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Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle, While on a Budget

Billions of dollars are spent in the U.S. each year on exercise equipment, dietary supplements, weight loss products and diet programs. With all that money, being spent, you'd think that money is a pre-requisite for getting in shape. But considering a recent study by the American Medical Association indicates 64% of all adults are overweight, all that money is seemingly spent in vain. In actuality, getting fit doesn't have to cost a lot of money. You can accomplish your goals simply by becoming more active and adopting healthier eating habits � and it shouldn't cost you more than a sturdy pair of walking shoes. We've put together some suggestions on ways to get active without putting a strain on your budget.

Opportunities for Physical Activity

In order to lose weight you need to expend more calories than you take in. This doesn't mean you have to join an expensive health club, it just means that you need to find more ways to get active. In fact, you stand a greater chance of success if you change your lifestyle to a more active one instead of just trying to adopt a new exercise regimen. Some ways to expend more calories in your daily routine could be:

  • Parking further away from your destination instead of looking for a front row spot
  • Taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator
  • If you get an hour for lunch, eat for 15 minutes and walk for the other 45
  • Turn off the TV and go for a walk at night
  • Wake up early and go for a half hour walk first thing in the morning
  • Try skipping "labor saving devices" for a month � hide the remote, disconnect the garage door opener, etc.

If you are ready for something a little more strenuous, there are activities that will burn more calories and tone muscle and still not cost a lot of money, such as:

  • Jogging
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Jump roping
  • In-line skating
  • Working out with exercise videos
  • Strength training with dumbbells or resistance bands

Inexpensive Equipment

If you do decide to take up an activity that requires basic equipment, hopefully, it's just a matter of dusting off something you already own, but haven't used in a while. If you do have to purchase equipment, except for shoes, consider buying it used. Unfortunately, many people begin exercise programs with the best of intentions, but inevitably don't follow through. This means that there is a surplus of high quality, barely used exercise equipment out there that a lot of people will be willing to part with for pennies on the dollar. Good sources for this equipment are:

  • Community sales circulars like The Penny Saver or Thrifty Nickel
  • Garage sales
  • Classifieds
  • EBay
  • Second hand sports stores

Whatever you do, don't skimp on the necessary, proper fitting equipment which could put you at risk of injury and grind your new exercise routine to a halt before it even gets off the ground.

Eating Healthier

In conjunction with more activity, adopting a healthier lifestyle should include adopting healthier eating habits. Depending on how you choose to go about this, you could spend more than you currently do - by purchasing supplements and pre-packaged "diet program foods", or you could opt to spend less than you probably do now - by making good decisions on your grocery purchases and watching your portion sizes.

One way to save money and monitor your food intake is to avoid eating out. Eat as many meals at home where you can control the portions and ingredients, and pack a lunch to bring to work. Portion sizes at most restaurants have gotten out of control and you may even notice that plates have gotten larger over the years. In fast food restaurants they place value on the larger portion sizes and advertise how much of a bargain you get by spending a few cents more for their "giant size fries". If you must eat out, at upscale restaurants ask for them to split half of the entr�e in a to-go container before you're served, and at fast food restaurants stick to the normal size servings. This way, in either situation, you can avoid the temptation to overeat.

As a general rule, keep empty calories to a minimum. This would mean cutting down on or eliminating things like sodas, chips, candy, and alcohol. They are all high in calories and have little to no nutritional value. Instead, opt for less calorie dense foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These are all lower in calories, high in nutrients, and will make you feel satisfied with fewer calories because of the higher fiber content. The upside is that you will also save money by eliminating the empty calories.

A healthier lifestyle doesn't have to be expensive. If you take the right approach and take this opportunity to eliminate any bad habits like smoking, drinking, snacks, sodas, fast food, desserts etc., you may just find that you are saving money. Ultimately, any money you spend on a healthier lifestyle will come back to you tenfold in health, fitness benefits, less stress, fewer sick days at work, more energy, and better quality of life. But even on a tight budget, just moving more and eating sensibly should get you started on the right track.

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