Paying for gym memberships and pricey home exercise equipment can stress your budget. They can make you feel like it's too expensive to stay fit. The good news, though, is that you don't need a lot of money to get into great shape.
We've found helpful recommendations on 10 budget-friendly exercise gadgets, courtesy of respected exercise experts: Steven Blair, PhD, at the University of South Carolina, Jennifer Huberty, PhD, at the University of Nebraska, and Andrea Dunn, PhD, at Klein Buendal in Colorado.
JUMP ROPE ($5-$10)
Jump rope, the playground pastime you loved as a kid, is actually a complete workout. This is why you often see boxers, wrestlers, and other professional athletes doing it. Jumping rope strengthens legs, buttocks, arms, and shoulders – and it's great cardio exercise. A basic jump rope costs under $10, and it's easy to tote when you travel.
RESISTANCE BANDS (START AROUND $10)
Resistance bands are cheap, portable and offer a variety of workout options. A set of bands will only set you back about $10, and most come with instructions on how to use them. Resistance training can tone nearly every muscle in your body, and the intense workout will burn calories.
For just $10-$25, a pedometer, or step counter, can be an effective motivational tool to help you get up and walk. The most basic pedometers track your daily steps, and more advanced models can connect with your computer or smart phone and keep track of your progress.
HAND WEIGHTS ($15)
Also known as dumbbells, a pair of hand weights offers a great upper-body strengthening workout. Another option: Use everyday weighted objects you can easily grasp in each hand, such as a water bottle, socks filled with dried beans or sand, or a bag of rice. Basic hand weights: $10.
YOGA MAT ($15 AND UP)
If you do yoga regularly you may already have a yoga mat. What you may not realize is that same mat can be a great adjunct to calisthenics, including sit-ups, push-ups, knee bends, and other exercises. Use it to cushion a hard floor when doing high-impact stationary exercises such as running in place or jumping jacks and burn up to 100 calories in just 10 minutes. A basic yoga mat costs $15-$20.
MEDICINE BALL (ABOUT $20)
Medicine balls look like basketballs but are weighted. They can help enhance muscle strength, coordination, agility, and balance. Some exercises you can try are holding the medicine ball above your head while doing lateral flexes to tone your abdominal obliques, or squeeze the ball between your knees while doing reverse curls. Medicine ball cost: $20.
STABILITY BALL ($10-$20)
You had fun playing with balls as a kid, and they can be fun and help you stay fit as an adult. Stability balls are a great way to work your core muscles – your abs, back, sides, and even your upper thighs. The ball is wobbly, and your core muscles work to keep you stable. A stability ball costs about $20-$30.
WALKING OR RUNNING SHOES ($40-$120)
Your feet absorb the impact of every step, so it's important for walkers and runners to have good shoes. Take your time to choose shoes that are the most comfortable. Many running stores will analyze your gait and recommend shoes that are appropriate for the way you run or walk. Walk around the store when you try the shoes on, and make sure they feel comfortable and your feet feel supported. A basic running or walking shoe can start at about $40, and go up to $150 for more advanced shoe models.
FITNESS DVDS (CHEAP)
Fitness DVDs cost a lot less than gym memberships, but can give you some great exercise options from cardio to strength training to yoga and dance. Many celebrities and fitness trainers offer DVDs and the cost is lower than ever as video streaming services compete with DVD sales. You may be able to find used DVDs at yard sales or thrift stores, and some libraries may rent them at low cost or free. You can also find high-quality workouts on free video streaming services.
A STAIRSTEP (STEP PLATFORM: $30-$50, STAIRCASE: FREE)
Stair machines offer a great workout – but they are expensive. Use the stairs where you live or work, or if your home or office doesn't have steps, find a park, bleachers, or building nearby you can use with stairs. If you don't want to work out in public, you can purchase a step platform, like those used in step classes at a gym. You can also find DVDs for step classes to guide your workouts. A step platform will run you about $30-$50, but a staircase is free!