April 22, 2012

USA: Keeping fit on a budget

SEATTLE, Washington / The Seattle Times / Health / April 22, 2012

If you have to cut the gym membership from your budget, columnist Kelly Turner has some tips for how to keep fit at home.
Special to the Seattle Times

For those looking to save money, gym memberships are often the first to be cut from the budget. If this is you, don't fret: You can get just as great of a workout in the privacy of your own home without spending much money at all.
There are so many home-fitness gizmos and gadgets on the market these days, it can be hard to know where to begin. What's worth your money and what isn't? Read on to find out.
For at-home cardio workouts
You could buy: a treadmill or elliptical.
Money saver: jump rope.
Freebie: Go for a walk or run
Cardio is all about getting your heart rate up, so why spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a huge bulky piece of equipment when you can get the same results for just a few dollars? Pick up a regular old jump rope at just about any store and get a great cardio workout any time, any place.
For no money at all, you can lace up your sneakers and hit the open road. With the weather warming up, your local trails, parks or just around your neighborhood are great options and always free. If the weather isn't cooperating, stay indoors and climb flights of stairs in your home or do jumping jacks in place.
For at-home strength training
You could buy: a set of dumbbells.
Money saver: resistance bands
Freebie: your own body weight
Dumbbells are often priced based on their weight, so buying individual sets of different weights can add up fast. Another downside is that, naturally, your strength is going to improve, so you will begin to need heavier weights to get the same results, and your lighter weights you spent so much money on will soon begin to gather dust.
You can do all of the exercises you would normally do with dumbbells by using resistance bands that often cost just a couple of dollars a piece. Bands are available in different resistances and shapes, so to make sure you are covered I recommend picking up a light one with handles for upper-body exercises and a thicker loop band to put around your legs for lower-body exercises.
Better yet, just use your body weight. Weights add extra resistance, but body-weight exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges and planks can be modified to become more challenging as you get stronger.
For example, push ups can be made more difficult by progressing from your knees to your toes, and then by popping your feet up on a step to increase the resistance on your arms. It takes a little creativity, or a quick Google search to find different variations, but there is no shortage of different body-weight exercises for all fitness levels.
For at-home exercise routines:
You can buy: DVD programs
Money saver: magazines and individual DVDs
Freebie: the Internet, cable or host a DVD swap
At-home fitness programs are exploding in popularity, promising to get you in great shape if you follow their 30-, 60-, or 90-day program. These programs definitely work, but they run in the hundreds of dollars price range and often require you to purchase extra equipment. And then, by the end of the program, you are so sick of the same workouts you are likely to never touch the DVDs again.
Fitness magazines come with great workouts you can rip out, mix and match and use again and again, plus are full of informative articles and helpful tips. You can purchase individual fitness DVDs or to save even more money, buy used from secondhand stores or online.
To get routines for free, also head to the Internet. Looking up workouts online allows you to find specific workouts with your exact needs, down to how long they last and special considerations for any injuries or limitations.
If you like to follow along with an instructor and need motivation during your workouts, Comcast's OnDemand has a whole channel devoted to free workouts you can watch and follow along with.
You can outfit your home gym with as much or as little as you like, but money should never be an excuse not to workout. All you really need is yourself, a plan and the motivation to get moving.
Kelly Turner: kellyturnerfitness@gmail.com; Turner is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified-personal trainer and fitness writer. www.KellyTurnerFitness.com; on twitter @KellyTurnerFit.
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