In these tough economic times, some things have to go, like bottled water, low-fat lattes and manicures. But you don't have to let your body go. Push-ups, jumping jacks and crunches cost nothing, and you can do them just about anywhere. ¶ Throw in a few relatively inexpensive workout gadgets and it's just like having a gym membership with no fees or contracts. ¶ "If you are on a tight budget, no need to panic," says Terrence Thomas, owner of Expert Fitness Solutions in Aventura. "There are inexpensive ways to get into and stay in shape." ¶ After all, exercise is a remedy for stress. It can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve your overall mood. Try it and you just might stop fuming the next time you're at the gas pump. ¶ To help you get started, we asked Thomas and two other experts to share their favorite gadgets and tips for staying fit on a budget. Here they are:
"The most beneficial equipment would be a set of resistance bands," says Ali Witherspoon, owner of A.L.I. Bootcamp in Hollywood. "They come in different strengths — light, medium and heavy resistance — to work your upper and lower body" just as gym equipment does.
To perform biceps curls or an overhead press, for example, stand on the bands and grip the handles and go through the same motions as you would with dumbbells or machinery. Do just as many reps as you would in the gym.
Expect to pay less than $10 per band, which includes written instructions, or about $50 for a set of bands that comes with an instructional DVD.
"There's nothing better than old-fashioned body-weight exercises," Thomas says. "They worked for Jack LaLanne and they will do the same for you."
Calisthenics also have "what I call a survival slimming effect. Since you are lifting your own body weight, the body is forced to adapt. In other words, if you are heavy, this type of exercise will encourage weight loss out of the sheer will to survive."
Besides push-ups and jumping jacks, try squat thrusts: With your feet together, squat down and place your hands on the floor next to your feet. In one explosive movement, jump your feet backward into a push-up position, then jump your feet forward and stand up again. You might remember this from PE.
A mat is not necessary, but if you prefer one, expect to pay $20 to $40.
"With ankle weights, you can do a whole body workout, and ladies can do all leg exercises," says Natalie Brabner, owner of Florida Fitness Trainers in Aventura.
You can tone your muscles and burn more calories just by wearing them throughout the day. "While watching TV, you can do hip extensions and build your glutes, which we Brazilians are famous for."
To get your glutes in shape, strap on a pair of ankle weights and get down on all fours. Then raise and extend one leg at a time, keeping your leg steady. "Do five sets of 20 every night," Brabner says.
A set of ankle weights will set you back $20 or less.
In addition to core training, such as sit-ups, which can be done on the Swiss ball, you can perform stretches and explosive athletic exercises, Thomas says. "This makes the ball the Swiss army knife of fitness."
Swiss balls, depending on the size, cost $20 to $50.
Finding a fit
The Internet has additional information about how to exercise and improve your health. Sites include www.expertfitnesssolutions.com and www.alibootcamp.com.