7 recession-friendly ways to stay fit

Budget a little tight? Don’t sacrifice your health for the bottom line. Here are 7 low-cost ways to stay in shape

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Could the recession have a negative effect on your bottom (line)?

With families looking to shrink their household budgets, discretionary expenses like gym memberships, fitness classes and new equipment may not survive the first round of layoffs. But here’s the good news: with a bit of strategizing, you can put your spending on a diet-without having to sacrifice your personal health. Here are seven recession-friendly ways to maintain-or even improve!-your fitness.

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group fitness

1. Supersize your personal training sessions

A personal trainer is invaluable when it comes to helping you put together a workout program, clarifying goals and teaching you new moves using proper form. But those fees can add up. A better choice? “Small group training, which still allows you to work out under the guidance of a trainer, but at a less expensive per-session fee because you’re sharing the trainer with one to four other people,” says Amanda Vogel, a Vancouver-based certified fitness instructor (and Best Health contributor). Ask your trainer or gym to help you hook up with potential workout mates.

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2. All together now: “Y-M-C-A”

You can save money by consolidating all your household fitness activities under one big umbrella: the YMCA. Instead of paying à la carte for yoga-studio and gym memberships, kids’ athletics and swim classes, partake in all these (and more) at your local YMCA.

The best part? Fees vary slightly from branch to branch-but $110 per month for a family of three is about average . Not bad for gym and swim facilities, ongoing group classes and drop-in programs.

Having trouble making ends meet? Subsidized, sliding-scale fees are available. Schedule a private meeting with a membership coordinator and bring proof of your financial situation: income statements, proof of expenses, etc.

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3. Burn calories at work

If extra hours-or a second job-have put a kibosh on your gym time, fit exercise into your workday.

Walk, cycle or blade to work and you’ll save money, shrink your carbon footprint and “kick-start your metabolism at the beginning of the day,” says Pilates instructor and running coach Keri Cawthorne of Vancouver’s Iron Mountain Pilates & Movement. “You’ll feel energized…and get a double workout walking or biking home,” she says .

On-duty, sneak in some sets. “Everything counts!” says Dr. Stuart Phillips, a kinesiology professor at Hamilton, Ont.’s McMaster University. “Take the stairs. Do a few crunches and push-ups. Walk around the block,” says Phillips.

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4. Turn playground time into boot-camp time

Why pay someone to watch your kids while you work out, when you can break a sweat together for free? Walk or bike to the park together and then let them loose on the playground while you exercise nearby.

“Start by jogging, bike riding or rollerblading around the park. Then use your surroundings for conditioning exercises,” suggests Toronto-based personal trainer Eva Redpath. “Perform pushups and triceps dips on a bench, do walking lunges along the sidewalk, pull-ups on the monkey bars, and core on the grass,” suggests Redpath .

Embarrassment factor? What embarrassment factor: Between Yoga in the Park, hipsters playing croquet and ersatz drumming circles, you’ll fit in fine!

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home gym

5. Build a home gym-on the cheap

Exercising at home has many advantages: convenience, privacy and -once you’ve amortized the cost of basic fitness gear over a few months-savings over the gym.

You don’t need expensive equipment, by the way. Here are some must-haves:

• A stability ball ($15 to $25) : Great for stretches and strength training
• A door-mount chin-up bar (Under $50) : To work upper body
• Resistance bands (approx. $30) :  Great for upper-body work
• Skipping rope (Under $ 20) : For intense cardio
• Yoga mat ($25 to $90) : A more comfortable surface for crunches, sit-ups, pushups, planks and other floor work

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6. Be a weekend warrior

Forget pricey rafting trips. We mean getting back to the basics: hiking, cycling, swimming-all butt-kicking leisure activities you can enjoy for next to nothing.

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.

Result:  “The caloric expenditure from a nice, long hike at a leisurely pace, and the intensity kick that comes with short bursts of intense effort,” says Celik. Switch up the pace when cycling or swimming, too.

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7. Bond over adrenaline, not cocktails

Going out for tapas and mojitos après group-shopping expedition has gone the way of your unlimited expense account. Thanks, Recession. But you still need face time with your best buds, right? So swap pricey nights out with affordable workouts.

“Staying fit becomes a social experience when you gather a group of friends to work out,” says Sammie Kennedy, a Toronto-based personal trainer and founder of Booty Camp Fitness.

Meet up at an indoor rock climbing gym. Sign up for break-dancing classes-or CrossFit. Or start your own no-fee running group, parkour collective or dodgeball club. The goal: motivation, fun and fitness on the cheap.

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