Health & Family

How to get fit during lean times

In these tough economic times, some things have to go, such as bottled water, low-fat lattes and manicures. But you don't have to let your body go. Push-ups, jumping jacks and crunches are priceless. They 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.

To help you get started, experts share their favorite gadgets and tips for staying fit on a budget.

Resistance bands

“The most beneficial equipment would be a set of resistance bands,” says Ali Witherspoon, owner of A.L.I. Bootcamp in Hollywood, Fla. “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.

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“There's nothing better than old-fashioned body-weight exercises,” says Terrence Thomas, owner of Expert Fitness Solutions in Aventura, Fla. Push-ups and jumping jacks are great. As you get more comfortable, 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. A mat is not necessary, but if you prefer one, expect to pay $20-$40.

Swiss ball

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. To do the Russian twist, place your back on the ball and keep your feet on the ground with your knees bent. Keep your torso straight, arms straight and hands touching. Then, move your arms from one side to the other, without pausing. You can also add a little weight to the exercise. Swiss balls, depending on the size, cost $20-$50. A 10-pound dumbbell should cost less than $15.