Unlike which foods belong on the “naughty” or “nice” list, the importance of a regular exercise program is the type of advice that every health expert agrees on.
Research proves that regular, moderate aerobic activity provides a seemingly endless list of health benefits, including:
- Elevated mood
- Improved energy
- Improved mental function
- Improved sex life
- Improved sleep
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Protection against chronic ailments, such as heart disease and diabetes
What does it take to enjoy all of those benefits? Thirty minutes per day, five days per week of moderate aerobic activity. The best part? Anyone can do this, no matter their economic situation.
Shoes: Your Only Investment Toward Exercise Program
If you’re looking to improve fitness and health, you may be surprised to learn that you can do this without a gym membership or any other expenditure beyond a decent pair of shoes. If you already have good shoes, there’s no need to buy another pair.
You’ll see a huge variety of specialty shoes, but a good pair of running shoes works well for most exercises, especially if you’re just beginning an exercise program. There are two criteria for these shoes: they must fit properly and feel comfortable as soon as you try them on.
Many people don’t realize this, as so many grew up with caregivers insisting they would “grow into” or “break in” their new shoes. This is untrue; never buy shoes that don’t feel comfortable immediately. If you prefer to purchase shoes online, you must go to a shoe store to at least try on various brands and sizes, to ensure the shoe fits properly and protects you from injury. Where you buy from there is your choice.
Another old piece of advice, though, is appropriate: shop for shoes in the afternoon if possible. This ensures your feet are at their largest.
Finally, to ensure proper fit, either take or wear the same type of socks you plan to wear when you exercise. You may wish to purchase socks made from moisture-wicking material instead of cotton. In addition, look for socks that specify a size, rather than a range of sizes. A sock labeled for sizes 6 through 10 won’t fit either end of that extreme. A final consideration on socks is seams. Seamless socks reduce irritation, especially at the toe.
Free Exercise Program Options: Budget-Friendly Workouts
You probably already know this, but you do not need a gym membership in order to take control of your health. What you may not have realized is that more than two-thirds of gym memberships are never used. Gyms actually count on this, since they sell far more memberships than the gym could ever hold at one time.
Luckily, 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week requires no membership or investment beyond your own time.
Moderate aerobic activity includes any exercise that increases your heart rate and causes you to breathe faster, while still enabling you to hold a conversation. You can accomplish this with a variety of activities, including walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, bicycling, dancing, and even gardening and household chores.
Out of the 150 minutes each week, 60 minutes need to include strength-building exercises. This can include lifting weights, but it actually includes any activity that bears your own weight. Essentially, this means that everything but biking and swimming from the above list qualifies as strength-building exercise.
If you don’t have either the time or the stamina to work out for 30 minutes straight, you can break this up into three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions and still enjoy the same health benefits.
Finally, if your health permits more vigorous aerobic exercise (the kind that makes holding a conversation difficult), you only need 75 minutes each week. You may also do a combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity, though you need somewhere between 75 and 150 minutes weekly.
Incorporate Free Fitness Videos into Your Exercise Program
Do you have a library card? If you don’t, get one. They’re free and you only need to prove you live in the area served by that library. Typically, this includes showing a utility bill and state-issued identification.
A library card allows you to borrow a whole range of free DVDs and even VHS tapes if you prefer that technology. Included in this “library” of choices is a whole host of fitness videos: aerobics, dance, yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and more.
You find similar options online, with an even greater amount of choice. Log into YouTube and enter whatever type of workout interests you, choose a video, and get moving!
Whether you borrow a video from the library or search for one online, you have options for every fitness level. It also lets you try an enormous variety of exercise routines until you find something that you enjoy doing. All without spending a penny.
Don’t Forget Used Equipment
If you have your heart set on building your own home gym, or the weather in your area doesn’t promote outdoor activities like walking, keep an eye out for used gym equipment.
The reality is, people are just as bad about using their home gym equipment as they are about actually setting foot in the gym after buying a membership. Sites like Craigslist and OfferUp let you check out the equipment before buying.
You may also want to look at buying a day pass to your local gym before buying used equipment. The typical cost is $10 or less, and it allows you to see if this is the type of machine you’ll actually use.
Talk to Your Physician About an Exercise Program
If you’ve never exercised before, face any chronic health conditions, or just aren’t sure where to begin, talk to your physician before beginning an exercise program. He or she can advise on the limitations of your body, as well as help you set some goals and determine the best way to meet them.
Let the appointment setter know the reason for your consultation to ensure he or she schedules ample time for your doctor visit. Your doctor may also order testing for diabetes and prediabetes, as well as other assessments.