The SparkPeople Blog

7 Fun Ways to Get Slim without the Gym

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/25/2011 9:00 AM   :  52 comments   :  35,991 Views

Do you find yourself holding even tighter to your purse strings these days? I'm always looking for ways to cut my expenses, especially with gas and food prices on the rise. This can be challenging to do when you're trying to lose weight and adopt a healthy lifestyle though. After all, they say it costs more to be healthy: "Health food" is usually more expensive per calorie than junk food (although that isn't always the case); going to the doctor for regular checkups can add up, too. And exercise? Well, moving your body safely and effectively isn't always cheap: Workout shoes, clothes, classes and gym memberships can really add up.

As a fitness instructor, I don't have to pay for access to a gym. But if I did have to (knowing my cheap self), I probably wouldn’t. Beyond the three classes I teach per week, I rarely set foot in the gym. Partly because the gym feels like "work" to me, and partly because I need a change of scenery, most of my workouts take place outdoors or at home.

So whether you're trying to save a buck, spend more time at home (and less time in transit), or simply don't like the atmosphere of a gym, don't worry. There are plenty of ways you can get fit and healthy without ever signing a contract or forking over even a single month's worth of membership fees. Here are some of my favorites!

Workout DVDs
I heart workout DVDs! They offer endless variety and a cheap way to get tons of exercise ideas that suit your needs. You'd only need a couple good ones to get a great workout, and you can resell them, trade with a friend, borrow more from your local library, or "swap" them online for a brand new title for just the cost of postage (I like swap.com for this). Whether you want gentle yoga, a hardcore strength workout, dancing or even step aerobics, workout DVDs only get better and more diverse over time. Here are some of our favorites to get you started, but read these money-saving tips before you buy.

Get On Your Feet
Truly some of the best cardio workouts you can get, walking, hiking and running are ideal for exercisers of all ability levels. Start with a walk, progress to a walk/jog, then take up running. Over time you can add hills, speed, distance and time to your workouts to continue challenging yourself in new ways. Head outdoors, hit the mall, or find a lovely trail and you are set. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes.

Pedal Power
Many people have bikes, yet few of us use them regularly. Tune up your bike this weekend and head out for a ride. Whether you go on the street, on a bike path, or even commute to work, it's a great workout that you can also use as a multitasker and money-saver if it becomes part of your daily routine.

Yard Workouts
This past weekend, I spent three straight hours hauling dirt and compost, weeding, raking, planting seedlings and mowing the lawn. Talk about a workout! There was no way I'd need to hit the gym after all of those full-body cardio and strengthening moves. Gardening and yard work can be major calorie burners, and they're functional, too. They use your body through various planes and directions of movement, helping you develop strength, balance and coordination for the types of activities you do every day. I boost the burn by using fewer labor saving devices when I work in the yard. I use a manual edger (no motor), a reel mower (no motor), bins for hauling dirt and compost (as opposed to a wheel barrow) and a watering can that I refill and carry throughout the yard.

Everyday Objects
You don't need a home gym or heavy weights to get a good strength-training routine in at home. Look around you: What could become exercise equipment? How about a towel? That playground ball your kids play with? Your filled water bottle can double as a dumbbell. That baby sling can act as a weighted vest while you walk, squat and lunge. Can you turn laundry into a workout by squatting as you transfer clothes in and out of the dryer? Those full bags of groceries can be curled, raised and extended to tone your biceps, shoulders and triceps (respectively). If you look around you, exercise opportunities abound—no fancy equipment required.

Pick Your Own / Farm Share
I'm a big fan of pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms. You go out and provide the labor (exercise) and get a good price on some fresh and healthy food as a result. I buy dozens of pounds of berries every year this way. I've also just joined a CSA (farm share) that requires me to work 40 hours over the growing season. Not only is the produce fresh, local and way cheaper than I could get at the store, but I'm getting great exercise and learning a lot in the process.

SparkPeople
Of course, SparkPeople.com offers dozen of free workout videos and exercises you can do at home (with or without basic equipment) to help you get in shape. We also offer walking guides, running plans, yoga routines and more to help you slim down without paying high for a gym membership. You'll find all of that and more in our Fitness Resources section.

Do you think a gym membership is a must? What is your favorite (or most creative) way to get slim without setting foot in the gym?

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Comments

  • ISABELLA_JAMES
    52
    This is a really informative blog. I gave these things a shot, but the gym doesn't really work for me. As I feel more comfortable exercising at home. I was a little over weight a few months, I used this application which really helped me a lot as well as my sister who gained weight after pregnancy. We didn't really cut down much on food, but really followed the postures which the application helped us in learning, and also the diet chart. I must recommend it to you all. As I think it will really help someone. It was the 'Couch to 5k app' as well as the 'yoga app', it even shows you the erect positions and everything in detail. I hope this would turn out of some help, just log on to google and type Mobile Media City, the website link will appear click on it & check out the amazing applications that they have, a lot new are being released like Hundred Pushups Pro. It's the newest app with amazing graphics. My brother just started using it too! Lets see how he finds it.
    I hope this really would help you.
    Take care. - 7/22/2011   9:11:02 AM
  • 51
    Some really great alternatives, here. Thanks! - 6/27/2011   1:44:30 PM
  • PARISTASAI
    50
    Dance! No one mentioned dance the most fun way to get fit without a gym! - 6/27/2011   8:38:47 AM
  • 49
    Actually, I have never gone to gym. :) I think gym is nice with great musics and cool environment, but I love my home better, that's why I choose my Wii. - 6/27/2011   4:11:15 AM
  • 48
    I read you loud and clear. What I have down on my own is to turn house work into a work out. This gives me all body areas to work on. Also makes house work more fun than a 'have to do". Thanks for all the input you give. - 6/25/2011   8:57:08 PM
  • 47
    Leslie Sansone's Walk Away The Pounds DVD's is easy for me...but, I'm thinking of
    joining a local YMCA for water aerobic's. - 6/25/2011   7:47:23 PM
  • 46
    I have my DVD's, weights, stability ball and Wii, so yeah, I keep busy when my foolish foot isn't in a cast due to surgery (UGHERS !) I am just waiting to feel BETTER !!! Anxiously so !! I also go rollerskating on weekends with the Grands. - 6/25/2011   2:09:33 AM
  • 45
    I have my DVD's, weights, stability ball and Wii, so yeah, I keep busy when my foolish foot isn't in a cast due to surgery (UGHERS !) I am just waiting to feel BETTER !!! Anxiously so !! I also go rollerskating on weekends with the Grands. - 6/25/2011   2:09:32 AM
  • BECKYJMART
    44
    I do not have a gym membership as of yet, but am thinking of gifting myself one for my birthday. For me it's too easy to become distracted (or lazy) at home. If I have to pay for it, I WILL make it a priority. - 6/25/2011   12:31:13 AM
  • DAWNJON14
    43
    The Wii and Xbox 360 Kinect have been a great replacement for the gym. - 6/24/2011   9:37:02 PM
  • DETERMINDCHICKY
    42
    I love that you used yard work as a workout. Cause it truly is. I had stopped logging it as such but my body still reflects the work I have been doing. I also LOVE the idea of the pick your own farms! I forgot what a great workout it is to go pick apples or strawberries. GREAT idea! And fun for the kids as well.

    - 6/24/2011   3:13:49 PM
  • 41
    I can have a free gym membership through my health insurance program, but with a pool in the backyard, a recumbent stationary bike in the great room, two good feet for walking, along with housework, gardening, etc., I can't see spending the gas to go to a gym. - 5/31/2011   10:12:44 PM
  • CHEREECHANTA
    40
    No, I do not think that a gym membership is a must. The gym opened my eyes to Zumba and that was one of my only reasons for wanting to attend, but work schedule prevented me from keeping up with my workout schedule. Now my Wii has become my best choise for this weight loss journey. I am motivated to exercise for an hour each day, because I am trying to beat an old score or achieve a perfect score. I am still losing weight and that is the goal. I also work in my yard twice a week. I want to have the best lawn in the neighborhood. The sweat that is produced in this act is astounding. So again, no, I do not think that a gym membership is a must. - 5/31/2011   1:22:53 PM
  • 39
    I love the gym but also try and incorporate other things during the day. - 5/29/2011   12:25:45 PM
  • 38
    I like to either walk or go running and do strength exercises without equipment or the sparkpeople exercise videos. - 5/28/2011   6:03:56 AM
  • 37
    I certainly make do very well without a gym. How about this for a radical idea: I believe with the help of Spark, I can play hooky on my yoga school for the rest of my life!

    For sure I can't afford it, and I never really could. But the amount of time available to have been spent on the research and experimentation on my own, to get me to the kind of practice I now have, has been very sparse with my crazy schedule ...

    Honestly, my home practices are longer-than-class-length. Three and four times a week.

    I plateau more frequently and kink myself up more frequently than would occur with attendance more than weekly. But I rarely could afford to attend more than weekly—those Hamiltons (for the AFFORDABLY-priced class in the locality where I live) add up fast.

    Anyway, as with temple, the classes do send out prayers and intentions for all those "who could not practice with them in class today". I am in receipt of all their kind intentions (at no extra charge)—YES! I'm finally going to take them up on their "word".

    Because, on the whole, after the first 10 minutes, the only thing reminding me that I am alone is, I have to change the music myself ... - 5/27/2011   3:15:41 PM
  • MASUGAHAU
    36
    I love the gym because of the external motivation. I'm not very far into my weight loss journey, so it can be embarassing to be at the gym. But when I can lift more weight and bike longer than the other, skinnier people there, it helps to keep me motivated. I figure, whatever works! - 5/27/2011   12:56:26 PM
  • ANPRA89
    35
    Very nicely stated. Being an outdoor person helps. - 5/27/2011   5:52:27 AM
  • 34
    I see no need to pay for a gym membership since I have a treadmill, legs, weights of diffrent sizes, resistance cords & a ball. I also have access to a bike but I prefer a stationary bike usually. Plus Sparkpeople and YouTube have hundreds of exercise videos to follow along with. I would like to have a stepper and a jump rope but other than that I have everything I need to get exercise and an effective workout. I perfer working out and exercising by myself as well so I don't overextend myself so solitary exercise is best for me.
    The only time I would want to pay to go to a gym is if I wanted to take a certain class to make sure I am doing the exercises properly like aerobics, spinning, yoga etc... - 5/27/2011   12:13:22 AM
  • TRENTONA
    33
    I love my gym- I have been a member for 2 months; very reasonable offer at $10/month. All classes are included in this 24/7 membership so I can spice things up- do new things keep from getting unmotivated, bored, and in a rut! It is on the way home from work so there is no excuse! I still do things outside the gym, but I love having the option! - 5/26/2011   10:28:13 PM
  • 32
    I can understand people who workout solely at home. Kids, cost, transportation issues, and other factors. I guess I am lucky not to have such interference at this time.
    Our local gym options are very affordable though.
    Planet Fitness is $10 a month (24 hours through the week, 7am-7pm weekends).
    Snap Fitness costs $40 a month but is 24/7/365 via electronic keycard entry, and monitored by video cam.
    After trying both I prefer Snap Fitness. The people seem more serious and dedicated to fitness and achievement rather than socializing (though we do that, too). Plus the weekend hours work better for me because I can go anytime.
    Again, for anyone who can't make it to a gym for whatever reason, working out at home is awesome too! I do some P90X and Bodyrock.Tv (on youtube).
    I wish more people shared their fitness and nutrition trackers so we could get more examples of what is working for people. - 5/26/2011   10:16:39 PM
  • 31
    A jump rope is $10 and some fun yet killer cardio. - 5/26/2011   6:49:42 PM
  • RUNESHADOW
    30
    I wouldn't go to a gym if you paid me. I am strictly a solo person when it comes to exercise. I don't even want to walk with a companion. I am a fan of Nicole's exercises demos and videos on SP. One of the reasons I value SP is that SP folks (experts and members) offer alternatives and sometimes adaptations. I have physical limitations and am on disability, so I appreciate the exercises I can do or adapt, without equipment or with minimal equipment. I have small dumbbells and will be checking yard sales this summer for bigger ones.

    I have minimal problems with motivation. I need to do physical therapy daily, and since I live alone except for a cat, before bed, I put out my yoga mat and outfit. Since I can manage my pain easier by doing my physical therapy, I do that unless I am severely ill. And since I do the therapy, I start with stretches, then the physical therapy, and it is easy to segue into "real" exercises.

    I am learning on SP to vary my routines and to add to them, as well as to track cardio. Because of my physical limitations, I run new ideas past my chiropractor and the personal trainer who works in her office.

    My daughter adores the gym, but with the birth of her kids, it is no longer practical or affordable. She has an ellliptical at home and since she had previously worn out two treadmills and an exercise bike, I am certain she can be consistent in using her elliptical at home.

    Different strokes for different folks. Isn't that what SP is all about? - 5/26/2011   4:17:34 PM
  • MIEZEKATZE
    29
    "Do you think a gym membership is a must?" It really depends on the person. I get bored SO easily, so for me, a gym membership is a must. My gym is FANTASTIC. But pricey! There are a ton of different classes to keep me motivated and interested, and the machines are all very hi-tech, with games you can play programmed in them.

    "What is your favorite (or most creative) way to get slim without setting foot in the gym?" Playing a game with friends - mostly volleyball. Doing housework always seems to get my heartrate up too! - 5/26/2011   3:43:00 PM
  • 28
    GYMS CAN BE VERY EXPENSIVE AND WITH THE ECONOMY WE MUST MAKE "CHOICES." I HAVE FOUND THAT I CAN GO TO THE "Y" (BUT ONLY TWICE A WEEK, AND ONLY CERTAIN HOURS) AS A "SENIOR MEMBER." MAYBE THIS IS AN OPTION! - 5/26/2011   11:25:26 AM
  • MOREPOWER
    27
    I used to belong to a women's only gym when I was in my early 20s. I joined with my sister and two of our friends. At the time it was a real social outing and with work and university that was a chance to catch up on news with friends. Once we all got married and started raising families, the focus changed. Our activities revolved around our spouses and kids. Now that my daughters are in their teens I feel that I could join a gym but not sure if I want to. I do execise at home. - 5/26/2011   11:23:03 AM
  • 26
    No you don't need a membership at a gym. Most of my exercise in the past and even now has not been in a gym. But I do have a membership. Bally's offered me a whole year without payments or anything down for $100. So I could not skip this deal.

    I often hike to get my exercise. Witch in my opinion is the best cardio and muscle work. I mean I am a person that will do a hour and a half of cardio at the gym. But I get my but kicked hiking especially what I did last weekend cross country. It was tough. In the past I also use to walk my kids to school when they were little. I use to have all kinds of tricks to get me to exercise without feeling like I was. - 5/26/2011   11:04:03 AM
  • DM102382
    25
    I did belong to a gym but gas prices going up so high I had to quit. The only way I had to get there was my daughter taking me because I can't drive due to epilepsy. It was getting costly for her to drive us 10 miles to town to work out and then back home and then back to town to work. So I just started walking at home sisnce the weather is getting nicer. - 5/26/2011   10:55:13 AM
  • 24
    I must be one of the odd ones that needs the gym to get a good workout. I have a treadmill at home, weights, step, stability ball, videos, all of it but I'm just not motivated or I guess dedicated enough to work out at home. Now that being said, in the Spring/Summer I mow, ride my bike and go for walks. - 5/26/2011   9:48:23 AM
  • 23
    Nicole, I bet you'd pay to go to the gym! It's sortof like the difference between using spark people or going it alone. Working out at home to dvd's or on-demand shows on cable is great but you don't get that personal interaction like at the gym. Solitude is ok at times but, well for me when I see someone at the gym working really hard, or who looks really good, its inspiring. And I figure, sometimes *I* am the one working really hard, and maybe someone else will see me and be inspired. :) - 5/26/2011   9:30:32 AM
  • LAS_KARINAS
    22
    tHaNK U FOR THe IDEaS.... - 5/26/2011   9:19:22 AM
  • 21
    Thanks for the blog and the great ideas!I've been playing baseball , basketball, and kickball with my son lately! I haven't gone to the gym in ages.There's tons of ways to work in a strength workout around the house, or even at work. - 5/26/2011   7:23:52 AM
  • 20
    I definitely don't think that the gym is a must, though it can be helpful.

    I have access to a small fitness center for free, and I go pretty regularly in the winter because it gets me out of the house when the weather makes it hard to workout outside (cold induced asthma) and it gives me different options for both cardio and strength training than I have at home and I like variety. Also, some of the equipment is good for my hip, and it gives me access to a pool in the summer. So all pluses.

    But I doubt I would pay for a real gym membership--for one thing, I don't like the "crowds" at my local fitness center and it's a busy day if 5 people are there. Working out in a large gym just isn't my thing. Two, it's expensive, way more money than I want to spend on a fall back for when the weather keeps me indoors but I don't want to be home.

    As for my most creative workout? I'm not terribly creative in my work outs--but I think the most fun I have consistently is fencing. But I have had a great time doing lots of calorie burning activities, including sledding in the winter. - 5/26/2011   1:15:30 AM
  • 19
    I don't it's necessary to have gym membership, especially when you can't use fully the membership benefits and not going to the gym often. Besides, it's way fun to do exercises outsides the gym and you can get more creative! - 5/25/2011   11:49:01 PM
  • 18
    I don't go to the gym, I exercise to DVD's or ride my stationary bike, or my outdoor bike. I do love the local pool though. It ends up to be expensive. - 5/25/2011   11:27:59 PM
  • SWEETPETUNIA
    17
    I try to walk/jog in the park at least a couple of times a week (they have a beautiful 1 mile walking trail that never gets boring) I also like to hike and do wild crafting. I do not have a drier for my clothes, so its bend over, hang on the line, bend over, hang on the line, etc. Not only a good workout but the clothes smell great! Gardening is another source of great exercise for me. - 5/25/2011   10:46:18 PM
  • 16
    I have a treadmill and a Gazelle at home. Plus, exercise DVD's, hand weights, a ball and workout bands. Plus, I walk the dog!! - 5/25/2011   10:11:08 PM
  • 15
    I've lost 18 lbs since March and I haven't set foot in a gym. I'm not completely against it but I have a gym at home = weights, mat, swiss ball, yoga strap, yoga block, and a few DVDs. No need to spend extra money I don't have. - 5/25/2011   9:52:35 PM
  • 14
    Love DVDs and my bands! - 5/25/2011   8:41:51 PM
  • 13
    I have a bike and treadmill at home and find they can be fun when I'm motivated! - 5/25/2011   7:03:56 PM
  • 12
    These are all very effective tips. I will have to keep this in mind. I have never owned a gym membership but with these tips, I feel as though, I don't really need one. - 5/25/2011   4:16:05 PM
  • 11
    I think it's definitely VERY possible to get fit without a gym membership, like you said. There are situations where a gym may be useful: e.g. starting out with exercise and wanting to learn the ropes or figure out what you really enjoy, the social aspect of group classes (not to mention the opportunity to try things that you may not do at home, like Zumba or spinning), or access to things you may not have, like a pool!

    I do have a gym membership because I got an incredible deal on it, and I like some of the classes and having it as a place to go on bad weather days or to do something different, but I do a LOT of exercise - like running, videos, and weight training - without it too. - 5/25/2011   4:00:24 PM
  • 10
    I think these are great ideas; especially for people like me who can't afford a gym membership. I have a small house and not enough room for large pieces of equipment, but I have workout dvds, dumb bells, a stability ball, a mini stepper, and one of those pedal exerciser things you sit in a chair to use. - 5/25/2011   3:50:36 PM
  • 9
    I live in an apartment building where noise travels. I will sometimes work out at home during the day, but I would definitely not work out regularly at home. I'm outside a lot when the weather is decent (I do walk in the rain), but I spend a lot of time in the gym. Its just what works for me. - 5/25/2011   2:27:46 PM
  • 8
    I hate gyms! I do love working out at home. I take advantage of the Spark workout videos, and anything else I can get on my laptop with a little research. I only have a little equipment, ball, bands, dumb bells, and a really good treadmill since we have a lot of nasty weather around here. I love walking when I can, and I ride my bike too. - 5/25/2011   1:37:08 PM
  • 7
    I never mowed until last year when i started SP... and now I fight my husband for it. It is my FAVORITE work out and I love that I CANT quit halfway through or my whole yard looks terrible. Great motivation to see a nice, neat yard when I am done. - 5/25/2011   1:22:22 PM
  • 6
    I used to be an avid fan of the gym. But two kids and a fledgling business later, it's near impossible to find time to drive, park, dress, workout, shower, and drive home again. I've been using my elliptical at home that I was gifted but I like the Spark videos too and they've led me to other workouts on YouTube. Plus now that school is out for summer, the track at the high school is open and I can walk while the girls run wild - no babysitter required as at the gym. I look forward to a time when I can work out there again (sans kids) but for now, no gym needed! - 5/25/2011   12:33:03 PM
  • 5
    I am not a fan of the gym. I always feel like I'm on display and I'm pretty self conscious. I'm also horribly un-coordinated and it's especially hard for me to be comfortable in a new class learning difficult routines. If I'm in my basement with a dvd it doesn't matter if I trip over my own feet, or grunt through the last squat/ lunge. It's a lot harder to find an excuse to not work out when I just need to head downstairs.
    Recently my co-workers and I have set up a workout dvd library. We bring in dvd's that we are willing to share and if another person would like to use it, they check it out for an indeterminate length of time. If we need a specific dvd back, we know who has it and for how long. It's a nice way to test out a dvd without the investment. - 5/25/2011   12:11:27 PM
  • 4
    Thanks for this blog! I'd never heard of swap.com before, but it seems pretty cool. Also, I've been thinking about joining a CSA. I used your link for localharvest and found that there's several in my area. :) - 5/25/2011   11:58:56 AM
  • 3
    I have joined a walking group! It was too easy to think about a walk by myself and then just not doing it. I Googled my home town Mississauga plus walking and found http://www.meetup.com/GTA-West-Walk
    ing-Cycling-and-Fitness-Friends
    /
    I now am walking 5 days a week (weather permitting) and enjoying meeting new friends.

    I also found a Nordic Pole walking group in my area and have been out with them once - I will be persuing this as exercise too - they say 40% plus more calories burned using 'poles' than without.

    - 5/25/2011   10:49:46 AM

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