Health and fitness on a budget

Shaheem Laattoe, fitness trainer, takes a dip in the cold water of Saunders Beach.

Many of us may know what it means to live on a budget as times are tough when one tries to stretch the income to cover essentials. It can be challenging to try and live a healthy lifestyle as it could mean getting into a financial tight spot. However, it does not have to cost too much to get in shape when you do a bit of research. Fitness trainer Shaheem Laattoe shared some tips with ROSHAN ABRAHAMS on cost- effective ways to live a healthy lifestyle.

You don’t have to spend thousands on a personal trainer, gym membership, or exercise equipment when you want to build the body of your dreams. Shaheem said one can easily reap the same benefits when you use alternative methods to the norm.

“Depending on your health and fitness goals, no you don’t have to spend thousands on your lifestyle. Let’s look at two extremes: If it’s just to be healthy and fit, you can watch some YouTube videos and even make ‘dumbbells’ like I did with my clients when we were in lockdown. We used 500ml/750ml water bottles filled with sand for dumbbells and used a 5l water bottle as a kettlebell for swing, as well as cans of baked beans for even lighter weights.

“The second extreme is, if you aspire to have a muscle sculpted physique, then yes, your lifestyle will most likely cost you more as you need much more food for nutrition, a gym membership and also most likely a budget for supplements,” said Shaheem.

If getting fit is your goal and walking or running is not in your interest, there are other types of inexpensive types of exercise that you may enjoy. Some examples: “Dancing and Zumba classes in your neighbourhood and also watching YouTube videos for workouts using only your body weight would be a great place to start. Usually workouts are set up in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout to keep your heart rate elevated which will encourage fitness and fat burning.

“Smaller pieces of equipment that are inexpensive but would also give a good workout would be a skipping rope and resistance bands.

“An interesting method to a health boost is cold water immersion. Cold exposure leads to a range of health benefits for the body’s immune, digestive, and circulatory systems. It taps into the body’s natural healing powers, activating the nervous system and hormones which can significantly change our physiology.

“There are no known side effects but the benefits are boosting your cardiovascular system, a healthy heart, promotes an increased level of energy and reduces inflammation of the muscles.”

Shaheem said: “I would love to do it daily, but sadly I can’t make an everyday trip to a coastal tidal pool. We usually do a 5am run over the weekends for about an hour and then take a dip, and stay in for about 20 minutes watching the sunrise and doing breathing exercises throughout.”

Shaheem had been exploring many beaches on his fitness journey and he pointed out suitable cold water immersion locations. “Fortunately we are lucky to have plenty of tidal pools along our False Bay coastline like St James, Dalebrook, Brass Bell, etc.

“The Atlantic Seaboard is a bit icier and locations like Saunders Rock, Camps Bay tidal pool and Maiden’s Cove are stunning locations.”

Weather may affect your mood when it comes to choosing to be active or not, especially in winter when some prefer to stay warm indoors. However, Shaheem used the quote, “there’s no bad weather, just bad choices of clothing”, which also means, “if you have a goal, something as the change of weather shouldn’t stop you from achieving it.”

He said although the body takes a little longer to reach that optimal level to work up a sweat “doing a quick warm-up in a track top and beanie will get you warmed up in time.

‘If you are doing more outdoor work, cover up and supplement with extra vitamins to boost your immune system.”

Now that we’ve covered topics such as going for regular walks/runs/hikes some people may want to take running seriously and enter races but they may not be able to afford expensive tracking devices. Shaheem suggested using an alternative such as an app. “An app I enjoy using and you can get most of the benefits of the free version is Strava. It’s also convenient being linked to Facebook, so most of your friends will be a suggested follow. This is great as it’s always encouraging to see people.out training towards their goals and to see routes they explore.”

Shaheem said: “If you are thinking of taking your health and fitness up a level, you may consider getting a watch/device. It’s very useful as you can track your sleeping patterns, watch your heart rate and see your steps as well as calories burnt, besides using it for races, etc. Prices can range from R1 000 and up, so they can be very costly. Good places to look for a good condition second-hand device would be Market Place, Gumtree.”

While exercising on a budget, there are solutions to maintaining a healthy diet without breaking the bank. “Being prepared and packing meals is definitely easier on the pocket, but also knowing where to get affordable foods in line with your budget and diet is valuable so you don’t make any last minute decisions and end up throwing the progress you’ve made away.”

There should be no compromise when it comes to one’s well-being, Shaheem quoted: “Health is not just about the weight you lose, but about the life you gain.”

• People with pre-existing medical conditions should consult with a family physician before starting an exercise programme.