Maybe a membership to a boutique gym or one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer would motivate you to stay in shape, but your budget and your schedule are even less flexible than your hamstrings right now. The good news is that there are ways to keep fit without investing a ton of time or money. Here are some suggestions for incorporating free or low-cost exercise options into your busy schedule.
Finding the Time
- Experts suggest scheduling exercise like an appointment. Actually entering a time to exercise in your electronic or pen-and-paper calendar will make you less likely to schedule something else during that block, and serve as a visual reminder to keep your commitment to yourself.
- Settle for shorter sessions. You don’t have to carve out an hour or more a day for exercise. Devoting a little more than 20 minutes each day to moderate aerobic activity is enough to reach current recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can break up your sessions into a 10-minute walk on your lunch break and a 15-minute weightlifting workout before dinner. An affordable set of dumbbells or resistance bands are really the only equipment you’ll need.
- Wake up and work out. Try setting your alarm clock a little earlier at least a few times each week. Pop in an exercise DVD and sneak in a session before anyone else is up and about. If you don’t want to spend any money, you can check out copies from your local library or find free videos online.
Exercise Boosts Holistic Health
Your modest investment of money and time will pay off in more ways than one. Regular physical activity helps people keep their weight in check, combats health conditions including heart disease and diabetes, increases energy levels, and promotes sounder sleep. Exercise, in general, has also been shown to help boost people’s moods.
When your body is under stress or experiencing discomfort, such as when you’re in the middle of a challenging run, the brain produces neurochemicals called endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and can even help lead to feelings of euphoria. Serotonin and norepinephrine, two other natural neurotransmitters produced by the brain during physical activity, have also been linked to lower levels of stress and depression. What’s more, exercise may give our bodies an opportunity to practice their response to stress in safe situations, which could improve our ability to handle less predictable anxiety-inducing events in everyday life.
And you don’t have to be a marathon runner to realize the benefits of exercise. In fact, alternative activities such as swimming and yoga can be particularly beneficial, especially if you’re in addiction recovery. This is because these activities allow you to focus your mind and can relieve stress and anxiety, both of which are triggers for relapse in many individuals who are in recovery. They also can increase the body’s levels of mood-boosting brain chemicals without causing as much wear and tear as running, rowing, or jumping rope. They’re also highly adaptable for people with injuries and other limitations, making them an excellent choice for someone recovering from injuries, illnesses, and even addiction to alcohol and other substances.
Indeed, yoga, meditation, and other mind-body practices can create a relaxation response that reduces stress and produces positive changes to immune function, energy metabolism, and insulin secretion, according to Psychology Today. Swimming can produce the same relaxation response, according to some experts, because the rhythmic nature of your movements and the sound of the water minimize outside distractions. In fact, yoga and swimming can combine the benefits of physical activity and meditation because they help you focus on the moment and tune out mental noise.
So, the next time you think about your exercise routine, consider adding some sessions on the mat or in the pool. You’ll reap rewards not only for your physical health, but also your emotional and mental well-being.