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Education Center » Fitness in the Digital Age: Get in shape without breaking the bank

Fitness in the Digital Age: Get in shape without breaking the bank


En español | From increasing your muscle mass to decreasing stress, there are dozens of reasons to get in shape. But if you’re like many people, there may be one thing standing in your way: the high cost of fitness.

Between gym memberships, specialized classes, and workout gear, costs can really add up. But rest assured, you can still get a great workout without spending a lot of dough. Fiscally responsible fitness is only a click away in today’s digital age. With the wide range of workout videos, calculators and other fitness apps available for download to your computer or smart device, it’s easier than ever to plug into fitness.

Your kitchen, a weight room

Nearly 80% of adult Americans do not get the recommended amount of exercise each week, potentially setting themselves up for years of health problems.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2013.

Yes, the place where you consume the most calories is also the place to burn them! Just open your pantry and take out a couple of canned goods to use as hand weights. By doing multiple repetitions with smaller weights, you can tone your arms and upper body. Here are a couple of simple exercises to try:

Bicep curls – Stand tall, contract your abs and hold a small weight in each hand. With arms by your side and palms facing forward, curl the weights toward your shoulders by bending your elbows.

Triceps kickbacks – Target that sometimes-jiggly triceps area with simple kickbacks. Hold a small weight in both hands and bend over until your torso is parallel to the floor. Bend your arms and pull your elbows up to torso level. Straighten your arms out behind you by squeezing your triceps muscles.

Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions every other day and as your strength increases, up your repetitions.


Want more? Visit to download customized workouts that you can do in the privacy of your own home. And get fit on-the-go with their handy iPhone app.

The 5 most popular home exercise DVDs

1) "30-Day Shred" (Jillian Michaels)

2) "Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism"
(Jillian Michaels)

3) "Dance Off the Inches-Hip Hop Party" (Jennifer Galardi)

4) "10-Minute Solution: Fat Blasting Dance Mix" (Jennifer Galardi)

5) "The Biggest Loser Workout-Cardio Max" (Bob Harper)

Source:, May 2014.

The library, your personal trainer

It doesn’t cost a thing to build your fitness brainpower. Personal trainers can cost upwards of $50 an hour. Instead, borrow or download workout DVDs and how-to fitness books from your local library. (For a list of popular DVDs, see the callout on the right.) By rotating through different workouts, you’re naturally creating “muscle confusion,” which keeps your whole body engaged.


Mix it up online. Check out for a variety of free fitness videos from yoga to kettle bells. Easily accessible from your computer or mobile device, this website has more exercises than you could possibly do… but you can try!

The outside world, your gym

Who wants to sweat inside a stuffy, expensive gym when there’s a big, beautiful world out there? Especially during the summer, exercising outside can be ultra-invigorating. And you might just get a better workout, too. Studies comparing the exertion of running on a treadmill and running outside show that treadmill runners expend less energy to cover the same distance. That’s because the wind, hills and other challenges of running outside make your workout more intense.

Consider these hidden gems:


  • Your neighborhood – Step outside your home and start walking, running or riding your bike! See how far you can go and keep it interesting by going a little further every week.
  • Your local high school – Many high schools have tracks that are perfect for cardiovascular fitness. Plus, walking on a track is a great way to measure how far you’re going—and how much you’re improving over time.
  • Your community – From bike trails to basketball courts to boot camps, your city or town offers many ways to get in shape and have fun. Check out the recreation department website for a list of activities and programs—many of them free or low-cost.
  • Your house – Okay, it’s not exactly the “outside world” but on rainy days you can get a good workout without leaving home. After lifting your small hand weights (aka canned goods), run some stairs for 20 minutes or put on a workout DVD and work up a sweat.

Want to inject a little excitement into your workout? Download the “Zombies, Run!” app for iPhone and Android. This fun audio adventure will have you “running for your life!”

Still crave the modern convenience of a gym?

While it is possible to get a great workout without paying for a gym membership, you may just prefer the structure and ease of a gym. In that case, there are a few ways to stay fiscally fit while finding the facility that fits your needs:

  • Negotiate – See if you can renegotiate your contract rate or if they have any special discounts available. Your gym may be willing to lower the price to keep you as a member. As they say, if you don’t ask, the answer is always “no.”
  • Take advantage of discounts – Does your employer or health insurance offer any fitness benefits? You might qualify for a health club reimbursement.
  • Get back to the basics – Forego the free towels and fancy spa services for a lower cost gym that offers cardiovascular machines, weight machines, and all the tap water you can drink.

Get your money's worth! If you have a tendency to skip workouts, download “Pact.” This app allows you to wager money on whether you’ll go to the gym. If you reach or exceed your goals, you earn cash!

Learn more and take action

Getting in shape? There’s an app for that! Your smart phone could hold the key to a healthier you. In addition to the apps referenced in this article, here are more to check out:

  • "MyFitnessPal" – One of the most helpful all-in-one calorie counters and exercise trackers.
  • "Lose It!" – Count calories, log exercise, and more with this iPhone-only app.
  • "RunKeeper" – With a built-in GPS, this app can track your route, pace and speed.
  • "Fooducate" – This nutrition app has everything you need to make healthy food choices.
  • "Runtastic Six Pack Abs" – Get that beach body with this intensive abs audio coaching program.

Before you start any exercise routine, you may want to consult your doctor.