If no one has told you yet, let us be the first: That gym membership is not a guarantee you’ll meet your fitness goals this year.
I know. You made a New Year’s resolution to work out more. Paying for a membership is your first step — your “motivation.”
Unfortunately, that motivation doesn’t seem to be enough. Only 9% of people succeed at achieving any kind of resolutions by the end of a year, according to the University of Scranton’s research.
About 32% of people abandon their resolutions within two weeks. By the end of a month, 42% give up. After six months, less than half — 44% — of people are still working on their resolutions.
Promise, we’re not trying to discourage you!
Please, be the minority, and succeed. But don’t waste your money in the process.
Here are eight ways to get healthier and accomplish your fitness goals this year — all completely free.
1. Get More Sleep
Want to know the real secret to success? If you’ve asked Arianna Huffington in the past year, she’ll tell you: It’s sleep.
“People who average fewer than six hours of sleep per night are four times likelier than those who get more than seven hours to come down with a cold,” the self-proclaimed health and wellness expert told Oprah.
Even if you don’t care about keeping a sound mind or your general well-being, lack of sleep could affect your New Year’s resolutions.
“The stress hormone cortisone increases when you’re sleep deprived, which can affect weight,” Huffington said.
One of the best ways she touts for getting better sleep is to turn off your devices at night and keep them away from the bed.
Then, she says, “I have a hot bath — I love a hot bath.” And she says sleep in pajamas, not the same clothes you wear to the gym, so your brain knows it’s time to sleep.
I’ll add one more, from personal experience: Stop drinking coffee.
If you don’t want to make the change on your own, check out these free apps to help you sleep better.
2. Drink More Water
Still focused on losing weight?
Drinking more water can help with that, too. Plus, it’s virtually free!
“As part of a prudent, low-calorie weight-loss diet, adding water may help with weight-loss success,” Brenda Davy, Ph.D., the lead author of a Health.com study about water and weight-loss told CNN.
The study found those who drank 16 ounces of water before a meal lost an average four and a half pounds more than those who didn’t.
Want to take it one step further (and save more money) this year? Stop drinking alcohol.
3. Do Yoga
Yoga is my favorite way to stay in shape. It’s fantastic for flexibility, strength and stamina, as well as peace of mind.
Plus, contrary to what your yuppie friends may tell you, it’s completely free to practice!
I’ve been doing yoga at least a few times a week for about five years, and I’ve almost never paid for a class. I do it at home, using my favorite free yoga apps.
If you’re more inspired by the company of other yogis, try these six ways to find free yoga classes in your area.
4. Work Out at Home
You don’t need a monthly gym membership or hundreds of dollars in home gym equipment to experience an effective workout.
You can find workout videos or apps online that guide your routine for free. You don’t need a ton of space, either!
My partner uses an app he downloaded for free, and works out in the living room of our one-bedroom apartment.
And don’t let January’s cold weather keep you from reaching your goals. Check out these 11 free (or cheap) winter workouts.
If you do want to bring equipment into your home, do it frugally. Read these tips for building a home gym for less than $100.
I know people who use meditation to fend off panic attacks, some who use it to relax during a stressful workday, some who use it to achieve higher spiritual awareness and some who use it simply to find peace and quiet.
Several studies have shown meditation to help with aging, treating depression and anxiety, fighting addiction, and improving concentration for things like work and school.
Clearing your mind through meditation could even be a key to more success this year!
Meditating can also help you stay healthier and fit, so it could boost your fitness-related resolutions.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out these five free meditation apps for iPhone and Android.
6. Stop Eating When You’re Full
This is definitely easier said than done. But at least it’s free!
It seems that we miss this simple point, especially in American food culture. You don’t have to clear your plate at every meal. If you pay attention to when you’re actually full — or better, not hungry — you’ll probably eat a lot less food.
Food guru and author Michael Pollan even recommends you leave the table a little hungry…
Without changing what you eat — or buying more expensive foods — you can make an impact on your health by changing how you eat.
I’ve been practicing this to varying degrees of success over the past seven or so years, and I can vouch for feeling healthier and even losing a few pounds (in combination with other habits).
The toughest part is knowing when you’re full. I recommend eating slowly, so you can pay attention to your body.
And by the way, keeping leftovers is a simple way to stretch your grocery budget!
7. Go Outside
Want to be happier, more energetic and generally stronger and healthier? Get some sunlight.
When you expose your skin to direct sunlight, it can naturally produce Vitamin D.
This vitamin helps you absorb calcium, which will strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis. It may also help protect against cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
I know January is not a great time to hear you should get outside more. Will you be motivated by money? Use this app to get paid to shovel snow. Or get out of your winter wasteland altogether, and sign up for one of these four jobs for snowbirds.
Plus, everyone looks a little more fit with a tan.
8. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Don’t worry. I said these steps would be free, and I intend to follow through on that promise.
You don’t need to spend extra money to eat fresher food. You just have to shop smart!
Start with coupons to keep your grocery bill down. Here are six places to find coupons for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Next, try this trick in the spring to get your fruits and vegetables for free: Skip the middle man, and harvest it yourself. Check FallingFruit.org to find public fruit trees in your city, and stop by for a snack next time you take a walk.
Earn Money While Getting in Shape
Want to take it a step further — not just saving money, but actually making money while you work out? Check out these 17 ways to get paid to exercise.
Here’s to a richer 2017, Penny Hoarders!
Your Turn: What frugal steps are you taking to achieve your health and fitness goals this year?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).