No Gym? No Problem: 10 Ways to Get a Great Workout Without the Membership Fees

The wind is howling, the snow is pounding and the sun is a pale yellow ball, hanging low in the sky. Winter weather may not - at least on the face of it - be conducive to working out, but if health and fitness are your goals, there’s no need to wait for spring. There’s also no need to hassle with a gym membership. You probably wouldn’t be able to get there anyway, given nature’s current wrath. Forget the gym and the weather. You can get a great, health-boosting workout without health club costs in any season, with these easy and fun tips.   

1. Watch Less, Weigh Less – According to national, non-profit, Shape Up America! the more hours spent in front of the television or computer screen, the more likely you are to experience obesity. The organization, whose stated purpose is “To educate the public on the importance of the achievement and maintenance of healthy body weight through increased physical activity and healthy eating,” sites multiple studies which correlate screen time to weight gain. How much is too much? Those who watched for more than four hours a day had the highest BMI’s (body mass index) and those who spent an hour or less, the lowest.

2. Cycle Your Way Slim – Ok, so you can’t give up your favorite television show. Try parking a silent, stationary bike in front of the set while you watch. The minutes will fly by and you can use the commercial breaks to mix up your pace, by speeding up your stride or adding resistance. This type of cycling is called interval training and is highly effective at burning calories and toning lower body muscles. You can increase the intensity of your workout by pumping light, hand-held weights while you cycle.

3. Create a DVD Workout Library –Tons of every kind of work out DVD can be found at the library, local book store or even at flea markets and tag sales. Many modify each workout by featuring multiple participants at various ages and stages of fitness, so you’re bound to find some mirroring your own skill level. Keep boredom at bay by rotating your collection. That way, you can enjoy yoga one day and low-impact aerobics the next, without over-taxing any one, individual muscle group.

4. Make Exercise a Family Affair –Shape Up America! recommends building in activity time as a family. Try anything from shooting hoops after dinner to upping your mall stroll to a brisk and lively pace. Exercising as a family can help motivate all of you to up your game, plus create wonderful memories and new traditions.   

5. Count Your Minutes – The Department of Health and Human Services recommends healthy adults work out for a minimum of 150 minutes per week at a moderate pace, or at least 75 minutes per week at a vigorous pace. This can be in the form of tons of activities, such as walking, running, swimming and climbing stairs. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for large swathes of time to get your workout in, however. Building activity into your day every day counts, even if it’s for only a few minutes at a time. Try spending your lunch hour window shopping instead of sitting at a lunch counter, or get off the subway one stop early and walk the extra blocks. Make a mental note of how much time you’re spending and before you know it, you’ll be living an active lifestyle.
6. Count Your Steps – Walking is one of the best exercises there is. You can do it anywhere, either inside or out, at just about any time of day. Keep your pace brisk by listening to music while you walk, or try a book on tape if multi-tasking is more your style. During winter’s shorter days, try to time a walk during early hours to build in some mood-fortifying sunshine. The Mayo Clinic recommends upping your motivation by using either a pedometer to count your steps or up your game even further with an activity meter that measures how many calories you’re burning.
7. Strengthen While You Sit – Not every workout demands strenuous, rigorous motion. Try spending at least some of your sitting time, either at home or in the office, on a stability ball. Flexible yet sturdy, stability balls keep core muscles engaged and help improve posture and back strength.
8. De-stress With Simple Stretches – Exercise supports more than weight loss and cardiovascular health. It also cleanses the body of stress and worry. One of the easiest, quickest ways to calm body and mind, plus keep muscles lean and less prone to injury, is stretching. Building in five minutes, two times a day will do the trick. Try gentle ham string, back and arm stretches for energy when you first wake up in the morning and right before you get into bed at night to remove the kinks.
9. Go Old School – The recent workout of choice in Hollywood, “The Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness”, dates back to the 1950s. There are two plans, one for men and one for women. Each takes about 10 minutes, requires no equipment and works every single muscle group in the body. Don’t believe something this simple can work? Just take a peek at Dame Helen Mirren’s fabulous, sixty-something physique.  
10. Turn The World Into Your Own Private Gym – Look around you. Children’s playgrounds often have pulling bars and sit-up benches specifically designed for adults. Bike lanes abound in cities and suburban areas. Most parks have jogging lanes you can use for running or walking. If all else fails, climb the stairs to your office every day, or jog in place around your living room. 
Remember, the most important muscle needed for a great workout, even without a gym, is your imagination!