9 Frugal Ways to Get Fit

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

Is your determination to lose weight or exercise more in conflict with your resolution to stick to a budget?

Know that you can get healthy and save money at the same time, because there are plenty of cheap ways to get fit. You don’t have to spend hundreds (or thousands) to join a gym or hire a personal trainer. With a little ingenuity and a mix of old-school and high-tech solutions, you can easily get fit on a budget.

Don’t put off your fitness goals because you’re not rolling in dough. Try these cheap ways to get fit to jumpstart a new healthy and frugal lifestyle.

1. Jump rope

Woman jumping rope
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This old schoolyard toy is a simple and efficient way to burn some calories. In just 10 minutes, most people can burn almost 100 calories.

Jump ropes can cost as little as $2 and can go up to $20 or more. They all do the same thing, so buying a more expensive one doesn’t mean you’ll get healthier more quickly.

The important thing is to find a sturdy jump rope that won’t fall apart and is the right length for your height.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of skipping rope, look on YouTube for free jump rope workouts. You can find videos aimed at jump rope beginners and established athletes, and workouts that target weight loss and cardiovascular fitness.

2. Do yoga and stretching at home

Woman in lotus position with cat.
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Yoga is a great way to ease into exercise, or to balance out your more intensive workout days. Plus, it helps build flexibility and core strength, which can enhance other workouts.

Hit up YouTube to discover plenty of channels offering free yoga workouts. Try one of these online yoga resources, or simply plug your desired intensity level and workout length into the search bar.

If you don’t sign up for private lessons or a trendy studio membership, yoga can be a cheap way to get fit. To get started, all you really need is a standard yoga mat.

These rubbery mats provide a more comfortable surface on which to do your yoga poses, as well as sit-ups, push-ups and other exercises. Plus, they help keep your feet or hands from slipping when doing certain exercises.

If you can’t spring for one right now, throw down a beach or bath towel on a carpeted area for a quick fix. Or, see if you can find one cheap at a discount store or through an online marketplace.

Don’t be convinced you need expensive accessories to help your practice. Pillows, blankets, rolled-up towels, belts and books can all stand in for yoga blocks, straps and bolsters.

If you’re not quite up for yoga just yet, stretching is important for the body (and the soul). Do a quick search for stretches to do before bed or in the morning. Most routines won’t take more than 10 minutes, and you’ll start to feel a difference.

3. Walk

Happy senior couple walking on the beach grass
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Walking is free, easy, requires no equipment (aside from sneakers) and you can do it anywhere. Walk around your neighborhood, a local school track or inside your local mall (if you can avoid the impulse-buy temptation).

Walk quickly enough to be a bit out of breath but not so fast you can’t speak. As it gets easier, increase your pace and/or add some ankle or wrist weights.

If you’d prefer to have company, invite a friend along or join a local walking or hiking group. You can find them on Facebook, NextDoor or Meetup. Or, plan weekend hikes with your family. You’ll get fresh air, exercise and bonding time without spending a dime.

4. Work out with exercise shows and DVDs

Home exercise
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Use your cable company’s on-demand service or your streaming service for more than just movies and TV shows. Most services offer exercise shows at no extra cost, meaning that a few clicks is all it will take to get started.

Additionally, most smart TVs and streaming devices offer a YouTube app that you can use to stream videos. YouTube offers exercise channels for every need; just search for what you want. Popular channels like Blogilates and Fitness Blender are great places to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Apps are also a great fitness resource. Use these five apps to get started working out, or to get better at what you’re already doing.

If you don’t have cable and don’t subscribe to any streaming services, try the old-fashioned approach: exercise DVDs. Many are quite affordable, coming in as low as $5, and your library will often have a selection you can borrow free of charge.

5. Count your steps

A young woman smiles because she's paid to walk with her phone using apps like StepBet and GigWalk
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

Simply being aware of how much (or how little) you’re moving can be a big motivator to get you off the couch or office chair.

You don’t need to invest in a pricey Fitbit or smart watch. Most smart phones have built-in step counters, which you can check throughout the day. A simple pedometer clipped to your belt or pants will do the trick, too.

Try setting a step goal for the day; start with a low number, such as 5,000 steps. Then find every way possible to boost your step count.

Park in the back of the parking lot when going to work or the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator when you can, or take an extra loop around the block when walking the dog. Even just playing with the kids can help your steps add up quickly.

6. Hula hoop

Senior exercising with a hula hoop
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That’s right, going old-school again. If you can manage to get that hoop spinning and staying up, you’ve got a great aerobic exercise on the cheap. I tried over and over (and over) again, but finally got it.

For me, it was all about having one foot a bit in front of the other, but you can check out countless YouTube videos with various how-to tips and techniques.

This is a fun one if you have kids. You can all hoop together, or as we do sometimes, just put on some favorite music and while they dance, you hoop. It’s a great idea if you struggle to find time for your family and time to exercise.

There are plenty of expensive, weighted hoops on the market, but you can easily start with a plain one.

7. Run or jog

Runners in Boston
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Like walking, running is another way to get fit on the cheap. Skip the expensive home treadmill, lace up your sneakers and head out the door. You can run anywhere, including in your neighborhood, on local trails, around your office park after work, even on vacation.

If you’re a newbie, find a Couch to 5K program, or look up online training programs for novice runners. You might want to invest in a sturdy, cushioned pair of sneakers.

They don’t need to be expensive, but you’ll rack up more medical bills if you run daily in worn-out shoes that don’t give you enough support. Read more tips about how to get started running for fitness.

8. Use a gym for free or cheap

Teen girl working out in the gym
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Gym memberships can cost $100 per month — but you can use gyms for far less than that. If there’s a fitness center in your apartment or office building, you can often use it for free. You don’t need the latest equipment or free bottled water to get in a great workout.

You can also look for free weeklong passes to local gyms; you could exercise for weeks on the cheap by trying out each fitness club in your local area.

If you believe a gym is necessary to your fitness goals, look for membership discounts, either in the winter when many people make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, or in the summer when everyone heads outdoors and gyms are empty.

Look for gyms with no-frills memberships that are cheaper than premium access; you might not be able to join the workout classes or use the pool, but you can get in cardio and strength-training workouts on the machine and in the weight room.

Warehouse stores like Costco may also offer discount memberships to local gyms.

9. Eat healthier

Woman eating healthful food
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This tip may be last, but it certainly isn’t least. Eating healthier can give you energy and help you lose a few pounds. Often the sheer act of losing a few pounds is enough to motivate you to want to make some healthy changes in your life.

It’s one of those positive cycles: lose weight, exercise more, lose more weight, eat healthier and so on. Here are 10 great, inexpensive books that can guide you in making healthier food choices.

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