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Exercise and Fitness

A Stairstep (Step Platform: $100, Staircase: Free)

Stair machines offer a great workout – but they are expensive. Use the stairs where you live or work, or if your home or office doesn't have steps, find a park, bleachers, or building nearby you can use with stairs. If you don't want to work out in public you can purchase a step platform, like those used in step classes at a gym. You can also find DVDs for step classes to guide your workouts. A step platform will run you about $100, but a staircase is free!

Fitness DVDs ($10-$20)

Fitness DVDs cost a lot less than gym memberships, but can give you some great exercise options from cardio to strength training to yoga and dance. Many celebrities and fitness trainers offer DVDs and the cost is about $10-$20. You may be able to find used DVDs at yard sales or thrift stores, and some libraries may rent them at low cost or free.

Walking or Running Shoes ($40-$120)

Your feet absorb the impact of every step, so it's important for walkers and runners to have good shoes. Take your time to choose shoes that are the most comfortable. Many running stores will analyze your gait and recommend shoes that are appropriate for the way you run or walk. Walk around the store when you try the shoes on, and make sure they feel comfortable and your feet feel supported. A basic running or walking shoe can start at about $40, and go up to $150 for more advanced shoe models.

Stability Ball ($10-$20)

You had fun playing with balls as a kid, and they can be fun and help you stay fit as an adult. Stability balls are a great way to work your core muscles – your abs, back, sides, and even your upper thighs. The ball is wobbly, and your core muscles work to keep you stable. A stability ball costs about $10-$20.

Medicine Ball (About $20)

Medicine balls look like basketballs but are weighted and can help enhance muscle strength, coordination, agility, and balance. Some exercises you can try are holding the medicine ball above your head while doing lateral flexes to tone your abdominal obliques, or squeeze the ball between your knees while doing reverse curls. Medicine ball cost: $20.

Yoga Mat ($15-$20)

If you do yoga regularly you may already have a yoga mat. What you may not realize is that same mat can be a great adjunct to calisthenics, including sit-ups, push-ups, knee bends, and other exercises. Use it to cushion a hard floor when doing high-impact stationary exercises such as running in place or jumping jacks and burn up to 100 calories in just 10 minutes. A yoga mat costs $15-$20.

Hand Weights ($15)

A pair of hand weights -- also known as dumbbells -- offers a great upper-body strengthening workout. Another option: Use everyday weighted objects you can easily grasp in each hand, such as a water bottle, socks filled with dried beans or sand, or a bag of rice. Basic hand weights: $15.

Pedometer ($20-$30)

For just $20-$30, a pedometer, or step counter, can be an effective motivational tool to help you get up and walk. The most basic pedometers track your daily steps, and more advanced models can connect with your computer or smart phone and keep track of your progress.

Resistance Bands (Start Around $10)

Resistance bands are cheap, portable and offer a variety of workout options. A set of bands will only set you back about $10, and most come with instructions on how to use them. Resistance training can tone nearly every muscle in your body, and the intense workout will burn calories.

Jump Rope (Less Than $10)

Jump rope, the playground past time you loved as a kid, is actually a complete workout. This is why you often see boxers, wrestlers, and other professional athletes doing it. Jumping rope strengthens legs, buttocks, arms, and shoulders – and it's great cardio exercise. A basic jump rope costs under $10, and it's easy to tote when you travel.

Exercise Within Your Budget

The cost of gym memberships and home exercise equipment can make you feel like it's too expensive to stay fit. The good news is you don't need a lot of money to get in great shape. Three respected exercise experts: Steven Blair, PhD, at the University of South Carolina, Jennifer Huberty, PhD, at the University of Nebraska, and Andrea Dunn, PhD, at Klein Buendal in Colorado, recommend 10 budget-friendly exercise gadgets.

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