10 ways to stay healthy on the cheap

Add up the costs of healthy food, exercise and beauty products and you’ll see that staying well and looking good don’t come cheap. Here we share our ideas for good living without breaking the bank

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1. Take a hike

Follow a local hiking trail for a fun and free fitness activity. Want to see serious results? “Add sprint intervals” says Sara Celik, a naturopathic doctor and fitness trainer. “Go on a hike with friends and at random intervals yell out ‘Challenge!’ This is the signal for everyone to sprint for 45 seconds. Continue this throughout the hike,” says Celik.

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2. Save at the spa

While there’s nothing like a session at the spa to relax, it can set you back a bit. Why not gather a few friends and find a salon to give you all special treatments as a package deal? And if you’re going to splurge, ask about special offers and freebies.

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yoga day

3. Stretch your limits


Many yoga studios follow the tradition of offering free or by-donation (“karma”) classes all year long. If you live in Vancouver, visit www.namastevancouver.com for a directory of regular freebie classes in the city.

And if you live in Ottawa, Toronto or Vancouver (and, soon, Montreal), check out Passport to Prana. For $20 in Ottawa, $30 elsewhere, you’ll get one class each in multiple yoga studios-more than 50 in the GTA.

Also inquire if your local yoga studio offers an “energy exchange”-a way to offer your services helping out in the studio in exchange for free or discounted yoga classes.

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4. Get fit with friends

Friends impact your health in a positive way. With that in mind, get out there and do things with a buddy.

Go rollerblading on the weekend. Enroll in break-dancing classes, or start your own no-fee running group or soccer club. The goal: motivation, fun and fitness on the cheap.

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5. Try something new

If you’re sick of sky-high gym fees, try a new fitness activity. Get in touch with your inner minor niner by joining a local dodgeball team. It’s just $94 to participate for 10 weeks in the Burlington and Oakville, Ont., Leagues.

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6. Change up your recipes

Cooking a healthy meal often means spending more on fresh meat and vegetables. But when it comes to including the necessary protein, iron and antioxidants pulses, such as lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans are an economical alternative to meat. According to Pulse Canada, a one-cup serving of pulses provides almost half of the daily amount of fibre recommended for Canadians.

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7. Grow your own

Herbs and spices provide a healthy, flavour-enhancing alternative to salt, butter and other high-fat ingredients. And it couldn’t be easier to grow your own. Use any pot that you have lying around – even an ice-cream container with holes will do. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, you can grow chervil, dill, fennel, mint, thyme, basil, chives and parsley indoors all year long. Just keep them in the sun and maintain warm day temperatures (20-25?C).

For more details on growing and using herbs, check out The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs (Reader’s Digest, 2009)

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8. Read cosmetics reviews

If your bathroom cabinet is full of “once opened, never to be used again” bottles and tubes, you need to take a look at www.beautypedia.com. Created by beauty industry veteran Paula Begoun, the website’s “Product Reviews” link allows you to search hundreds of beauty products. With over 25 years’ experience in the beauty business, Begoun, also known as The Cosmetics Cop, uses her knowledge to analyse ingredient lists and marketing claims. She then rates items on whether they’re worth the hype-and the money.

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hair cut

9. Trim your hair budget

These days you can expect to pay dearly for a haircut, colour and blow-dry. But if you’re not after anything too complicated, your local hairdressing college may be a bargain option. The Aveda Institute in Toronto offers haircuts for $18 to $25.

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10. Do it yourself

Rather than spending $100 on a visit to the massage therapist, keep your muscles loose with self-massage. Learn the techniques with A Practical Guide to Self-Massage (Reader’s Digest, 2005).

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