May 12, 2012

Five ways to get healthy without breaking the bank

By Aly Gibson

Kick-starting the journey to a healthier lifestyle poses obstacles that can seem overwhelming when combined with getting sober. With excuses such as “It’s too costly to join a gym” or “I don’t have enough time,” it’s no surprise that many people who start a workout regimen never make it a long-term habit. But health and fitness experts have found workouts, tips and even common household items that make getting fit not only easy but also inexpensive.

Here are the best tips we found for getting fit by using what you already have.

1. Use Your Brain

Certified physical therapist Joshua Margolis, founder of Mind Over Matter Fitness in New York City, says the first hurdle to overcome is your own frame of mind. The weakened economy has caused so many to trim down financially, and the first items to go usually include the gym membership and the barely used exercise equipment. But even if you don’t have money to invest in your fitness, that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise.

2. Use Your Schedule

Margolis insists that starting an exercise routine begins with a schedule and the fortitude to stick to it. “We all live by a schedule,” Margolis says. “You can start scheduling time for exercise by just using your cell phone or computer to mark off that time to start working out.”

In the digital age, many devices offer alarms and reminders that help even the busiest person stay on schedule. Margolis says to use the devices you already have to set reminders.

3. Use What’s In Your House

Sergio Rojas, certified movement and nutrition specialist and owner of redefined Fitness and Physical Therapy in Chicago, suggests finding household items to use as exercise tools instead of spending the money on costly weight machines. With resistance training, you can even use your own body weight until muscles become more defined.

Rojas says canned food, cardboard boxes filled with canned goods or water and milk jugs provide the necessary amount of weight, which can be adjusted as your muscles become stronger. (To see how much weight you’re lifting, simply weigh the jug on your scale.)

Jon Park, fitness and nutrition specialist and owner of Legacy Gym in Los Angeles, says other inexpensive items you can use to get the most out of strength and resistance training include standard-sized towels or inexpensive resistance bands. These items can be used anywhere in the home or at the office and can provide something new to your regular routine.

And don’t discount what you are already doing. Turn your household chores into a workout. Whether you are mowing the lawn, weeding your garden or vacuuming the living room, if you are increasing your heart rate, you are burning calories.

4. Use Your Time

Rojas says it’s important to work out at least four to six days a week.

“Starting out at four, five or six days each week helps cement the routine,” Rojas says. “Anything less than that and you’ll drop off after a while.”

One way to work no-cost fitness into your already busy schedule is to stop eating lunch sitting at your desk. Instead, grab your sandwich, and take it to go: Walk for half an hour during your lunch break. You’ll enjoy getting out of the office and soaking up some sun.

5. Use Your Feet

Shaun Zetlin, master trainer and fitness professional of Zetlin Fitness in Brooklyn, N.Y., says one way you can avoid expensive gym membership fees is by beginning a walking, jogging or running regimen. Public parks and city or residential blocks provide the space needed to get a full workout without paying the cost.

“Walking is a great start that doesn’t require any money,” Zetlin says. “Also, taking the stairs is underrated. That is a great way to keep yourself moving and get your heart rate up either as a warm-up or a quick workout between errands.”

Adam Howitt, owner, co-founder and CEO of WalkJogRun in Chicago, says jogging and running can quickly become a new addiction for those entering into recovery. The company’s website,, offers certified routes for you and your skill level, mapping out the paths nearest to you and providing you with tips for proper training.

“Running is pretty cheap,” Howitt says. “If the goal is to … get out and move, any old pair of shorts, T-shirt and shoes will start you up.”

Once a routine and workout is in place, Park says that exercise could easily become a new and positive force in your life.

“If you’re not over-exerting yourself, finding something that works for you and becoming healthier can give you purpose to keep recovering,” Park says.

For exercises you can do in front of your TV, check out the May/June issue of Renew.


Aly Gibson is a freelance writer in Michigan. This is her first article for Renew.

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