Help Your Body and Mind Without Spending a Dime

Help Your Body and Mind Without Spending a Dime

Can you get exercise by doing what you already do, without spending extra money or time? Exercise without calling it that? Physical activity without the intimidation factor? Yes.

Exercise doesn’t have to be hard, take a long time or cost a lot. And it’s worth the effort. Moving your body can help your physical and mental health.

“The connection between your brain and your body is a two-way street, and that means movement can change your brain, too,” says Dr. Srini Pillay, Harvard Medical School. leaving site icon 

First Steps

With the introduction of fitness trackers and apps, many people aim to get more steps each day. Parking far from the store entrance when you go shopping. Getting up from your desk each hour for a lap around the office. Slapping on the wireless headsets and moving around when you’re on a work call. 

For some, 10,000 steps is the goal. And to get the most benefit, you should strive to walk at a moderate pace or faster for at least part of the time.

But some physical activity is better than none. Just trying to do more is a start. Focus on moving more and sitting less throughout the day.

People who sit less and do any amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. leaving site icon 

Adults should aim for moderate aerobic movement for at least 150 minutes each week and strengthening activity twice a week. It’s best to spread your aerobic activity out over the week.

Move at Home

If you must do chores at home, you might as well be getting some physical benefits for your time and effort. And if you work at it, you can step up the pace and get a little more exercise than you normally would.

Activities like vacuuming and scrubbing count as a workout if you raise your heartrate. And get the outdoor chores done and workout at the same time by:

  • Mowing the lawn
  • Weeding the garden
  • Raking grass or leaves

Other no-cost exercise you can do close to home includes joining the kids in a game or tag or kickball, taking a family hike or bike ride, or taking a dip in the pool.

For a small investment, you can buy some weights to build up your strength. Get an exercise DVD or app to start a fitness routine. Or get a fitness ball to work your core muscles. If you want to save more money, see if you can borrow equipment from a friend.

Back to Basics

You can tone your muscles with nothing more than your own body weight. Old-school exercises like lunges, squats, crunches and jumping jacks always work.

Check out the online exercise library at the American Council on Exercise leaving site icon  for information on routines and tips for doing things safely.

Even if you do have a gym membership, you can work out at home when you can’t get there. You can replace your fitness center workout with these 25 moves leaving site icon  to keep from losing ground. They will help keep you toned.

Get Going

Check with your doctor before you start a new fitness routine. But once you get the OK, what are you waiting for? Moving more can help your body and your mind.

Remember, when it comes to movement, something is better than nothing. Try these tips to get started.

  1. Be prepared to move. Get your shoes and clothes ready.
  2. Share your fitness goals with your family or friends online.
  3. Set small goals.
Need More Help?

Move Your WaySM is a resource from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote physical activity. To help Americans get motivated and make exercise more fun, Move Your Way offers information, videos, an interactive tool and fact sheets leaving site icon  for adults and kids.

Need some inspiration? Check out these videos:
Move Your Way: Tips for Getting Motivated leaving site icon 
Move Your Way: Tips for Busy Days leaving site icon 

Ready to get started? Use the interactive tool leaving site icon  to build your activity plan.

Sources: How Simply Moving Benefits Your Mental Health, leaving site icon  Harvard Medical School, 2016; Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, leaving site icon  Move Your Way, leaving site icon  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Fitness for less: Low-cost ways to shape up, leaving site icon  Mayo Clinic, 2018; Exercising on a budget, leaving site icon  National Institutes of Health, 2018

Originally published 4/14/2020; Reviewed 2022