Fitness for less: Low-cost ways to shape up

Want to work out but think you can't afford it? Think again. Consider these low-cost alternatives to a pricey gym membership. By Mayo Clinic Staff

If the only thing keeping you from starting a fitness program is the cost of a gym membership, here's good news. You don't need to join a gym to take physical activity seriously. Plenty of low-cost alternatives can help you get fit without breaking your budget. These tips can help you get started.

Take advantage of everyday opportunities

You don't need a gym or special equipment for an aerobic workout. With a little foresight, activities you may take for granted can become part of your fitness routine.

  • Step it up. Take a brisk walk every day, whether it's in your neighborhood or a local mall. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or make a full workout of climbing the stairs. Sneak in extra steps whenever you can by parking farther away from your destination.
  • Make housework a workout. Mow the lawn, weed the garden, rake the leaves or shovel the snow. Even indoor activities such as vacuuming and scrubbing count as a workout if you increase your heart rate.
  • Play with your kids. If you have children, don't just watch them play. Join them for a game of tag or kickball. Walk them to the park. Dance. Take a family bike ride. Go to a community pool. Even if you don't swim, you can enjoy time in the water or walk in the shallow end. Do your kids play video games? If so, plug in with them and swing a virtual tennis racket or do a little boxing.

Improvise with household items

If you'd rather not spend a penny on exercise equipment, use ordinary household items for various upper and lower body exercises:

  • Canned goods. Many canned goods can serve double duty as hand weights.
  • Chair or step stool. Use a chair for support when doing exercises such as leg curls. A low, sturdy step stool can become exercise equipment if you use it for step training — an aerobic exercise resembling stair climbing.
Aug. 18, 2012 See more In-depth