Practical Saver: Save money losing weight and staying in shape

It is not a new revelation: Exercise keeps you healthy. Health journals declare that exercise will reduce your chances of developing coronary heart disease, hypertension, some cancers and type II diabetes. The wonderful news is that there are many fun and economical ways to stay fit.

An obvious option is going to the gym. I have enjoyed being a member of a local gym for several years, and the owner recently shared a money-saving tip. He suggested that people (especially seniors) check with their insurance companies because membership at a gym might be covered. Check the gym's website, or with the gym management, to see if a list of the insurance companies that offer membership discounts is available.

In recent years, technology has really expanded our options for getting on track to a healthier lifestyle. There are numerous helpful tools available through the growing world of cellphone apps. For example, using the free app "Couch to 5K," my dear friend Lisa succeeded in her goal to run her first 5K race. This app provides a training schedule for the purpose of launching competitors off the couch and into ample shape to run a 5K race. The training schedule gradually progresses from easy to a pace that is acceptable on race day. It calculates total mileage with a built-in GPS, and helps runners gain encouragement from their friends by posting their progress on Facebook. The app provides links to races available in the area. Even if a race isn't available, the app is a great accountability partner for getting in shape and staying healthy.

"My Fitness Pal" is another accountability app that helps users track food and exercise. Progress can be recorded directly onto their website, MyFitnessPal.com, so this app doesn't require a Smartphone. The program allows users to record what they eat throughout the day, and it calculates the calories, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as the number of calories burned during exercise. If a Smartphone is used, the barcode from any food package can be scanned and the nutritional data for the food will be saved. I have used this program for several months and I like the way it keeps me accountable. Plus, it is free!

For a fresh and entertaining way to work out, think video games. Motion-controlled video games provide more than fun recreation, they promote energetic exercise that can be done in the privacy of your own home. For example, the Wii game "Just Dance" has several levels of difficulty and various "sweat levels." Dancing to the average song burns 20 to 25 calories. Activity based video games like this are great for encouraging healthy competition and a healthy lifestyle.

YouTube.com provides a variety of engaging fitness videos. Among my favorites are the ten-minute workout videos by Alisa Keeton at Revelation Wellness. These videos will work various areas of your body and increase your heart rate. Exercising to YouTube videos is free and can be done in the privacy of your own home!

Many people find "training for a greater purpose" to be a very effective motivation for exercising. Several years ago, I participated in the 60-mile Susan G. Komen three-day breast cancer walk. I trained for nine months, which was easy because they provided a schedule to keep me on track. Avonwalk.org has a slightly shorter walk, (40 miles in two days) which raises money for the same cause. Participating is that this type of event has a two-fold benefit: raising money for a worthy cause and getting physically fit in the process. (Participants are usually required to raise a specific amount in donations, but the fundraising isn't difficult if it's for a worthy cause.)

Staying fit and healthy can be challenging, but there are many ways to make it easier, more enjoyable, and economical. Besides, a fit lifestyle means less doctor visits and lower medical expenses! It is truly a win-win.

Kara Rozendaal, a financial planner, wife and homeschool mother of three, has lived in Prescott Valley for 15 years. Learn more about her classes and ways to save money at www.PracticalSaver.com.