7 Fun Ways to Get Slim without the Gym

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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.

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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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!! Report
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. Report
Love DVDs and my bands! Report
I have a bike and treadmill at home and find they can be fun when I'm motivated! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. :) Report
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
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.

I gave these things a shot, but the gym just works better for me. It seems the only way I can get uninterrupted time to myself is when I get away from the house. If I'm at home, I get distracted by the laundry that needs to be done, tidying up or whatever my husband or kid ask of me while I'm trying to exercise.

I have horrible allergies and asthma, so outdoor workouts aren't a good option. I tried walking while my daughter was at soccer practice this spring and, while the weather was lovely, I had to shower and use a neti pot to try to breathe afterwards, which only slightly helped reduce the effects.

I've just accepted that the gym works better for me, but I think lots of folks could work out great without it. Report
i feel very lazy n boring to go to gym for exercises. I am more happy n excited when i go for walks in parks! Report