Friday, January 8, 2010

Frugal Fitness Friday: Sparkpeople and more

We are already a week into the new year and I'm already realizing how difficult it will be to stick to exercising several days a week.  Many people say that the best way to stick to an exercise regimen is to get an expensive gym membership and pay for a trainer.  I beg to disagree. 

Each Friday I will be highlighting several different free/cheap resources for exercising.  These may include online videos, articles, blog-radio shows, exercises, etc.  Something very important to note is that I am not a health expert by any means, so consult your doctor before you try anything too crazy.

This week I am highlighting a site called  The site was started by Chris Downie and his wife (former Ebay employees) who used and continue to use some of the profit of their Ebay stock to help pay for the maintenance of the website.  They see it as their way of giving back to the community.  For more info on why it is free, go here.

Sparkpeople is a dieting, exercise, and social networking site all-in-one.  When you sign up you will have access to a diet section of the website.  It has a plethora of different recipes (I have a couple that I want to try), and many tips on how to make healthier versions of food that you love. 

For those of you who are really dedicated, you can keep an online journal of what you eat every day. It will tally the nutritional information from all of the food that you ate to give you a total sum for the day.  By looking through your journal, patterns in eating become apparent and it is easier to see when you are weak against the pull of junk food (emotional eating, eating after work, etc.).  They also suggest that you log how many glasses of water you drink.

The exercise portion of the website contains lots of helpful articles and videos.  It includes short video tutorials of exercises.  There is a section where you can log your exercise for each day and it will tally the amount of calories burned (it even includes regular activities such as raking).  I really liked that it included many different types of exercise from sports, to cleaning, to yoga, to boxing, -you name it, they have information on it.

Finally, the social networking part of the site for many people is the biggest motivator in keeping their fitness and nutritional goals.  It is similar to facebook in that you have a profile page that people can see.  You can choose to share your exercise, weight, or nutrition goals with the world.  You can earn points for doing certain things (exercising, eating healthy, just logging in) and as you accumulate more points you will reach different levels.  You can choose to share the level that you are on, on your profile page.  It is fun to look through other people's pages to see what obstacles they have overcome.

There are teams of all sorts of people that you can join.  For instance I have joined a team for people in their 20's in Indiana.  Through that team I can "talk" with other people in similar circumstances to me (can't exercise outside because it is snowing, and don't want to spend the money on a gym membership).  The teams set goals for themselves and try to work together to meet them. 

In conclusion, I chose to write about Sparkpeople for my first Frugal Fitness article for a reason.  It is by far one of the best diet/exercise websites out there, and it is free!  This site has links to almost everything you could need to stay healthy and fit.  There are many other websites that offer diet journals or exercise journals, but not that many that offer both.  Furthermore, this site more valuable information and videos than you could ever read or watch and more than most other health websites that you would have to pay for.  So, if you are having difficulty finding the motivation to reach your new year's resolution goals, sign up.  It's free!

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