Top 10 free ways to get in shape fast
“I’m too busy to get in shape.” “I can’t afford a gym membership.” “I’m not athletic.” Statements like these have become mantras for many Americans who would like to get in shape, but keep coming up short. Life gets busy, gym memberships and studio classes are expensive, and fast food can feel almost too convenient to pass up. However, getting in shape doesn’t have to be a costly uphill battle. In fact, it doesn’t need to cost anything at all! Below are 10 free ways to get in shape fast.
Clean Your House Dance-Party Style
If you’re like me, “chores” and “fun” don’t usually belong in the same sentence, unless there’s a big fat “NOT” somewhere in said sentence. However, I’ve recently discovered that having a sweet playlist on hand while cleaning can turn this groan-worthy endeavor into a not-awful time and a great workout. I’ve currently been listening to “Baby Come Home” by the Scissor Sisters while mopping, washing dishes, and sweeping. The fact that “home” is in the title seemed appropriate for housework and it’s a super upbeat jam to keep your energy above par. This is all subjective, of course, so choose whatever playlist works for you. According to Today, you can actually “burn 1,200 calories a day by doing…7 household chores,” which include:
- Vacuuming for 60 minutes (burns 200 calories).
- Shoveling snow for 45 minutes (burns 300 calories).
- Dishwashing for 30 minutes (burns 50 calories).
- Grocery shopping for 1 hour (burns 350 calories).
- Cooking a meal for 1 hour (burns 100 calories).
- Doing laundry for 30 minutes (burns 75 calories).
- Cleaning the bathroom for 1 hour (burns 180 calories).
Obviously we’re not going to always have ample opportunities for snow shoveling (unless you live in the North Pole or something), and we can’t be grocery shopping everyday — that would get expensive and defeats the purpose of this cost-effective list. However, you can always double up on things like cleaning a bathroom if you have more than one, and doing more than one load of laundry. Other chores that work up a sweat include mowing the lawn and weeding. As a personal anecdote, I’ll reference a text message I received from my roommate that led to one of the best bicep workouts I’ve ever enjoyed.
“Hey guys, our yard is something of a jungle,” read the text. We had all been working overtime and didn’t use the yard for much as it was, but somewhere between all that winter’s snow melting and temperatures finally reaching the 70s, the weeds in our yard had begun masquerading as small trees — that’s how high they had grown. I grabbed my gardening gloves (OK, I borrowed them from my dad) and got to weeding. I was initially intimidated, but the repetitiveness and being around the soil actually became strangely invigorating, and my arms were burning afterward. Plus, our yard looked fantastic. It’s basically a twofer when you use housework for exercise — you look great, and so does your humble abode.
Explore Your City or Neighborhood
Have you ever noticed how in shape people in New York City seem to be? What about all those legions of tales of how the beautiful and buff come out in throngs in cities like Paris or other parts of Europe? It’s not due to elaborate meal plans, gym memberships, and trainers. These people walk everywhere. Baltimore-based epidemiologist, Eleanor Simonsick, expounded upon this point during an experiment and relayed to New York Magazine that NYC is actually designed in a way that forces people to walk, which subsequently can increase longevity. “The thing is, as Simonsick points out, New York is literally designed to force people to walk, to climb stairs—and to do it quickly. Driving in the city is maddening, pushing us onto the sidewalks and up and down the stairs to the subways.”
I know people who moved to NYC and a prerequisite of their move was selling their respective vehicles immediately. Why? Because car insurance and payments are not worth the brief amount of driving you would ever do, and if you really need to get somewhere, the subway, a cab ride, or a bus ride are far cheaper than monthly car payments. Everything is extremely accessible and walking from place to place becomes a natural way of life in such cities, ergo, a major calorie burner. Now, I’m not suggesting that you sell your car or move to NYC (it’s kinda costly there), but living like a New Yorker — at least as far as walking is concerned — from time to time can definitely do a body good.
You don’t have to live in a major city to explore the charm around you. Go window shopping or just browse the different sites in your area for a fun workout that won’t even feel like exercise. Maybe there are areas you’ve never even seen yet that are right around the corner, or you’ve missed out on the idyllic charm due to the sites only passing you as blurred images while you whiz by in your car on the way to work. Get up, get out, and get exploring.
Take A Jog
I personally hate treadmills. HATE THEM. No offense to gyms and those that manufacture these pieces of equipment, but it always feels laborious when I’m treading down a path that leads to nowhere, almost like a mouse on a wheel. Of course, there are many ways to make a treadmill workout fun, including watching TV while treading or having a sweet playlist at your disposal. However, being that this list is about how to get in shape for free, we’ll have to save chats on costly equipment for another time. Taking a job is a great way to get in shape and also speaks to number 9 on this list. It can be a great way to explore your neighborhood and discover new things once you have a jogging route down. Furthermore, being outside is good for your psyche. You can free yourself from the confines of home and the office, and also enjoy an added dose of vitamin D by getting out in the sunshine. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that can be absorbed through the skin via sunlight (still wear sunblock for UVA protection, of course, and get vitamin D from other items like fortified dairy products or cereals, and the like), and it encourages things like bone health and positive mood. You’ll literally feel happier just being in the sun and as you jog, “feel good hormones” known as endorphins are released.
As difficult as it can be to motivate yourself to jog, the rewards far outweigh sweat and any minor burns in your muscles, which are just a sign you’ve done your body — and your mind — good.
Make Small Changes
Little changes really can add up in a big way. I remember when I was going to college I kept in shape almost by accident. There was no parking available near the buildings I had classes at, so I ended up walking quite a bit each day. We all need to go to work and/or run errands, so why not park farther away and take the stairs? If sounds menial but the results are anything but.
Lifehacker also suggests things like playing with your children, using your lunch break to squeeze in a quick workout, or even taking time out during commercials to burn a few extra calories.
“Those are great opportunities to get in some quick and effective exercise. Try alternating pushups, sit-ups, jumping jacks and arm circles during the commercial breaks of your favorite shows,” Lifehacker’s Michael Tennant writes. “If you’re not sweating by the end of the episode then you’re just not trying! The best part: this all counts as quality exercise. In fact, these are the same four basic exercises that my old boxing coach would have us do between drills every single practice. And you can get a similar workout without leaving your living room or missing a single minute of your show.”
Download Free Apps and Use Free Workout Videos
Thanks to technology and the rise of the smartphone, there are a smorgasbord of free fitness apps at our fingertips just waiting to be downloaded. Browse as many as you’d like and pick one (or twelve) that tickles your fancy. If one app doesn’t work for you, simply delete it. Because so many apps are free, there’s no fear of commitment unlike with costly gym memberships that often end up going unused. WGNTV even noted an app that is available for iOS and Android that involves a “7-minute workout,” which can give you a quick, effective workout that can be fit into even the busiest of schedules.
Similarly, my roommate recently turned me into the world of free workout videos — and we don’t even have cable! You might be thinking “WHAT?! You don’t have cable?” No, I don’t. Hi there, I’m a freelance writer, and with that lovely profession (which I do truly love) comes a proverbial welcome mat to the world of artistic professions, where saving money practically becomes a second language. Anyway, we don’t have cable, but we do have an Internet connection. I mean, it’s not like I’m living in squalor here. Furthermore, isn’t the internet basically all you need to watch any and everything nowadays?
Anyway, my roommate is an avid practicer of yoga but obviously the cost of yoga classes can crop up. Sites like YouTube offer various workout videos and tutorials entirely free of charge, so you can get a professional level workout at absolutely no cost.
If you do happen to have cable, there are usually various workout videos that can be downloaded for free or that come on at a certain time at absolutely no additional charge.
Start or Join a Kickball League
I am just going to say right now that I was always picked last in gym class, and it didn’t even upset me because it made perfect sense. I am not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. However, a group of my friends decided to start having a weekly kickball game at our local park. Many of the participants really weren’t very sporty, but under these circumstances it’s perfectly fine. You really just need to attempt to kick a ball, run, and call it a day. Even if you’re terrible, you still end up getting a good workout regardless, which is kind of the point.
If kickball isn’t your thing, you can honestly delegate any type of sport to a weekly meet-up with friends. Active notes that exercising in groups encourages motivation, accountability, and group camaraderie — three key things that can help you stick to a program.
Two Things That End In “Ike”
Hikes are a great way to get in shape and also an opportunity for a fun, nature-filled social gathering. If you want to go solo, that’s fine too. Hiking can be a great way to reclaim some serenity after a long week of the bustling work grind or if you’ve just been feeling cooped up. Because hiking trails are the epitome of the term “off the beaten path” it’s a great way to take a reprieve from the regular doldrums of daily life. It is truly as good of a mental relief as it is a physical rejuvenation. Moreover, hiking is meant to be leisurely, so you don’t have to be intimidated by the exercise as you may be, say, training for a marathon. If you’re still leery of hiking or unsure of how to prepare, Backpacker offers seven ways to get fit for a hike in just 10 minutes.
One thing that can pair well with hiking trails other than actual, well, hiking is biking. Do you own a bike or know someone who uses theirs more as a clothes rack than a piece of exercise equipment/transportation? People can bike practically anywhere and this delivers an impeccable workout while ALSO saving gas money. If you feel leery, try biking short distances at first and work your way up to extra mileage. Bikes are a popular fixture on hiking trails as well, as many are designed for those looking to take two wheels to the outdoors.
Pack up your bug spray, bottled water, and get hiking…or biking.
Free Equipment and Workout Classes Actually Do Exist
According to US News there are various ways to get free equipment. “If you really want to get something free, check Craigslist or its more credible counterpart, Freecycle.org. The latter is a website organized by locality, where people near you are literally giving things away for the sake of keeping good products out of landfills.” US News goes on to note that you can also post your own “wanted” ad on the aforementioned sites when looking for equipment. You’ll be surprised to see how many people are ready to simply “get rid” of things for absolutely no money at all, just to reclaim the space in their homes that is currently occupied by unused equipment.
You can also get a good workout at various studios and gyms by taking on a trial program, which many offer and are free. Even pricey programs usually offer at least one free class to try in order for potential members to get a feel for the regime, and to decide whether or not it is a good fit for their individual goals.
Channel Your Inner Child
Remember when we were kids and our favorite thing to do was “go out and play”? Often considered a reward for finishing our vegetables in our younger days, we were actually burning more calories than our then-overactive metabolism knew what to do with. True story: I have a friend who busts out a hula hoop during any period of stress or upset. She is one of the fittest people I know and does not have a gym membership. She is also probably only 5’2″ and puts away more food than any active, 6’5″ man I know. While admiring her undulating, ladder-like abdomen during one of our vent sessions, I asked her, “How do you keep in such great shape?” She replied, “Your looking at it.” Did I mention she was hooping during this entire conversation? She was. She credits her physique almost entirely to hooping, and apparently hooping is so much more than a workout for your waistline. There are plenty of professional hooping classes, but you can also look up hoop-based workouts on sites like YouTube to figure out more than a few neat tricks to break out at your next social gathering — just be sure to practice far away from anything breakable. Yeah, my friend has also seen the death of a couple lamps during her workouts.
If you’re not as keen on hula hooping, SPARKPEOPLE offers a few other ideas. You can bust out a jump rope, break into some jumping jacks, become nostalgic on a swing-set, or even play a round of tag. Remember when we were children and just wanted to jump up and down all the time? That actually happens to be good for you. Not only are these workouts fun and serve to remind us of a simpler time, they burn a ton of calories. My personal favorite way to channel my inner child — and keep myself in shape — is to blast old Disney tunes and dance like a maniac. I’m always sure to keep my door closed during these solo sessions.
No, we’re not asking you to starve your way to a bigger bank account — quite the opposite! The average person needs at least 2,000 calories a day, and with food being a basic necessity, it is never something that should be negated in order to save a buck or two. However, more than half of Americans are currently overweight. What this means is that we are often consuming far more calories than we need and taking unnecessary hits to our respective expenses. The average person needs about 2,000 calories per day, and with fast food chains and restaurants serving portions of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods that can come close to that amount in one sitting, it’s definitely time to cut back.
Instead of eating out frequently, or stocking up on junk food at the grocery store, pick satiating, nutrient-dense foods that will keep you fuller longer, causing you to eat less and encouraging weight loss. How do we accomplish this? Other than spending more time cooking at home than eating out (which is integral to decreasing your budget and maintaining weight), you can increase your intake of fiber and lean protein.
The recommended intake of dietary fiber is 25 to 30 grams per day, which doesn’t sound like much, but Americans continually do not receive an adequate amount. This is because fiber is not found in various foods that have a high amount of calories and nearly zero nutritional content — an unfortunate staple of the American diet. Simple carbohydrates and sugary foods (think things like donuts, white bread, and the like) have almost no fiber, but can be consumed at high quantities because people seldom get full — or stay full — from eating these. Conversely, high fiber foods are loaded with nutrients, generally very low in calories, and keep you feeling fuller longer. This is because fiber takes a while to fully digest. Foods that are often high in fiber include:
- Fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas.
- Most vegetables, particularly the brightly colored ones and dark, leafy greens like broccoli and kale.
- Complex carbohydrates like bran, whole wheat bread, and granola.
Lean proteins like nuts, beans, and low-fat meats make for a perfect pairing with high-fiber foods, because they will keep your energy high, your belly full, and your waistline lean. Consider these ideas for a healthy snack or as a healthy addition to your next entree:
- Plain greek yogurt sweetened with berries and organic, low-sugar granola.
- Chicken and broccoli drizzled with olive oil and spices.
- Natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread.
Not only will these items satiate your diet, they will save you a pretty penny.
See? Getting in shape doesn’t have to be so hard after all.