout, but don't want a videogame system, try a fun exercise DVD. The top 10 bestsellers are listed at Amazon and all cost less than $20. Buy a few to mix up your routines and keep from getting bored.
One friend with triceps chiseled by daily gym workouts put together a home gym plan for me that would cost no more than $100 in free weights, resistance bands and a fitness ball. If you don't want to invest in the equipment at all, the fitness schedule my friend designed to tone my arms and legs and strengthen my core could be done with only a chair and some bottles of detergent as weights. There are many websites, such as Home Gym Adviser, with ideas for building a home gym on a budget, whether you have $50 or $500 to spend.
In my quest to get fitter in 2010, I plan to try at least one of these budget and winter-friendly ideas from my friends, but can't help already looking forward to long summer walks.
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