10 Ways to Get Fit Without Spending a Dime (or Causing Pollution)

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally, finally confessed that greenhouse gases are a health problem. I’m not surprised—except that it took so long. In any case, there is actually a lot that we can all do to cut our own greenhouse emissions, especially in our quest for fitness. It seems kind of crazy to think about getting fit as causing pollution. But when you get onto a treadmill or that elliptical machine, that’s exactly what you are doing. Exercise is extremely important for mind as well as body, as Dr. Rossman points out today on Rodale.com. So here are my top 10 ways you can get fit on the clean and on the cheap.

1. Walk. This is a no-brainer. Walk for pleasure, walk for errands, walk for something. Getting outside and walking actually accomplishes two goals at once—it makes you healthier by getting your body moving, and your exposure to nature and sunlight makes you happier. You don’t need fancy shoes, either. Once I walked 3 miles in a pair of Crocs. It was easy.

2. Dance. My personal favorite—which I don’t do enough of. Turn on your radio or your iPod—or better yet, go to a festival with live music—and dance your heart out. Bring your kids. Look like an idiot. Grin like a goofball. Too many people sit out the dance because they don’t want to look stupid. So do it in the privacy of your own home if you must, but do it. It’s too much fun not to.

3. Clean. Believe it or not, you can burn a lot of calories by cleaning—especially if it’s the spring cleaning sort. Just don’t contaminate your cleaning workout by using toxic chemicals; clean with soap and water, vinegar, or other mild cleansers. More importantly, move the couch and clean underneath it. Wash windows (I find a squeegee and a squirt of dish soap in a bucket of water works the best.) Get all the crap out of the garage.

4. Swim. Find a pond, a pool, an ocean or a creek and jump in. Instead of swimming laps, try treading water. It’s a workout! And you can just hang out and chat with your friends and family while you are doing it.

5. Play tag. Not only is the stopping and starting and sprinting of a game like tag a better challenge for your body than running long distances, it can be a lot more fun. Your lungs and abs will get a workout from laughing so hard.

6. Volunteer. Give up a few hours to a local nonprofit to help with community garden digging, trail building, or other physical labor. I’m a firm believer in the idea that what goes around, comes around. You’ll get a double benefit: the good feeling that comes from helping others, and the soreness that comes from working hard.

7. Become a yogi/yogini. Yoga is something like 3,000 years old. Do you really think they had those sticky mats back when it started? You don’t have to spend a dime on it; just check out a book like Light on Yoga from the library, clear a space in your home (make sure the floor is clean), and start on your path to physical and spiritual freedom. Yes, a teacher helps and is important, but the most important thing is embarking on the journey, and only you can do that.

8. Have sex. Seriously, it does burn calories and I don’t know about you but it makes me a lot less cranky.

9. Sweep and rake. Am I the only one who thinks that leaf blowers are completely idiotic? Rakes and brooms not only work just as well, but using one is a pleasurable, quiet and healthy activity. The Japanese live a lot longer than we do, and you don’t see them using leaf blowers in their famous gardens. You see them meticulously, meditatively maintaining those gardens in a way that has worked well without polluting for thousands of years.

10. Sing. While it may not burn that many calories, the deep breathing and vibrations from a good loud song are great for you. If you don’t want to join a choir or go to church, sing while you clean, sing while you walk, sing while you…do whatever you want!

Have I forgotten anything? Let me know and we’ll add it to the list. Now get out there and have some fun!!!

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9 Responses to 10 Ways to Get Fit Without Spending a Dime (or Causing Pollution)

  1. Sarah April 20, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

    Excellent tips… in my house, we have daily dance party time. Every day around 5 when everyone gets squirrely, we crank silly music and from 18 months to just turned 30, the four of us dance our hearts out… and I’ve lost 10 pounds since we started!

  2. Kris April 21, 2009 at 8:13 am #

    I’m with you 100%, Sarah, and I love the spirit that your little one(s) are being brought up with!

    I’m just checking out the Rodale Inc. company, having received an unsolicited email, and am really pleased to see the sound, uplifting, and positive content that this website publishes. I’ll bookmark it for regular reading.

  3. Jacquie April 21, 2009 at 12:25 pm #

    Maria, excellent tips. For those who are so lucky, how about biking to work and to the store? It’s a wonderful way that I’ve gotten to know my lovely community of Petaluma, CA…and it’s a way to slow down and smell the breeze off the river and the crazy amount of roses blooming throughout our town.

  4. WrenC April 23, 2009 at 9:00 am #

    These are great ideas. My favorites are dancing (Who cares if you look like an idiot? Go with it!) and Jacquie’s tip above, biking. I commute by bike to work, to friends’ houses, to the grocery, etc. It’s a great workout and much less stressful than driving. If you want to check out getting started commuting by bike on the cheap, there’s some really good advice here.

  5. Stevie Pittsley June 25, 2009 at 2:41 am #

    You Mentioned swimming , but I’d like to add my favorite water sport , and that’s snorkeling. Even in a freshwater pond, you can see so many tremendous things .
    I enjoy playing with my friend’s kids in their pool while snorkeling. They have learned to love the sport , and now they often accompany me on excursions .
    It’s Great for your legs, the resistance for flippers really tighens things up ,

  6. Susheel March 5, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Laughter! Laughing your heart out is one of the greatest exercises, I believe! So de-stressing, energizing and happiness inducing! Well and truly ‘The Best Medicine’! You may add laughter to your list…

    A wonderful post! 😀

  7. Elizabeth May 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    copious amounts of sex and laughing, can you imagine the calories burned and cleansing of the soul?

  8. Roseanna June 22, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Dude, right on there brtoher.

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