Summer has arrived and with it, the seasonal pressure to look and feel our best in shorts, tank tops and bathing suits. Unfortunately, the cost of gym memberships, yoga studios and juice cleanses can add up.
Flex your financial muscle with these five wallet-friendly ways to get moving on your fitness goals this summer for little or no money at all.
1. Set a goal. Lace up those sneakers and sign up for a 5k race, half marathon or marathon. It's a great excuse to get outside, and training doesn't cost a cent. Create a playlist of your favorite exercise songs on Spotify, and time the music to fit the length of your workout. This will keep you on track and ensure you stay motivated while training. When it comes to picking an event, run for a great cause and choose a race that donates proceeds to charity. If you can't afford the entry fee, reach out to friends and family for donations to help sponsor you. You will be getting in shape and spreading good karma at the same time.
2. Get fit outdoors. The great outdoors is the perfect free place to get in shape. If you live near a beach, for example, sand adds resistance to your workout. From squats and lunges to leisurely walks and running, working out in the sand will increase calorie burn and muscle usage. If sand is not your thing, check out the nearest city park. You might also consider joining a sports league organized by your city's park district. Fees to join are often minimal, and it's a good way to get to know people in your neighborhood. You don't have to be an Olympic athlete either, as many park district leagues have teams for people of all skill levels.
3. There's an app for that. There are many apps that can help you stay healthy. Most are customizable, so you can choose the goals, duration and intensity that fit your needs and abilities. You might also think about investing in a fitness tracker like the Jawbone UP band that tracks your activity, sleep and calories burned so you can make smarter choices. Other great fitness apps include MyFitnessPal, which serves as a mobile food and exercise journal, and Yoga STRETCH, which allows you to take yoga classes on the go. Apps like these can be much more cost-efficient than a personal nutritionist or signing up for pricey yoga sessions.
4. Create a home gym. Strength and cardiovascular exercises can be done with limited space or a tight budget right at home. Dumbbells, stability balls, a jump rope and even a basic kitchen chair can be cost-effective alternatives to a stair stepper and treadmill. You don't have to buy everything all at once. Start with a few key pieces of equipment, and then gradually build up from there. Save even more money by putting some items on your wish list for upcoming holidays or your birthday, shop at used sporting goods stores or garage sales, or trade with friends to rotate your equipment for free. Invite a workout buddy over to train with you, or ask your partner to sweat it out by your side. Working out at home will save you money on gas and gym memberships, but just like a real gym, it won't do you any good if you don't visit it regularly.
5. Get off your chair! With our lifestyles becoming increasingly sedentary, sometimes the easiest way to get back into shape is to just look for ways to move more and sit less. Try taking the stairs at the office instead of the elevator, or see if your company will set you up with a standing desk or even treadmill desk. Walk or bike instead of driving short distances when running errands. Go for a quick walk after meals (the movement will boost your metabolism). All of these are simple tasks that collectively can help build muscle, maintain a healthy heart and boost your overall mood.
Getting in shape this summer can be affordable. With a little creativity and an open mind, there are many ways to easily stretch your dollars and your body.
Holly Perez is a consumer money expert at Intuit and mint.com spokeswoman, a leading Web and mobile money management tool that helps people understand and do more with their money.
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