Art by Jonan Everett
A few years ago, I was in a desperate place financially. I needed every penny of my monthly income from my full-time job to pay for my living expenses and the minimum payments on my debt. I wasn’t able to make much financial progress each month because making only the minimum payment on high-interest credit card debt gets you nowhere fast.
Slashing My Budget and Finding Free Ways to Exercise
The biggest luxury item in my budget was my monthly gym membership fee for Crossfit. It was the most expensive gym in my small hometown. I was paying $75 per month to work out, which was about four percent of my monthly take-home pay.
As much as I loved working out at Crossfit and feeling the health benefits, I finally decided it had to go. After I cut my monthly membership, I put the money toward paying off debt and finally started to see some financial progress.
But since I didn’t want to let my health go downhill, I decided to look for free ways to exercise. In fact, I found a few that I liked.
If a gym membership isn’t in your budget, but you still want to get a good workout, you may want to check out four of my favorite free ways to exercise:
- Walking clubs
- Community sports leagues
- Exercise videos
- DIY workout routines
1. Start or Join a Walking Club
One of the first things I did to make sure that I was still getting my exercise was to start walking with a friend every morning for 30 minutes. We would do a brisk walk before work, and that way I was still able to dedicate some time in the evenings for other physical activities.
Many communities have a walking club. A group will meet up each day to go on a walk at a designated time. You might be able to find out about a walking club through your church, your office, the local library, or even online via Facebook or Craigslist. But if you can’t find one to join, you can try starting your own by talking about it through these same channels.
2. Play in a Community Sports League
Some community sports leagues are free and are basically like college intramurals for adults. But if there is a fee to join a sports league, it’s usually very reasonable. My town offers teams for basketball, volleyball, softball, and more. In larger communities, I’m sure there are even more options.
If you don’t already have sports equipment, you might have to buy some, but always ask to borrow first so that you can make this activity as cheap as possible.
3. Use Exercise Videos
If you’d rather exercise at home on your own, you can follow along with videos to teach you lots of different movements for cardio and strength building. While some exercise programs can be very expensive, you can usually find DVDs for cheap at garage sales or thrift stores. You might also be able to buy them used online.
But to make this absolutely free, check to see if your local library has exercise videos that you can borrow. Also look up different exercises on YouTube. Just make sure that you switch up your videos after a while to work your whole body. You'll also want to increase your workout’s intensity as you get stronger and in better shape.
4. Make Your Own Workout Routine
My favorite free way to exercise is by making up my own home workout routine. I use a lot of what I learned at Crossfit and through playing sports as a kid. I also take advantage of things that I already have around the house and my own body weight for most of my workout. This way, I don’t have to buy anything extra.
You don’t need anything but your own body to do exercises like pushups, sit-ups, burpees, and jumping jacks. You can also use furniture to switch up your routine and make some moves harder or easier as needed. For example, you can use a chair or table to do inclined pushups if you aren’t strong enough to do them on the ground. Or if you're ready for a bigger challenge, put your feet up on the bottom step of your porch for a more difficult pushup.
Clearly you don’t have to spend a lot of money to stay fit and healthy. Actually, you don’t even have to spend a dime!