Being healthy and fit are very high on my list of priorities. I’ve mentioned many times how important our diet is to me, and exercise is just as important. I thought I’d share some of my favorite ways to stay in shape that don’t require much in the way of money, special equipment, or specific locations.
1. My all-time favorite exercise is push ups. They rock. They are challenging for everyone, no matter how strong you are… a beginner might struggle to do five, while a person with great upper body strength might have to do 50 or 100 to reach exhaustion. But trust me, exhaustion does come for everyone relatively quickly with push ups. If you’re maintaining proper form, push ups are great for the whole upper body and torso. You can do them anywhere, and they don’t require any equipment at all. No planning needed either… just drop down and do a set of push ups, and then carry on with your day! (You can start on your knees and work your way up to doing them on your toes).
2. Bicycle crunches. I do a variety of core exercises, but these work a lot of muscles all at the same time. Again, no equipment required.
3. Planks and walking planks. These are great if you just have a couple of minutes and want to work on core strength. You can also incorporate some push ups in with your walking planks for a little variety.
4. Tricep dips. These do require a chair or other stable surface about the same height, but that’s relatively easy to come by.
5. Calf raises. Basically just rise up on your tiptoes and then lower down again. Go fast or slow, and point your toes inward or outward to vary the exercise. Like all the others, you can do these anywhere, and they don’t require any equipment.
6. Yoga. I took classes for several years thanks to the free gym membership I got when I worked at the library, and now I do it on my own at home. All that you need for yoga is a mat and comfy clothes. I do have several DVDs of yoga classes that I use quite often. I got them at a thrift store for about two dollars each, and I’ve done them all so many times that I have them memorized. But I still find it helpful to have the voice of an instructor to help me stay focused. If you’re looking for any sort of workout DVD, thrift stores usually have tons of them. We no longer have a TV or DVD player, but my laptop is a great substitute, and I can take it anywhere I want for an instant yoga session.
7. Walking. As a long-time runner, I never though walking would be on a list of my favorite exercises. I ran for about 15 years, both competitively and for fun. But last fall I decided to try walking instead. I was starting to realize that my knees and hips might not appreciate the constant pounding, and I was also trying to gain some weight. I used to run for about an hour, three or four days a week. So I switched to walking for an hour instead. I go about four miles, and since it’s a lot easier on my joints, I’m able to go every day. Walking is much lower impact than running, so I don’t worry much about my shoes anymore. In fact, unless you’re wearing a pencil skirt and stilettos, you can probably head out for a walk in whatever you’ve got on right now. So again, very little gear required. A hat, some sunglasses, comfy shoes and clothes, and you’re set. As a bonus, you can take dogs and kids along too. Our dog twitches with excitement when she sees me putting my shoes on, and our son rides along in his hand-me-down jogging stroller or in the wagon that my parents found at a thrift store and refurbished for us.
8. Biking. I use my bike to run errands in town. It never feels like exercise to be cruising around on my bike, but I know it is. We also go on long family rides every once in a while. Those do feel like exercise because my rear end is sore when we get home! We got our bikes used. If you’re looking for a bike, check Craigs list or a used sporting good store, and you’ll find tons of options. Don’t forget a helmet!
The first five exercises I mentioned can be done anywhere, anytime, and take only a few minutes each. Have 60 seconds to spare? Get down and see how many push ups you can do in a minute. I do them all throughout the day, a minute or two here and there is all I need. It doesn’t require planning a trip to the gym or scheduling anything – you can just mix them in with your day as you go.
Biking, walking, and yoga all require a bit more of a time commitment than the other exercises, but they’re all fun! And you don’t have to go anywhere specific to do them. As long as you live in a relatively safe area, you can walk or bike right from your home. And you can do yoga anywhere too.
I hope this gives you some ideas for ways you can incorporate fitness into your life without spending money or making it a stressful experience. And if you have other favorite low cost, low maintenance exercise ideas, please share them in the comments!