9 best low-cost exercises for weight loss

Bad Money Habits and How to Break Them
Bad Money Habits and How to Break Them

Americans certainly have a desire to lose weight. A Gallup poll found that 51 percent of us hope to shed at least some pounds.

But if the spirit is willing, the body is lagging badly behind in the effort.

Although exercise is one of the best ways to tone up and trim down, just 20 percent of Americans engage in the proper amount of activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To be fair, it is likely that many of us have tried to exercise, only to have gotten discouraged when little or no weight loss occurred. But such disappointment may simply be a result of choosing the wrong activity.

Following are nine exercises that science has identified as true calorie-burners. And as an added bonus for those deterred by the thought of a pricey gym membership, all of these activities are low cost or no cost.

All calorie measurements come from the Mayo Clinic and represent the amount of calories burned at three different weight levels.

1. Jumping rope

Jumping rope not only tops our list of weight-loss exercises, but it's also among the most economical ways to whittle your waistline. You can purchase a high-quality jump rope for $10 or less. According to WebMD:

You'd have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you'd burn jumping rope.

Plus, jump ropes are perfectly portable, allowing you to easily switch up your scenery. They may even bring you back to your childhood!

Calories burned:

  • 861 (160 pounds)

  • 1,074 (200 pounds)

  • 1,286 (240 pounds)

2. Running

Running is another great and economical way to help shed unwanted pounds. According to Runner's World:

It probably takes you less than 10 minutes to run off 100 calories — a rate that leaves most other forms of exercise in the dust.

Obviously, running faster should result in a better burn, but every time your foot hits the pavement or trail, you're taking a step in the right direction. The cost: approximately $50 for a decent pair of running shoes.

Calories burned (running at 8 mph):

  • 861 (160 pounds)

  • 1,074 (200 pounds)

  • 1,286 (240 pounds)

3. Swimming

Make a splash in the water, and it will translate to the scale. According to Fitday.com:

Swimming is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise because it works the entire body, but also provides a low-impact form of exercise. Regardless of your swimming ability, with some practice, you should be able to hit the pool and lose some weight when swimming.

The more vigorous your laps, the more calories you'll torch. Look for free ways to brush up on your backstroke — like at a swimming pool in a friend's backyard, a local lake or the ocean.

Calories burned:

  • 715 (160 pounds)

  • 892 (200 pounds)

  • 1,068 (240 pounds)

4. Climbing stairs

When it comes to achieving your weight-loss goals, climbing stairs can really give you a leg up. According to Shape:

Climbing stairs is one of the best ways to stay healthy because it increases cardiovascular levels and bone mass, making it an ideal choice for preventive medicine. Just ask your doctor for a fitness program, and he will have you walking up the stairs.

You don't need to spring for fancy equipment or a pricey gym membership. Instead, climb stairs in your home, at your office or anywhere else you encounter them.

Calories burned (stair treadmill):

  • 657 (160 pounds)

  • 819 (200 pounds)

  • 981 (240 pounds)

Related: 15 things you should stop wasting your money on

5. Basketball

Shooting hoops can also help you lower the needle on the scale, according to Livestrong.com:

Playing basketball can help you burn excess calories when incorporated into your weight-loss nutrition plan. Running up and down a basketball court and shooting hoops offers plenty of exercise. Exercising drills that basketball players perform during practices will not only burn fat, but strengthen your muscles and improve your coordination as well.

Basketball prices vary, but we have seen them for under $10. So gather some friends or find a pick-up game and shoot for weight-loss success.

Calories burned:

  • 584 (160 pounds)

  • 728 (200 pounds)

  • 872 (240 pounds)

6. Flag (or touch) football

Tossing around the old pigskin is not only fun, it's also a fabulous form of fitness, says Fitday.com:

Flag football is a group sport that engages your entire body. This high impact sport provides you with an intense cardiovascular workout. While out on the field, you will be running, sprinting and jogging, and that is all in just one play. This fast-paced game requires constant high-intensity actions that have you burning hundreds of calories per hour.

It's time to channel your inner Peyton Manning!

Calories burned:

  • 584 (160 pounds)

  • 728 (200 pounds)

  • 872 (240 pounds)

7. Aerobics

Or, how about getting in touch with your inner Jane Fonda? According to Livestrong.com:

When combined with a low-calorie diet, aerobics can lead to significant weight loss...Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your aerobic workouts for even greater weight loss.

Are issues, such as joint pain, preventing you from getting physical? Try water aerobics, a great choice for those with arthritis, back problems, fibromyalgia, leg injuries and other conditions.

Calories burned (high-impact aerobics):

  • 533 (160 pounds)

  • 664 (200 pounds)

  • 796 (240 pounds)

8. Backpacking

Want a great weight-loss activity you can enjoy on your own or with a group of friends? Consider backpacking. You likely won't even realize the pounds are melting off as you take in your surroundings while toting around your gear.

Plus, you'll only have the provisions you brought along, eliminating fattening food temptations.

Calories burned:

  • 511 (160 pounds)

  • 637 (200 pounds)

  • 763 (240 pounds)

9. Hiking

The next time someone tells you to take a hike, listen to them. Hiking is a great workout for those who don't want to commit to backpacking. According to Health.com:

Few activities beat the body benefits of hiking; you're slipping cardio into your day and burning up to 530 calories per hour on the trail. And in gusty weather, the wind resistance can boost your burn potential by about 5 percent, experts say. It's a terrific total-body workout.

Now, who's ready to hit the trails?

Calories burned:

  • 438 (160 pounds)

  • 546 (200 pounds)

  • 654 (240 pounds)

Do you know of other activities that can help you shed pounds? Share them in our Forums. It's a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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Originally published