A few years ago I lost a heap of weight (I went down 3 dress sizes), without going on a diet or trying to lose weight. What happened? I moved out of college and started cooking (healthy food) for myself, I suddenly had to clean my own house, I walked everywhere, and I worked in a job that involved quite a bit of lifting, stacking and bending.
The key for me is that all the exercise I did was incidental. I didn’t try to do some boring training routine, I just had to get from A to B and walking was the only option. If you’ve tried starting fitness programmes and failed (I have many times), then try making a lifestyle shift instead and incorporate regular movement into your existing everyday routine.
Studies show that regular exercise is not only good for the cardiovascular system, it also encourages the brain to build new brain cells, improving memory and keeping our minds younger, longer. And you don’t have to hurt for a week to get the health benefits of exercise. Mild exercise that’s just beyond your current comfort zone is plenty for good health.
Mixing cardio and muscle building gives the best overall fitness. Muscle burns fat. Increasing muscle (without looking like a body builder) increases your metabolism, which means you lose more weight even while resting.
Walking is the ultimate fitness programme in my opinion. Ditch the car as much as possible and walk to where you need to go. If you have to use the car, park as far away from your destination as possible and walk the rest of the way. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Not only is walking free exercise, you’re also saving money on petrol.
Going for a walk clears the mind and improves the mood. If you’re feeling down try going for a walk. Walk the dog, walk along the beach or in the park, walk around the clothesline or walk to the shops for a cuppa amongst the crowd.
Housework can be a real workout. Mopping, sweeping, vacuuming, making beds, picking things up from the floor, washing windows… Cleaning the house from top to bottom once a week means you have a regular work out routine and a sparkling house. Rev it up and increase your movement by putting on some up-beat music to clean to.
Yard work and de-cluttering is another way to get in some weight training without doing weight training. If work around the home involves some straining, you know you’re getting a workout. Just take good OHS measures so as not to strain your back etc (I have to add this in case my chiropractic friend is reading and having kittens!)
Take the Stairs. When I was living in the city, there were lots of places that had both stairs and escalators side by side. The stairs were always empty and it made me wonder how many people on the escalator paid for a gym membership. Take the stairs as much as possible or walk up and down the escalator to increase movement.
Dancing is not only fun, but is also a great workout. Friday nights used to be Disco Night on my favourite radio station. Dancing around to Alicia Bridges – how can anyone keep still! It’s a fun way to start the weekend.
Go for a swim. If you live near the beach, then you have a great place to walk and swim, but the local pool is just as good – so I’m told – my swimming ability is limited to doggy paddle! Swimming is good because it’s low impact.
Laughing is not only good for your mood, a good belly laugh works out your abs at the same time. Remember the last time you laughed so hard your stomach hurt?
Play with the kids. Do you know all the Wiggles moves? Do you jump up and do the actions with the kids? How about chase them round the house, or carry the toddler or play twister?
Play. Play backyard cricket, play beach Frisbee, play chase, play football, play wrestling, play on the swings, play in the water, play with the dog, play in the park, play in the trees, play in the yard.
Exercise with your partner – ok, I’m being euphemistic here. Vigorous activity in the (ahem) bedroom is as good as any cardio workout and a whole lot more fun.
and for formal exercise routines…
Check out YouTube for free fitness videos to work out to.
Use what’s already in your house as gym equipment. You may already have bought an exercise bike that is sitting gathering dust (actually, I dust mine), so use what you’ve already spent money on. If you haven’t succumbed to temptation, your house is still full of potential exercise equipment. Use a bare wall to do squats against, use a chair for bench presses, the back step for step ups.
As far as weights go, try water bottles, tin cans or even plastic milk jugs with handles as weights, although gravity can work just as well. This is an exercise we did in yoga. Try it. Stretch your arms out to your sides so that your hands are level with you shoulders. How long before you feel the ache?
Learn Spanish. Like I said, I find exercise really, really boring. But later this year I thought I would dust off my Spanish CDs and practice on the exercise bike. Exercise and free podcasts or spoken eBooks – the best of multitasking.
This may be revealing too much about my lunchtime habits, but I saw this segment on Dr Phil about working out at home. It gives an idea of how to use household furniture as workout equipment.
What do you do for free exercise?
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.