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How to stay in shape without a gym membership

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Gym memberships can get pricey, time consuming and flat-out inconvenient after awhile. But don't let that become your excuse for not working out. In fact, you can get some of the best cardio and muscle training right at home. Laundry bags, stairs, chairs and even the bare floor can help build strength and endurance and burn fat. Here are some back-to-the-basics tips for creating your own workout without breaking the bank:

1. Get Stable
Shoulder rolls, back arches and raises, leg extensions and more can be done on a Swiss Training Ball (or stability ball). Perfect for stretching, the balls are not only cost-efficient at $30 to $80 but can give you the maximum, full-body stretch prior to a workout session. A 75 or 85 cm size ball will usually do the trick. Stability balls are also great for more advanced exercises like side-to-side leg rolls and one-armed push-ups.

2. Jumping Jacks
Use jumping jacks to warm up and get the heart rate pumping in preparation for a more intense workout. Just five minutes of jumping jacks after stretching helps tone and condition your body. Jumping jacks work the shoulders, back, thighs and calves and help develop overall stamina and endurance.

3. Completely Floored
Push-ups and sit-ups are classic moves that you can use at home, in front of the TV, on the road—anywhere. Push-ups work the chest, shoulders, abs and triceps while sit-ups predominantly work the abdominal muscles. Minoro Yoshida of Japan, a Guinness World Record holder, completed 10,507 non-stop push-ups, but doing the most push-ups as humanly possible is not necessary for great results; three or four sets of 25 to 50 is a great addition to any workout regimen.

4. Show Some Resistance
Enhance basic lunges, squats and bicep curls with resistance bands. Bands are lightweight for travel and usually cost between $6 to $20. First, know your colors. Usually, the various colors of the bands will tell the resistance of each: yellow (light), red (medium) and green (heavy). For squats, try standing with legs shoulder-width apart. Hold bands at shoulder length while standing and during each squat then return to original position. To work triceps, stand with resistance band along your back, holding the tubing in one hand and stretching the other band with your other hand over your head.

5. In the Bag
Laundry is one chore that naturally burns calories, but hold off on dumping your dirty clothes in the washing machine. Instead, use the weight from your fully-loaded laundry bag to get a stronger core. Lift the bag directly in front of you and keep it away from your body to get the maximum resistance. Do multiple repetitions—you'll feel it working your biceps, shoulders, chest and abs. Need more weight? Try sandbag training to build even more strength and endurance.

6. Stairs
Jog up and down stairwells or bleachers for a great cardio workout. Try running up six to 12 flights at your fullest speed then rest for two or three minutes in between. You can still walk up a few flights during the rest period to maintain your heart rate. To increase lower body strength, try climbing every other step. Round out your weekly cardio regimen by jogging, walking or riding your bike at least three or four times per week.

7. Dumbbells
Bicep curls, shoulder presses and tricep extensions are some of the exercises you can do at home using dumbbells. To work the chest, lay flat on your back, or on a bench, holding the dumbbells above your chest with arms extended up. Lower dumbbells to your chest then back up again. Try lying face down on the bench and lift the dumbbells to work the back.

8. Chair Presses
Take a quick break during the day to work the triceps, chest muscles and back. Whether you are at home or the office, find a chair, sit upright and place your hands on either arm of the chair with feet flat on the floor and pull yourself for a count of 10. Return to your sitting position and repeat. Lower-back muscles are stabilized and strengthened with this exercise—and it's free!

9. Park It
Grab a tree trunk or monkey bar at the local park to build upper body strength. No time for the park? Invest in an affordable in-house chin-up/pull-up bar. (Most wall-mounted bars range in price from $20 to $50.) Both exercises force you to lift your own body weight, giving you the maximum bicep and back workout. Pull-ups with palms facing away works the back while chin-ups (palms facing you) work the biceps more.

10. Jump Rope
Aside from the obvious cardio benefits, jumping rope can help develop coordination, agility, quickness and endurance for $5 or less (some double-weight beaded ropes can cost $10 to $40). A basic jump rope workout for 30 minutes can provide the same cardio session as any elliptical machine.

Related articles:

The Dumbbell Workout

Home Gym Dos and Don'ts

Exercise Bands 101

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