It’s a new year, and many of us have made resolutions to improve our lives. For some, that means reading more books or achieving the perfect work-life balance.
For many others, resolutions are all about fitness. We want to lose weight, exercise more and become healthier.
Signing up for a gym membership may seem like the perfect way to meet those goals. But before you succumb to high-pressure sales tactics by impressively toned sales reps, learn about these 15 wallet-friendly ways to get in shape and burn off unwanted pounds.
1. Increase your NEAT-ness
Hands down, the easiest way to burn more calories per minute is to up your NEAT level. What’s that, you say? Well, it’s quite simply your nonexercise activity thermogenesis.
And if that isn’t simple enough, it’s the energy you use when you aren’t sleeping, eating or exercising. It’s the calories you burn by twiddling your thumbs, tapping your feet or waiting in line at the DMV.
The term was coined by Dr. James Levine, who discovered that individuals with manual or agrarian jobs have higher levels of NEAT. In other words, the more active we are, the more our metabolic rate increases and the more calories we burn even when we’re not exercising.
Unfortunately, Levine also learned that as we get wealthier and more industrialized, our NEAT decreases.
Many of the following suggestions are intended to help increase your NEAT. Beyond those, the key is to stand more, sit less and move as much as possible.
2. Hit the pavement
With its high-tech treadmills, elliptical machines and stair climbers, the gym may seem like a perfect place to get a workout 365 days a year. However, you can get almost the exact same workout for free, right outside your door.
Don’t let the cold air and snow deter you. Strap on boots, bundle up and hit the sidewalk or the trails for a walk that will wake you up. It may seem less than ideal, but as someone who tries to walk regularly outside in the winter, I can tell you that you warm up quickly as you move.
3. Get in touch with your inner Jane Fonda
Maybe no amount of cajoling is going to get you outside to walk or run in the cold. That’s OK — thanks to the endless supply of workout videos available through your library or online, you can exercise indoors for free, too.
4. Put your kid’s gaming system to good use
If videos aren’t your thing, how about video games? Don’t let your kids have all the gaming fun!
Personally, I’ve had great success with EA Sports Active 2. I found it amazing how effective these workouts were when it came to helping me lose weight and build strength. I set my alarm for 30 minutes earlier so I could be done before the kids needed to be up for school.
Of course, Zumba, yoga and dozens of other fitness titles are available for all the major gaming systems. Check your library and see if these games are available for free.
5. Park in the back 40
Another simple, easy and free way to burn calories is to park in the most distant spots available in the lot. Depending on the size of the lot, you might add a couple of minutes to your trip to the store. But is that extra time really going to break you? And as long as the store provides carts, it probably won’t kill you to also push purchases back to the car.
6. Stand as much as possible
This goes back to the NEAT levels we discussed in the first point. You burn more calories standing than sitting. According to the BBC, you burn about 50 more calories per hour, to be exact.
You won’t start dropping pounds like mad just from standing, but those 50 calories can add up over time.
To get on your feet more often, try to find a place to set up your computer so you can stand and type. I have a kitchen counter that is the perfect height. As a bonus, for some reason I find I’m remarkably more productive when I stand.
7. Walk while you talk
Another option to get on your feet is to walk whenever you’re on the phone. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. You can even multitask while you talk by doing mindless cleaning, such as returning dirty dishes to the kitchen or picking up books and toys.
8. Move during commercial breaks
If you watch TV the old-fashioned way — that is, without a streaming service or a DVR — you can expect some commercial breaks. What are you doing with that time?
Some people might suggest doing sit-ups or push-ups during commercial breaks, but that sounds like a lot of work to me. How about simply getting up and stretching? Or refilling your glass of water? Or putting the paper in the recycling bin?
This all goes back to your NEAT level. You don’t have to be exercising. You just have to be moving.
9. Become a stair master
Take the stairs whenever possible. In some buildings, the stairs are hard to find. But if you know where they are, skip the elevator or escalator and hoof it instead.
If you can’t make it all the way to your floor, walk a couple of flights and take the elevator the rest of the way. Remember, anything is better than nothing.
10. Fire the hired help
Does someone else mow your lawn, shovel your walk and wash your car? Say adieu, and do it yourself. Not only will it help you move more, but it’s good for your wallet, too.
11. Add some kick to your food
As a slightly offbeat suggestion, consider adding some spice to your life in the form of red pepper. At least one study found that you expend more energy after eating a gram of red pepper. The effects seem to be particularly pronounced in those who don’t normally eat spicy foods.
12. Get more zzzs
It doesn’t get much easier than sleeping your way to a healthy weight. The next time you’re tempted to feel guilty for turning in early, remind yourself that adequate sleep may be what helps you stay in shape.
A 2011 study found that acute sleep deprivation led healthy men to have lower energy expenditures the next morning. In other words, you’ll burn fewer calories if you’re sleep-deprived and dragging through the day.
13. Look to the funny side
Back in 2005, researchers discovered you burn 20 percent more calories laughing than when you’re not laughing. That means laughing 10 to 15 minutes a day could help you burn enough calories to drop 4.4 pounds a year.
14. Find an app for that
Your smartphone can do all sorts of things, including help you burn calories. Fitness apps run the gamut from those that help you track food intake to those that help you exercise smarter. Some apps even let you earn cash by meeting your health goals.
There are plenty of apps from which to choose. PC magazine offers what it deems to be the top 25 picks for 2016.
15. Strap on a pedometer
Most of the suggestions in this article are free. However, if you’re willing to shell out a little money, a pedometer can be a cheap motivational tool. Once you realize just how much (or how little) you’re moving, you might be encouraged to step away from the TV or the computer screen more frequently.
Is getting healthy and in shape one of your goals for 2015? Let us know in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.