I n the media, exercise sometimes seems to be portrayed as an extravagance for the rich, what with personal trainers, fancy gear and expensive health club memberships. But it doesn’t have to be that way! All you really need to exercise is a willingness to do it. Here are ways to stay fit and lose weight without losing your shirt.

CARDIO

Most people can walk, and it doesn’t require instruction, expensive gear or a health club. A decent pair of sneakers is all you need to get started. You can walk on sidewalks, quiet roads and trails. When it’s rainy or cold, many people find shopping malls a convenient place to walk. Running needn’t be expensive either. Wear comfortable, supportive footwear and clothing that’s appropriate to the season, and you’re good to go. Some people think fancy, expensive shoes make them a “serious runner.” No, running a lot makes you a serious runner. For an inexpensive, extremely portable and shockingly intense workout, try a jump rope. You might be surprised how winded you get in a very short amount of time.

STRENGTH

Strength training doesn’t have to be expensive either. You don’t necessarily need a fitness center or a home fitness machine. Exercises using your own body weight, such as squats, lunges, pushups and situps, are excellent for functional fitness and don’t require equipment. Books and DVDs from the library can help you do them correctly. You can use inexpensive strength equipment. Dumbbells can be used for a variety of exercises with different body parts, and you can buy them pretty cheaply at many department stores. Resistance bands, generally running under $20, can strengthen and tone multiple parts of the body and are easy to pack in a gym bag or suitcase. Exercise balls, which can be had for as little as $20, are great for building core strength.

YOGA

Yoga can improve your functional strength, flexibility, balance and peace of mind. You don’t have to pay nearly $70 for a yoga mat at Lululemon—you can actually buy durable and attractive mats at many department stores and sporting goods stores for about $20. Likewise, yoga clothing need only be comfortable— not expensive. Many people show up to class in gym shorts and T-shirts. Pricey mats and clothes don’t make you “serious” about yoga—regularly practicing yoga does. Nor do you have to go to a “boutique-y” yoga studio. If you can forgo the incense and the attitude, you can find much less expensive classes at your local YMCA, community center or senior center. (At the YMCA where I teach and practice yoga, yoga is free with your basic membership.) Also, most public libraries have DVDs on various workouts, including yoga. Bottom line: If you can spare the attitude, you can spare a good wad of cash. D