3 easy ways to build muscle, not debt

February 23, 2023

For plan members, sponsors and administrators

Share this “Wellness on a budget” series of articles with your plan members. We can’t control the economy or the rising cost of living, but there are ways to maintain health, wellness, and nutrition during tough economic times.

Is the high cost of living making you rethink your gym membership?

Here are 3 easy ways to exercise and stay in shape that are free, or almost free.

1. Get basic

This one seems so obvious. But many people forget that going for a walk is a great form of exercise. In fact, walking for just 30 minutes works your muscles, decreases stress, reduces the risk of heart issues and strengthens your joints.1 If you’re trying to lose weight, walk at a brisker pace to get your heart rate up. Or try walking for a few minutes and then jogging for 30 seconds.

What’s great about walking is that you don’t need fancy equipment, just some comfortable shoes with good support. Depending on where you’re walking, and how much, you don’t need to spend a lot. But keep in mind the old saying, you get what you pay for. If walking is your main exercise, you may want to invest in a good pair of shoes.

Of course, being in Canada, walking in the winter is challenging. First up is keeping warm, but sidewalks or trails can be slippery. If you want to walk outside, consider investing in some ice grippers for your boots. Or move that walk inside! Many malls offer mall walking before the stores open and many local arenas have tracks above the ice that you can use for free.

2. Get creative

Walking is great (see #1), but strength training can take your health and fitness to a whole new level. Like all physical activity, it’s good for your bones, your heart, boosts your metabolism, improves posture, sleep and more. And strength training is part of The Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Adults created by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. 2  

If you’re on a budget, there’s more good news. You don’t need a fancy gym or equipment. Build your own gym at home. One great advantage of a home gym is you don’t need to spend your time (and gas) getting to the gym. All you need for the perfect home gym is a little creativity.

  • Start off with body weight exercises and use things that you have at home (water bottles cans make great weights. A jug of laundry detergent or fabric softener can stand in as a kettlebell). Then you can slowly invest in items that will take your workouts to the next level (you can often find gently used equipment for sale on social media or at discount stores). 
  • Run stairs for extra cardio. Do standing push-ups against your countertop. 
  • Get a skipping rope from the dollar store and skip your way to better health. If the rope is the old-fashioned stretchy kind, use it as a resistance band.
  • Turn household chores into a workout. Add some ankle weights while you vacuum or mow the lawn. Don’t just bend down, squat. See how many squats it takes to clean under the sink.

3. Get inspired

We can all use a little motivation, even when we’re working out at home. Remember, a great advantage to working out at home is no one can see you – or hear you. So, turn up the volume and sing and dance your way to good health. If you need a little more inspiration, try these:

  • Go online. YouTube® has hundreds of workout videos for free. Sure, there will be a few ads throughout, but that’s a great time to drink some water. 
  • Try a podcast. A lot of athletes and coaches have podcasts that share their stories and offer motivational tips.
  • Join a local group. There are walking/running/cycling groups in many communities. It’s a great way to meet people and stay fit, often for little to no cost.
  • Check your group benefits plan. If you have a Lifestyle Spending Account through your plan, gym memberships and fitness equipment may be covered. And your plan may cover a physiotherapist or massage.

Working out doesn’t have to cost you money. So, get creative to save some money, get healthy, and have fun! 

Learn more!

  • Living your best life doesn’t have to cost a lot. This article, part of our series How to live big on a small budget, offers some great ideas. 
  • Eating well for less doesn’t have to be hard. It’s just good common sense and some extra time management. Try the tips in this article, part of our series How to live big on a small budget. You’ll feel better, about your wallet and your health! 


1 https://www.shape.com/fitness/cardio/walking-benefits-health

2 Adults 18-64 – 24-Hour Movement Guidelines (csepguidelines.ca), 2021; City of Toronto, https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/health-programsadvice/physical-activity/walking/

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