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Staying fit in an unfit economy

There are many exercise options available that have proven effective for novice exercise enthusiasts as well as professional athletes like Olympic Gold Medalist Christie Rampone (above), captain of the U.S. soccer team. Treadmills, exercise bikes and other cardio-working equipment are helpful whether you are looking to lose weight, or just get healthier and more fit.

In these tough economic times when every penny counts, costly gym memberships are a common casualty. But that doesn't mean you should neglect your health.

"More than ever, it's important to make exercise part of your daily routine," says fitness expert Don Brown. "You can maintain health, lead an energetic lifestyle and reduce stress by getting regular exercise."

The longtime fitness guru notes that physical health should not be sacrificed to cost-cutting measures. Rather, Brown offers the following tips for those looking to stay, or get, physically fit during tough economic times.

• Get outdoors: Walking and jogging are great cardiovascular activities especially for those new to regular exercise and they are free. What's more, getting out in the sunlight encourages healthy circulation, strengthens the body's immune system by increasing white blood cell count and helps improve mood.

On days when the weather isn't cooperative, take your cardio workout indoors. Jumping rope and running on a treadmill are great traditional indoor exercises. There are other fitness products that combine cardio with twist exercises to help tighten core muscles in the abdomen. "Focusing on core training can help ward off stress-induced belly fat," says Brown.

• Purchase at-home fitness equipment: Fitness fanatics are likely to want more from a workout than walking and jogging. The proper at-home fitness equipment can provide core-strengthening benefits similar to those you'd get from a gym plus the convenience of home.

• Maintain a healthy diet: Brown emphasized the importance of a healthy diet for everyone, from ardent fitness buffs to those with a more casual approach to exercise. Those who like to dine out or frequently order in can save substantial amounts of money in the current economy simply by eating healthier and often far less expensive foods at home and by eating less. In conjunction with daily exercise, a balanced diet that includes multiple servings of fruits and vegetables is a great way to achieve or maintain optimal health, whether or not you ever enter a gym again.

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