Pam Traxler gets some exercise and helps some dogs awaiting adoption at the Pima Animal Care Center.


When you're on a tight budget, joining the gym or buying a home gym isn't on top of the to-do list.

But getting in shape is almost always on top of that list - and it should be.

Being physically active can save us big bucks in the long run, as far as medical bills go.

According to reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical costs for people who are obese are close to $1,500 higher per year than for those of normal weight.

"Moderate, consistent exercise is so beneficial for heart health, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol," said Susan Heinrich, department chairwoman for the fitness and sports sciences department at Pima Community College.

Being broke is not a good excuse - not with all of the options out there.

There are plenty of gyms offering memberships for around $10 a month. There are also yoga studios and group classes for as little as $5.

On that note, if you have a gym membership that you never use, you are wasting money - probably close to $400 a year. Cancel the membership and spring for handweights and walking shoes. You can get deals at places like Ross or Target.

"I like to remind people that fitness doesn't have to take place within the four walls of a gym or health club," said Jessica Matthews, exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.

"Being physically active doesn't require having an expensive membership or access to top-of-the-line fitness equipment."

Matthews says getting fit can be as easy as doing free activities like walking during lunch breaks and hiking on the weekends.

Anita "Sarge" Kellman, founder of Beat Cancer Boot Camp, recommends taking advantage of your surroundings.

For example, if you're at the park with the kids, use a bench to do tricep dips, or do walking lunges.

"I promote exercise outdoors rather than spending money in the gym because I think it's healthier," Kellman said. "You can appreciate the beauty of outdoors, and you can vary your exercises by just using stuff that's outside, like benches, trees and curbs."

Speaking of exercising outside, did you know you can volunteer to jog or walk with dogs at Pima Animal Care Center, 4000 N. Silverbell Road?

It's free, of course, and not only are you getting in your exercise, but you're helping the dogs get exercise as well.

"It keeps the dogs from going kennel crazy," said the facility's volunteer coordinator, Jose Ocaño. "And it helps them be more adoptable because their true disposition is shown."

I tried it myself. There's a beautiful lake behind the facility where volunteers walk or run with the dogs. It was a great workout. It was free. And I felt good about helping the dogs.

"All of our walkers are like, 'This is my exercise because the dogs are so excited and rambunctious,' " said Ocaño.

Heinrich suggests trying activities around town such as walking The Loop, the long bicycle-walking path around the city or, or the Rillito River path.

Find information, as well as locator maps for the various river parks, by visiting Pima County Natural Resources' website at clicking on River Parks.

It's always free to use them. Walk on opposite sides for variety, or kick it up a notch and walk in the sand.

Heinrich also suggested making inexpensive weights for yourself from stuff at home, like filling a gallon milk jug, which weighs 8 pounds.

Don't forget the Internet. I've found really good workouts on YouTube and Netflix. You can also get free tips and motivation by "liking" the pages of fitness experts on Facebook.

Another option is to check out videos from the library for free, or exchange workout videos with friends.

If you need structure, Pima Community College offers health and wellness classes. For $70, you get 32 sessions with a variety of activities, and an instructor. That's about $2.24 per class, which is less than most of the drop-in classes around town. Visit to check it out.

"The biggest key for most people is to just do something and do it consistently," Heinrich said.

Lucky for us, that "something" doesn't have to cost a penny.

Exercise for Free

With a little research and creativity, you can find a week of free exercise around town. Here are some ideas. The classes listed happen weekly, unless stated otherwise.

Monday: Go to Meet Me at Maynards, which is a weekly social walk/run downtown. Check-in starts at 5:15 p.m. at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress (north entrance on Toole).

Tuesday: Circus Jam night at Cirque Roots Studio, 17 E. Toole Ave., 7 to 9 p.m. You can hula hoop, do "acro-yoga," climb up silks, juggle and more. Free, but donations are accepted.

Wednesday: Go to YouTube and search for a workout to do at home.

Thursday: Zumba class at Bookmans, 3733 W. Ina Road, at 10 a.m.

Friday: Yoga class at Sam Lena-South Tucson Library, 1607 S. Sixth Ave., 9 a.m. (There's a Wednesday class as well.)

Saturday: Walk, jog, skate or bike the path around Randolph Golf Course. There's parking on Alvernon, south of Broadway.

Sunday: Argentine Tango class at Cafe Desta, 758 S. Stone Ave. 5:30 p.m. the first and third Sundays of the month. Free, but donations are accepted.

More free ideas

• Get a group together and walk the mall, or go solo.

• Use canned goods as hand weights or put books, dry beans or rice in a backpack and walk.

• Hike the Douglas Springs Trail. Drive east until Speedway ends, and you'll find it.

• Walk or run up Tumamoc Hill west of downtown.

• Need a running buddy? Connect with Tucson Running Group on Facebook.

• Udall Park, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road, has an outdoor and an indoor track (the indoor track costs a dollar to use).

• Yardwork and home maintenance projects count, too.

• Climb some stairs.

• Do bodyweight exercises during commercial breaks when watching TV.

• Play tag with the kids.

Free resources has an at-home workout feature.

• Apps like Runkeeper, Workout Trainer and Daily Workout are great ways to keep track and get new ideas. offers exercise tips, motivation and how-tos.

gym memberships and classes

• Chuze Fitness memberships start out at $9.99 per month. There is a $29 start-up fee and an annual fee of $39.99.

• Platinum Fitness memberships start at $9.95 per month. There is a $49 sign-up fee and a $10 keytag fee.

•Planet Fitness memberships start at $10 per month if you sign up by March 20. There is a $10 sign-up fee, and an annual membership fee of $29.

• Yoga Oasis offers drop-in classes for $5 each. Go to for locations and schedules.

• Get your hand stamped at Meet Me at Maynards on Monday night, and do the Spinning Boot Camp class at O2 Modern Fitness, 186 E. Broadway, for $5.

Star reporter Angela Pittenger, our Centsible Mom, shares tips, ideas and news about how Tucson consumers can find value and stretch their budgets. Send suggestions, ideas or questions to her at or 573-4137. Plus, join the discussion with Pittenger on her blog, at, where she shares her progress in trying to save more money this year for her young family.