Getting fit is a multi-billion dollar industry with its fancy gadgets, dynamic classes and in-your-face marketing, but you don’t need a six-figure salary to afford a healthy lifestyle.
One of the biggest problems most people face when try to get fit — be it lose weight, get in shape or eating better — is embracing the idea of an all-or-nothing approach. Go big or go home. That’s a sure-fire path to wrecking your wallet, especially here in New York where every third storefront in Manhattan is a new take on a boot camp, organic superfoods or glorified stationary bike.
Instead, let’s focus on a few cost-cutting ways to alleviate the belly fat while ensuring a bag of money isn’t going solely to the sweaty trainer yelling at you to dig deeper for 20 more seconds.
1. Get a standing desk
If you’re plugged in all day at the office, the best way to alleviate the effects of sitting is to stop sitting. Invest in a standing desk option. Standing for six hours can burn as many as 54 extra calories per day. That’s not a ton, but every little bit adds up. More importantly, standing more helps regulate blood pressure, can reduce back pain and the risk for chronic disease. If a standing desk is not possible, at minimum set a timer for 40-50 minutes and when it goes off, get up and move around and stretch out the limbs.
2. Walk or bike everywhere
We city dwellers have a built-in advantage here. New Yorkers walk an average of two to five miles per day. Get a pedometer or a FitBit or actually start using that setting on your Apple Watch to track your steps per day. Don’t try to be perfect out of the gates. Try for small daily improvement goals that are attainable and sustainable. So instead of committing to walking or biking from your pad in Boerum Hill to your office in Midtown, stay by focusing on hitting 8,000 steps for the first few days with a goal of getting to 10,000 by the end of the month. Taking a few extra steps per day instead of relying on the unreliable subway system can lead to big payoffs. Check out this map that will show you how many calories you can burn by skipping a few subway stops to walk above ground.
3. Fit into the Parks and Rec life
Being cooped up indoors (particularly in the colder months) can zap of us much-needed Vitamin D from the sun and keep us sedentary and on the path to excess weight gain. As a stay-at-home dad, I have the luxury of hitting the park on a daily basis with my toddler. It not only gets me out of the house and moving, but does the same for my little girl. Develop a ritual with your family to enjoy the varied park life here in the city. There’s a park or a playground every other block, so use them! The key is once you get to the park, don’t be one of those spectator parents who plops on a bench and watches the kids run around. Instead, get involved and play with your children. It’s an extra credit calorie burn to be active with the young ones. It also encourages them to stay active and fit, too.
4. Be a home (fitness) body
Stop paying for one-off classes. It adds up quickly and frankly, most of those workouts are just glorified aerobics sessions. While most of us live in small spaces and tight quarters, especially with the kids around, working out at home can lead to fantastic results. It doesn’t require a Gold’s Gym level of commitment to top-notch equipment, either. Getting a great workout can come with simple bodyweight (or calisthenics) movements. Or make the investment in an adjustable dumbbell set and/or a few sturdy kettlebells. For the price of one or two of those boot camp classes, you’ll have your own mini-home gym.
5. Watch the takeout
Building a base of positive behavioral habits that lead to a fit lifestyle means starting with small and attainable solutions and then working your way up. Asking that you cook every single meal is just ridiculous. But, starting with a more sustainable concept — like agreeing to prepare one more dinner per week and order one fewer lunch per week (opting to brown bag your midday meal, instead) – can go a long way toward shoring up your wallet and your waistline. Bonus tip: When prepping that one additional dinner per week, double the recipe so you have enough leftovers to bag your lunch. That’s a two-for-one.
New York City is expensive so don’t make it pricier than it has to be by giving into the fancy marketing of the countless food and fitness options available in your effort to get fit. Be savvy! Look for openings where you can take advantage of your own creativity and willpower and you can still avoid that dreaded dad bod.