Getting fit without breaking the bank

As an avid warm weather camper living in the northeast, I spend about six months out of the year in shorts and a t-shirt, and the other six in a ski parka (for warmth only, my enjoyment of outdoor recreation stops well before the first frost).

For me, January not only signifies cold weather clothing, but also my annual checkup. Last year when I visited the doctor and stepped on the super-accurate-highly-digitalized-to-the-tenth-of-a-pound-scale, I saw a number I hadn't seen since the second trimester of pregnancy nearly eighteen years ago. As a former dancer and a 22 year vegetarian, weight had never been an issue for me. Somewhere along the way, I apparently danced less and ate more because good grief! I seemed to have gained ten pounds in half a year! That's a growth rate of over 8% for the time period. I would be super excited if, say, my 401(k) or real estate holdings saw a lift like that. My butt, not so much.

An ever-dedicated budgeter, I refused to let this wake-up call translate into another line item to contend with. I did not succumb to the infomercials beckoning me to purchase a piece of very targeted exercise equipment, enroll in a gym that I may or may not have visited on a regular basis, or commit to a branded food strategy that would leave me scratching my head the next time I was away from a microwave or at a family function.

Instead, I made 3 simple, no-cost changes to my life:

  1. I started paying attention to what I ate. has an excellent food tracker that lets you know if you're getting the right amount of the good stuff, or partaking in too much of the not-so-good-stuff. I did not obsess about counting calories, carbs, points or pounds. I simply made adjustments when I saw patterns moving me in the wrong direction.
  2. I took advantage of the seemingly endless supply of fitness videos on YouTube. I committed to exercising 6-30 minutes each day. Even with my hectic schedule, I can always find at least 6 minutes a day to get some form of exercise in.
  3. I decided to drink more water. Apparently I had been falling very short of the suggested 8-12 cups a day of this very essential (and low cost!) beverage.

Over a year later, I have been able to keep the extra pounds off. I look better, feel better, and can enjoy my fun in the sun more fully. Big changes weren't required to achieve success. But just like an investment or savings goal, consistency is the key to getting where you want to be!

A no-cost fitness plan can really be a day a the beach!

Jennifer Wells works as a program manager in the Marketing department at MMI.