Sense & Centsibility Blog

Exercise and Be Happy Practically For Free

You may have read Elaina’s blog this spring about how to save your money and get into shape. Some ideas are so good they deserve to be repeated. Like Elaina, I loathe spending money on an expensive gym membership when I can get quality exercise and workouts for free.

Take advantage of your location

I have the good fortune of living in a world-class biking city. Minneapolis ranked #1 in 2015, leaving Portland, Oregon in our dust! Instead of sitting in a boring gym on a stationary bike for an hour, I take to our extensive system of bike trails every morning possible. My favorite ride is along the wild and mighty Mississippi River. I get to see spring peeking through with the first hints of green, quickly exploding into that bright fluorescent green that later deepens into the dark, lush green of summer.

Soon I will see a riot of fall colors as the river bluffs transform their palette. I can drink in the intoxicating scents of blooming trees while listening to a symphony of bird song...and I never cease to be thrilled by an eagle flying overhead. Halfway through I take a break at a lookout atop a high bluff and marvel about the geologic forces that created the magnificent view in front of me. Who gets that in a gym?!

What about exercise during winter?


While we have a hardy lot that bike year around here in the Twin Cities, I leave the trails when freezing temps and snow arrive. I still exercise for free, though. Some years back I invested in a bike trainer to set my bike on in my living room. Not nearly as scenic as the Mississippi, I do have access to a TV, books or my crochet hook. I crochet my Christmas gifts while riding my bike! No doubt there are plenty of dusty bike trainers for sale in your area—no need to buy new.

My preferred winter time cardio exercise, though, is dancing. I put on some good old rock and roll and dance around the house like no one is watching. (Just be sure some devious family member isn’t secretly filming you to put up on YouTube!) Dancing leaves me feeling exhilarated and happy and I arrive at work in the best mood. :) Sometimes my co-worker and I will put on an upbeat tune and take a little dance break in the middle of the afternoon. Better pick-me-up than a Snickers bar!

Affordable ideas for strength training

Elaina has weights at home that she uses for her strength training. I don’t, I do have a little fitness center a couple blocks away in a Minneapolis Parks and Recreation building. For $10/month I have access to a variety of weight machines and hand-held weights. Not free, but at $10 it practically is. And, it is a small price to pay for the confidence that being stronger provides. I don’t need no stinkin’ help carrying a 40 lb. bag of cat litter to the basement! Check with your local parks department for similar fitness centers. If they don’t have any, lobby to get one or be creative.

You could also use household items (plastic milk jugs/water bottles, cans, etc.) that are heavy enough to be weights. Or Google other cheap/free ideas for making your own. Here’s another blog from Elaina for more ideas to get fit on a budget. Share your ideas on free fitness activities in the comments section—we’d love to hear them!

LSS Financial Counseling, a nonprofit, equips and empowers people to conquer their debt and achieve their financial goals.

If you or someone you know is stressed about finances, LSS can help. Call us at 888.577.2227 to schedule a free financial counseling session or visit our website for more info. Our certified financial counselors will work with you on creating a realistic budget and plan of action to stabilize your finances and pay off debt so you can build savings.

Author Mary Ellen Kaluza is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS and she specializes in budget and debt counseling... not to mention she's our resident frugality expert.