Friday 4 March 2022

Seven Budget-Friendly Ways To Stay Fit

When my brother and sister see that I've ventured to write a post about fitness they'll get a good laugh out of it. They're both very athletic and exceptionally fit. I, on the other hand, am the least athletic person I know. I'm clumsy, have a poor sense of balance, and my hand eye coordination is terrible. I'm short and brick shaped. I'm also terribly self conscious about all of that so I have a strong dislike of participating in group fitness activities. 

It's taken me years - decades in fact - to understand that there's a difference between athleticism and fitness, but I do get it now. If I don't keep my muscles strong and maintain some ease of movement, my quality of life will be diminished. I need to be able to lift and stretch and bend and pull and climb stairs and walk with sufficient ease to accomplish the day-to-day activities and chores that will allow me to live independently. That's my fitness goal. Your fitness goals may well be very different from mine but, whatever they may be, they'll be a lot more attainable if you can manage them without straining your budget.

If you're living on a limited income, many fitness activities can seem - and in fact are - unattainable. It's unlikely you'll be able to afford a Nautilus or Peloton or Nordic Track, or to engage in sports that require a lot of specialized equipment, or to pay ongoing fees like lift tickets or gym memberships, so let's focus on what you can do.  Here are seven activities that won't break your budget.


Calisthenics is a system of repeated movements that use a person's own body weight as a means to improve co-ordination and flexibility and build strength. I'm pretty sure most of us remember them from school gym classes: Push-ups, jumping jacks, sit-ups and the like. They're top of my list because they require no specialized equipment or clothing other than garments loose enough or stretchy enough to allow for ease of movement. If you're doing calisthenics indoors, you don't even need shoes. 

(I do use a yoga mat when doing floor exercises but that's purely optional.)

There are lots of free calisthenics instruction videos on You Tube. If you choose to use them it's a good idea to watch them all the way through a couple of times before trying the exercises yourself. Paying attention to foot placement, body alignment, and breathing can help prevent injury and enable you get the most benefit from your efforts.

Free Access Workout Equipment in Parks

While this isn't available everywhere, many public parks have an area with fitness equipment that can be accessed and used for free. Check your parks authority website to see if this option is available near your home and, before you begin using the equipment, read the posted instructions.


Although there's a huge industry built up around yoga clothes and yoga studios, you don't need to buy into it. You don't really need any specialized gear other than a yoga mat. As with calisthenics, your clothes should allow you freedom of movement. If you wear shoes while doing yoga, the soles should be of a kind that will keep your feet from slipping while you're exercising.

There are free yoga videos on YouTube but I opted instead to pay for online instruction. I purchased a couple of courses from Better 5 and found them very helpful.  If you choose to pay for on line instruction, take into account your level of fitness while shopping for something that works for you. It's best to choose a course that will allow unlimited access, without an expiry date. 

(I've mentioned Better 5 because their courses are designed with my age group in mind. The instruction is clear and the pace appropriate to my abilities. I don't receive any commisions or other remuneration from them.)

Stair Climbing

If you live in a multi-story apartment building like I do, stair climbing is always an available activity but even if you don't have access to indoor stairs at home you can find stairs in lots of other places. I seek out outdoor public stairways in hilly areas near where I live. They're often incorporated into paths between residential neighbourhoods, and into park or beach access trails. You can also do your stair climbing in multi-floor public buildings. The only equipment needed is comfortable clothing and suitable shoes.


Another affordable exercise, walking requires nothing more than comfortable, weather appropriate clothing and some footwear.

If you're making walking a regular part of your fitness routine, I do think you should get the best pair of shoes you can afford because arch supports and good soles can help prevent injury.  I totally get that the best you can afford may be second hand or the least expensive pair from Walmart but, whatever you can manage, it will help if you do your best to ensure a good fit. 

Other items I find helpful in keeping to my walking routine are waterproof shoes for rainy days or muddy trails, (It's a Wet Coast thing. Trails here are muddy for 8 months out of 12.), an umbrella for wet days, a warm hat and gloves for winter weather, a pedometer (basic mechanical pedometers are quite inexpensive), and - if I'm on rough footing - a walking stick. 

(I cut the branch I use for my walking stick from a fallen tree while out hiking one day. I brought it home, removed the bark, and sanded it smooth but it worked perfectly well before I did all that.

If you're going to be hiking alone or going out on a trail that's rough or not often traveled, be sure to let someone know your planned route and arrange a check in time to let them know you've returned safely. Take along a day pack with water, some protein bars (they can be made inexpensively at home) or GORP (Good old raisins and peanuts), a small first aid kit, two days' worth of any meds you require, and one of those lightweight silvery emergency blankets. If you can't afford a day pack and its contents it's best to stick to shorter walks on well trafficked, groomed trails near where you live. 

If you have a smart phone, you can download the free version of the AllTrails app. It's a great resource for finding out about trails near you. Trails are described, mapped, the distance given, altitude changes graphed, and busy times noted. AllTrails can help you make informed choices before trying new routes. 

(As with Better 5, I'm recommending AllTrails because it works well for me. It's not a paid endorsement.)

Community Sports Centers

Even if you pay the full price of admission, community fitness centers and pools are usually less expensive than private gyms and many offer free or subsidized access to people with low incomes. Where I live, that subsidy can include free admission to the pool and gym, and participation in a set number of drop in classes. 

If you're a person who prefers group activities this is an excellent option, well worth checking out.  There's an application process but it's usually pretty straightforward. 

If you receive subsidized access to community sport center facilities and programs, you'll still need to provide some gear. Depending on the activities you choose, you may need a swimsuit and towel, shorts or sweatpants, a t-shirt or sweatshirt, and athletic shoes. 


I debated about adding cycling to my list because, if you allow it to be, cycling can be really expensive but with care it's possible to keep the costs in check. A bicycle can be counted as transportation too, especially if your budget doesn't extend to owning a car. 

Begin by learning how to ensure that the bike you buy is a good fit for your height, then shop for a used one. Local buy and sell sites and local sales groups on Facebook are often good sources for affordable used bicycles. 

You'll also need to buy a helmet and a bike lock, and you'll need to replace your helmet if ever it protects you during a fall. Even if there's no visible damage to your helmet, a fall that results in a helmet strike can impair its structure, preventing it from providing adequate protection in future. 

If you balance it against the cost of driving, maintaining, and parking a car, or even the cost of public transit, I think you'll find that an inexpensive used bicycle, together with its helmet and lock, soon pays for itself.

I'm sure there are lots of other activities that could be added to this list. If you have suggestions to share in the comments, I'd love to hear your ideas.


Unknown said...

Thank you very useful ideas

Aunt B said...

Sorry for the delay in replying. Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I'm glad you found it useful.