Cool Ideas

Gym Results, Minus the Cost

Don’t spend $800 to wait in line at the elliptical machine

The average gym membership costs about $50 a month. And once you factor in the usual signup fee, many well-intentioned Americans are coughing up about $800 a year to wait in line at the elliptical. Sure, the health benefits (and being able to fit into your skinny jeans) might be worth the expense, but you can burn just as many calories for free. Research—and often, waistlines—shows that a majority of people who join a gym only end up going less than once per week.

That’s why we recommend you ditch your membership, and try these easy and free exercises. Not only will it save you about $800 a year— you also might get into the habit of exercising a few times per week, which is far more than the average gym member gets! The trick is to stay active, get creative, and go back to the basics.

  1. Jump rope.
    This tried and true routine gets your heart pumping, and you can burn as many as 1,000 calories per hour.
  2. Turn on the radio.
    Dancing is a great way to get in some cardio exercise—plus it’s an excellent stress reliever.
  3. Take a walk.
    The key to staying fit is getting about 30 minutes of added activity into your day. Take it up a notch by picking up the pace or carrying some weights.
  4. Play with your kids.
    Keeping up with your kids burns major calories. Play catch, push them on a swing, or start up a game of family kickball—you’ll get in some quality together time too!
  5. Drop and give me 10.
    Pushups are one of the most beneficial exercises because they combine cardio, strength, and stretching. Start slow, and soon you’ll build up your endurance and be able to do several at a time.
  6. Jog in place.
    Who doesn’t love an exercise you can do in front of the TV? Instead of sitting on the couch to watch your favorite show, get up and jog for that hour. You’ll be surprised how fast it pays off.
  7. Lift homemade weights.
    There’s no need to go out and buy expensive weights. You have items all around your house that you can use, such as a can of peas, milk jugs, and laundry detergent bottles.
  8. Spring clean.
    No, it doesn’t have to actually be spring. Cleaning burns a surprising amount of calories—plus your house will be in tip-top shape as well.
  9. Join a team.
    Start up a weekly game of softball, baseball, or flag football with your friends. Exercise is always more fun with a group, and you’ll be less likely to blow off your friends than a personal trainer at the gym.
  10. Get cooking.
    Preparing a meal for your family actually burns calories, and the benefits are twofold, since you’ll also save money on food costs. (And chances are you’ll be eating healthier!) Hand wash the dishes after to burn a few extra calories.