Yesterday I read an article about losing weight on the cheap. I don’t want you to think I’m criticizing it, because I’m not, especially as this “celebrity blogger” makes money from blogging and I do not (what a dream job!) The extent of her advice, however, was to buy a good sports bra and pair of shoes and to eat carbs before you run. Those are very important tips, but there there are quite a few FREE and cheap tools out there to help you out along the way and I was more than a little disappointed that she didn’t mention them.
Traditional diet plans, gym membership and exercise equipment are quite expensive but you don’t have to pay big bucks to get similar results. We live in a modern society and there are so many options available to us today that weren’t even five years ago.
FREE ONLINE DIET PLANS
There are several websites that offer FREE diet and exercise assistance. Many of them also offer free apps for smartphones*, making it easy to log your diet and exercise throughout the day.
My Fitness Pal is a website and app that I was turned onto by my father, and his doctor recommended it to him. MFP allows you to easily track your caloric intake, exercise and monitor your water-drinking. MFP also has a community full of people in the same boat who are there to provide support every step of the way.
SparkPeople is another website that will track your calories, exercise and water intake. Spark People is a huge site and offers exercise videos, a rewards system, hundreds of healthy living articles, and more. The groups are a little better managed on Spark People and it has more tools available. Spark People has a free app to help with your tracking and community activities, and another dedicated to low calorie cooking. In addition, Spark People has a separate community dedicated to pregnant and nursing mothers called BabyFit.
*If you don’t have a smartphone, fret not! You can log your food in a journal and transfer to the web at home, or take a picture of your meals with your standard phone to make recording easier later on!
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of free exercise videos on YouTube. This is very helpful if you want to try out a new exercise plan but aren’t sure if it will work for you. Last year I got the gumption to try Zumba. My Zumba friends swear it’s the best exercise program anywhere but I was skeptical. I’m not much into dancing, so I looked up a video and tried it out. I was right, it wasn’t for me, but the next video down about power yoga was right up my alley.
Netflix – if you already have a subscription to Netflix you might as well put it to work! There are many exercise videos available through streaming and on disc. This is another good way to try out a few workouts to see what works for you. I was really, really into step aerobics about 15 years ago, and I found out about it by renting an exercise video at my local Blockbuster. Today I don’t have to leave the house to rent a video, how sweet is that?
Television – if you subscribe to cable or satellite television, use it! There are whole channels devoted to the healthy lifestyle and exercise. If you have a DVR or can record the program in some fashion you can make the programs fit into your schedule.
Video Games – A lot of us have video game systems in our home, and now more than ever they are being used as a fitness tool. I only have experience with the Wii, but I know there are programs for all the major platforms. I love WiiFit, as do my kids. It’s not a cheap program but once you buy the initial package you can expand to all sorts of programs for it, and you can usually find them used. Aside from WiiFit there are the dancing-type games and the ones that use a floor pad, like Adventure Life Explorer (my absolute favorite way to exercise, I feel like Indiana Jones when I play this kiddie game!) This is a great place for anyone to start, in fact, a Wii is used for exercise in my grandmother’s Assisted Living Facility! They actually have a virtual bowling league using nothing but a Wii!
WALKING, THE OLD STANDBY
When all else fails, get out there and walk. Walking is great exercise and available to almost everyone, and a perfect place to start right where you are. A good set of shoes is highly recommended but you can start with a less than ideal pair while you wait for a sale on a good pair. Now, I know not all of you share the beautiful, snowless weather I enjoy, or maybe walking outside isn’t the safest option. Hop back on over to YouTube and try out an indoor walking program. I like Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away The Pounds program, and you can buy the discs for less than $10 at Target or Wal-Mart, or look used on ebay.
Maybe you want to try running, in that case check out Couch to 5K, a free program designed to turn walkers into runners in just a few months. It’s a solid plan that’s worked well for a lot of people I know (no, I haven’t gotten past the first week without an asthma attack, but I’ll get there). There are free C25K apps out there but I recommend splurging a bit on the official app as it works much better (if you wait you can get it for free every once in a while through Amazon apps).