Developing a Financially Frugal Personal Health Plan

After partially implementing Volumetrics and seeing some success with it, I’ve made a realization that for my health to really kick into high gear, I need to look at making some bigger changes. I’m not obese, I’m just somewhat heavier than I was, say, when I first started dating my wife, and I’d like to get back to that weight and level of fitness (I did push-ups on our first date, actually). However, every time I look at various methods for getting into shape, the costs of it make me cringe, especially the maintenance costs like meeting fees and gym fees.

Thus, I sat down and spent some time looking over my various options and have come up with a plan for getting in better shape that I believe will work for me. Here goes.

The first step was visiting my doctor, which I’ve already done. We went over my current health situation in quite a lot of detail, and he suggested several things to try.

Doctor’s Orders and What They Cost

1. An aerobic exercise regimen

He recommended some sort of method where I could easily track my progress and something to keep myself motivated – he actually directly suggested that I pay for a medium-level aerobics class at a local gym. I can’t even conceive of myself actually going to an aerobics class, let alone paying the high costs associated with it, so I started to look for other solutions.

wiiMy frugal solution to an aerobic exercise regimen is the same solution that worked for me in college: Dance Dance Revolution. For those unaware, Dance Dance Revolution is a video game that comes with a floor mat. This floor mat has four arrows on it: up, down, left, right. When you play the game, a song plays and you simply step on the arrows in time with the music. On the screen, arrows fly up to the top and when they cross a line at the top of the screen, that’s when you step on that specific arrow. So, when the up arrow crosses the line on the screen, that’s when you step on the up arrow on the pad.

When you get familiar with it, it becomes rather good aerobic exercise, to the point that the Wii version of the game includes a “Workout mode” that keeps track of calories burnt and time spent exercising – that mode basically keeps tossing songs at you until you stop. Even better, the Wii version includes using the normal remote as well, requiring you to get arm motions into the exercise. Basically, the game provides its own motivation. The best part? I can do all of this in the privacy of my own basement. The startup cost is a bit high, but the maintenance cost is nil – you don’t have to keep paying gym fees or class fees when you have DDR at home. Cost: $69

2. Plenty of water intake

He encouraged me to drink between 12 and 16 cups (2.8 liters and 3.8 liters) of straight water each day, and directly replace any sodas in my life with that amount. A typical can of soda is 1.5 cups, so this replaces somewhere between 8 and 11 cans of soda a day. While I do drink some soda (with a strong personal preference towards Hansen’s Natural), I don’t drink nearly that much and the rest of my fluid intake is almost entirely water and milk (and the occasional glass of wine or craft beer).

If I follow his suggestion completely (and I plan to), this will eliminate almost all soda from my diet entirely. Not only is this strictly healthier, it’s also significantly cheaper, considering the amount of water I should drink in a day can be pulled from the tap for less than a cent, versus the cost of several cans of soda. I calculated the daily savings (versus buying soda in bulk), and I figure I’ll save somewhere around $2 a day doing this. Cost: -$2 a day

3. Eating a healthier diet

He felt that my current diet was the least of my problems, since I’m at least partially following the Volumetrics plan and I prepare quite a bit of food at home, but he encouraged me to prepare as much as I could at home and try to follow the Volumetrics principles. I asked him about a vegetarian diet and he said if I try that, I should make sure there are lots of beans in the diet as they’re the strongest source of protein in a vegetarian diet. I am going to attempt a one week trial run of eating vegetarian just to see how it goes, but mostly I’m going to focus on what I do now. Cost: Slightly cheaper, but negligible

4. Creating specific, tangible, realistic goals

He suggested various things, like a certain number of aerobic exercise sessions a week, an avoidance of fatty foods for a certain period, and a certain number of days without drinking any fluids but water and skim milk. He also encouraged me to not set goals related to my weight, as a person’s weight on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis can fluctuate and not necessarily go down – he actually said it’s much like the stock market in a healthy economy in that it generally goes in the direction you want, but a given day or a given week, it can go in the opposite direction.

This made a lot of sense, so I prepared a small list of discrete goals for myself. Four sessions of aerobic exercise a week, 13.5 cups of water per day, and halving the number of meals I don’t eat at home (or in the form of leftovers). If I make all of these for a month, then I’ll reward myself in some amusing, simple fashion that I haven’t quite created yet, but the excitement of the goals themselves will keep me going at first, anyway. Cost: a little bit if I hit all my goals, but if I hit all of them, I’ll be healthier, so… negligible?

Except for the startup cost for DDR (and that’s mostly because motivation is a very key part of the puzzle for me and aerobic exercise), this is actually extremely inexpensive and in some ways saves money. The near-entire elimination of soda from my diet will pay for the DDR setup in a little over a month, so in the long run (if I stick with it), it shouldn’t be too bad at all. I think I have a pretty good likelihood of sticking with it, too, as I’ll just exercise in the morning as part of my routinie some days and I don’t really change my diet much at all except for the soda. Best of all, it’s not going to cost me much of anything.