With many household budgets continuing to feel pressured due to the Great Recession and economic malaise, spending money on exercising and staying in shape has been pushed towards the sidelines. Gym memberships, personal trainers and pricey home gym equipment are often the first things to go when tough economic times take hold. However, with more people spending roughly 40 hours sitting behind a desk every week, avoiding exercise is a recipe for disaster. The truth is that you can build a better body while on a tight budget. Here's how.

SEE: Budgeting When You're Broke

Take the Stairs

I know it may sound cliché, but taking the stairs instead of the elevator really does do wonders. There's a reason why most gyms have a stair-climbing machine in their offerings. According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, walking up stairs is one of the more intense exercises a person can do. The exercise burns a higher number of calories than walking or dancing, and is on par with fast rowing or cycling.
Just how intense is stair-climbing? Research done at UCLA shows that walking up stairs can burn anywhere from seven to 10 calories per minute. While the amount varies by how much you weigh and how quickly you go up the stairs, a 150-pound person walking up flights of stairs for just 30 minutes can burn about 525 calories. Likewise, going down stairs may not have the same aerobic punch that going up does, but it still burns about one-third the calories you'd burn walking up stairs. So, the lesson is to skip the elevator and hit the stairs when going up to your office.

Hit the Playground
Those monkey-bars we loved as children also double as a fantastic way for adults to exercise without using costly gym equipment. Many of the same games and exercises that kids enjoy during recess around the world can be every bit as challenging as the average adult's current workout. They're probably a lot more fun, too. Next time you take your kids to play why not get the on the equipment yourself and try to tone, strengthen and stretch your muscles.

There are plenty of playground specific workouts available on the Internet with various levels of intensity. However, simply climbing and swinging away can do wonders to burn calories and tone muscles. According to Weight Watchers, a simple 25-35 minute playground routine will burn roughly 200 calories.

Also, don't forget to check with your local parks and rec league to find out what programs it offers. This could range from low-cost exercise and wellness classes to weekly team sports events. It definitely pays to make a call or check the Internet. With plenty of summer days ahead, hitting the playground offers a perfect low-cost solution to staying in shape.

Around the House
Believe or not, there are plenty of ways to stay fit without leaving your house or buying expensive exercise equipment or videos. First, get out the broom and dust pan. Cleaning up your space can seem like a chore, but that chore does pay fitness dividends. By getting out those cleaning supplies and scrubbing, a 150-pound person can expect to burn hundreds of calories by doing 30 minutes of housework.

Giving your yard some curb appeal could not only benefit your home value, but your waistline as well. Spending just 30 minutes digging and weeding and you will burn up to 315 and 115 calories, respectively. That is equal to a nearly a 45-minute bike ride and a 15-minute weightlifting session. Forget the leaf blower when autumn leaves start to fall, and you could burn up to 225 calories in 30 minutes by raking leaves. Finally, not only will you increase your cardiovascular health by mowing the lawn, you'll burn between at least 135 calories when using a power push mower. That jumps up to at least 165 calories when using non-powered hand mower.

SEE: Bloated Budget? How To Trim The Fat

The Bottom Line

Just because your household budget is feeling squeezed, doesn't mean you should put fitness on the back burner. There are plenty of ways to exercise and stay fit without breaking the bank. The previous ideas, along with biking to work or using gallon water jugs as hand weights can be used as low-cost ways to keep fit and healthy.

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