Money & Career

20 ways to get in shape for free

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

20 ways to get in shape for free

Some gym membership fees are enough to make a body want to run -- in the opposite direction. But everyone should be getting regular exercise. And fitness shouldn't be a luxury, so if they gym's out of your budget, you've got to find alternative ways to get moving.

Here are 20 ideas for free or almost free fitness, to get you moving and keep you saving. Share your own tips in the comments.

1. Walk to your local library and check out fitness videos and DVDs. It's free and a great way to try out different fitness practices -- from a killer workout to gentle restorative yoga -- to see what clicks and keep things interesting.

2. Work out with YouTube. We can't vouch for the quality or expertise -- remember, sites such as YouTube are pretty much anything goes -- so be careful. But there are countless exercise videos to be watched and practised with for free. Get started with this stretching routine from Canadian Living fitness expert Pam Mazzuca Prebeg

3. While you're at the computer, take a look at some free fitness sites, such as freetrainers.com or fitocracy.com, for advice and support with reaching your goals.

4. Check with your municipality. Many offer free or deeply discounted classes or leagues to join or have pools available for community use. In summer, why not take up the habit of swimming a few laps at your local outdoor pool? Swimming is a brilliant way to cool down, work out and relax. Sleep is deep after a good swim.

5. What about your workplace? Is there a team you could sign up for? Many companies offer softball, curling, volleyball and other team sports to join for free.

Page 1 of 3 -- read about cycling, running and free fitness classes on page 2

6. If you live in any major city, we bet you've noticed the folks slowly, gracefully going through their tai chi moves in the park. Chances are, you're welcome to join in. Check with the Tai Chi Society in your area to inquire about membership fees, which vary by region and are discounted for students, seniors and other groups in need.

7. Did you know that Lululemon stores offer free yoga classes and running groups? Visit their store finder (lululemon.com/stores) for details on what's available near you.

8. Canvas your friends: Do any of them live in a building with a gym or fitness room? Can you get in on a guest pass?

9. Keep your eyes peeled for notices of free yoga classes offered as good karma initiatives around your neighbourhood. These folks don't often have money to advertise, so look for signs posted on notice boards or telephone poles and in cafes and shops.

10. Does your local humane society, SPCA or municipal dog pound need volunteer dog walkers? Think about it: If you walked even two rambunctious pooches every day -- well, you'd be doing so very much, for you and for them.

11. Can you decide to walk to or from -- or to and from -- work every day, or at least three times a week? Not only is this free, it will save you either parking and gas or transit fares. If you want to speed things up and get the most of this workout, wear your sneakers and put your stuff in a backpack, so you don't hurt your neck, back or shoulders with an uneven purse or satchel.

12. Do you own a bike? How about dusting it off and taking it out for a spin? More and more folks are trading in four wheels for two and using a bicycle for errands, commuting and joy rides, too. But if you're not comfortable riding in the busy city streets, we hear you. So check into your area's bike trails.

Page 2 of 3 -- Read on for walking clubs, used fitness equipment and golfing on the cheap
13. Pick up a great deal on some used equipment through Craigslist or Kijiji or by visiting thrift shops. Places like Value Village are often brimming over with free weights, skates and badminton rackets and yes, you can even find the odd ThighMaster. Also, it's a great place to pick up a workout video or DVD for next to nothing.

14. Take advantage of gym or yoga studio promotions. We've all found those flyers and coupons in our mailbox or inbox, the ones that offer one free month or 30 yoga classes free. Go ahead. They're offering; you should accept. Just be sure to read the fine print before you sign anything.

15. Barter. Some gyms or yoga studios are willing to trade chores and cleaning for free classes or gym time. Talk to the owner or manager -- perhaps there's something you're good at that they could use. Do you cook or bake? Paint? Are you a massage therapist? Hairdresser? Photographer? Caterer? Put your thinking cap on -- you never know.

16. Take up hobbies that require physical activity, such as bird watching, gardening or volunteering at a food bank or community gardening program.

17. Think golf looks like fun but costs a small fortune? Well, many municipal golf courses don't require memberships, nor do they cost an arm and a leg. Do a web search or visit golf-courses.ca to search in your area for free or lower-cost courses.

18. Most cities and towns across Canada have free drop-in tennis courts. Sure, you may have to wait a while, but it's a great way to meet people, make new friends and find folks to play with. Don't want to invest in a fancy, space age, titanium racket? Once again, visit the thrift shops: used rackets are everywhere and inexpensive. Or ask around -- it's likely you've got a friend or two with an unused racket in the basement.

19. Does your employer have a deal for deep discounts with a fitness centre or gym in the building? Talk to your Human Resources department to find out.

20. Many running stores, such as the Running Room, offer free running and walking groups so you can meet like-minded people for exercise, whether it's recreational or for training. Call your local store or running group to see what's available.

We've gotten quite a workout just listing the possibilities, and we're sure you'll be able to find a way to keep fit -- physically and financially.

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