How to stay fit when money is tight

Many of us exercise to maintain good health. Others want to lose weight or relieve stress. The motivation may vary, but exercise is a common theme in many of our lives. According to TIME magazine, more than 45 million Americans belong to a health club and we spend $19 billion a year on gym memberships. While exercising is a key ingredient to overall wellness you don’t have to pay a fortune for it. Since February 2009 I’ve been practicing yoga – which I love. However, a monthly yoga package can be costly ($140 at my local studio). The high cost led me to look for cheaper alternatives. Here are some fun, frugal tips to keep both your body and bank account in shape.

Exercise at your local park. You don’t have to spend big bucks on expensive gym memberships when Mother Nature has already provided for you. Take a walk or go for a run at the park. The only downfall is the inability to exercise due to inclement weather. However, some people will exercise in rain, sleet, or snow.

Check out your local YMCA or other community venue. Many YMCAs or civic centers offer free workout classes at least once a week. You can find a variety of exercise classes from yoga to cycling even salsa dancing!

Take the bus. I rode public transportation for six years and found that riding the bus it is a great way to exercise. You’re walking to and from the bus stop which are at least a block away - sometimes further.

Borrow exercise videos at the library. The public library has an extensive collection of workout videos that you can check-out and return. The standard check-out period is three weeks and you can always renew once the check-out date expires.

Turn on the tube. You can get a vigorous workout without leaving your home. YouTube has great workout videos where you can follow along. Community TV programs such as PBS also offer workout programs during the day. Check out TV Guide for local listings.

Try the stairs. It’s so convenient to just hop on the elevator. Why not try taking the stairs sometimes? During your lunch break or right after work go up and down the stairs for a good cardio and leg workout.

Turn on the radio. I love listening to music and dancing to it. A few times out of the week put in an upbeat CD or tune in to the radio station and just dance around your room for 20 or 30 minutes. This is a fun, cardio workout.

Finally, exercise is good for the mind and body. Don’t forgo a healthy lifestyle just because money is tight. According to the American Heart Association, 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity consistently reduces the risk of many chronic health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and bone loss. It also improves self-image, promotes weight loss, and increases enthusiasm and optimism.

Renee McGruder is a former communications coordinator and grant writer at MMI.