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Fitness Is Free


“Get in shape? Are you kidding me? Have you seen what a treadmill costs these days, not to mention those ab crunchers you see on TV?”

If that’s your excuse for your sedentary ways, forget it. Fitness is free—or nearly so, according to experts at the University of Richmond “You don’t have to fork out a lot of money to get fit,” says Carol Johnson, director of wellness. A good pair of walking or jogging shoes will cost you about $50. If you want to splurge, you can spring another $20 for a pedometer. That beats hands down the $3,000 cost of a treadmill or elliptical trainer.

And you can walk or run anytime, just about anywhere. Run in place inside if the weather’s bad, Johnson recommends, or walk the mall. Hit some hiking trails, go to a local track or enjoy your own neighborhood when it’s nice out.

Health classes. Some are reasonable, says Johnson, but why not buy a videotape for $6-$8 and work out at home virtually free over the long term?

Thinking about a Stairmaster Stepmill? That’s fine if you have a spare five grand. If not, “run up and down your stairs,” says Johnson. “Go up and down four or five at a time or do the whole flight.”

Strength training? Those Bowflex machines look good on TV, but $1,400?

Free weights sound good, but they can run into hundreds and thousands of dollars depending on how much you can pump.

“You can used canned goods if you’re on a budget,” Johnson say. “Or lift some of your furniture.” Also, you can do crunches and purchase some small dumbbells from Wal-Mart.

If you don’t like working out alone, convince a friend or family member to join you, or get involved in a team sport. “Lots of people play softball,” Johnson says, or you can get involved in community center activities.

“Find a partner to take ballroom dancing.”

Tom Roberts, director of campus recreation, agrees with Johnson that fitness can be free. “Walking, gardening, washing the car, playing with the children or grandchildren are all activities most people don’t consider as part of their daily fitness routine. But they count too.”

Roberts’ spending recommendations ($75) mirror those of Johnson’s:

$40 for a comfortable pair of walking shoes to develop endurance
$15 for a jump rope to improve conditioning and quickness
$20 for a set of dumbbells to increase strength and flexibility

Some final advice from Johnson:

Don’t do what you can’t do. If your knees are bad, avoid running. Take up swimming instead.
Find something, or better yet, several things you like to do. “It should be something you can do at 40, 60 and 80. Don’t do an activity just because somebody else likes it. You won’t stay with it.”
Choose different exercises that use a variety of muscles.
Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise programfrom (African-American Community Health Advisory Committee website)