20 ways to get healthier for free

Written by Jacquelyne Froeber

Celebrate the New Year with a new you — by dipping into our smart batch of strategies to keep you happy and healthy (at no cost!) all year long.

Change up your exercise routine by borrowing different workout DVDs for free from your local library.

Change up your exercise routine by borrowing different workout DVDs for free from your local library.

Borrow (don’t buy) your next fitness DVD

Join the local library — for the workout DVDs. Most libraries have a big selection, the perfect antidote to a boring (and pricey) gym routine. And because the key to sticking with exercise is to keep it interesting, you can switch it up (cheaply) as often as you want.

Get a free skin checkup

The Skin Cancer Foundation will provide free skin screenings during its Road to Healthy Skin Tour from April to September 2010. Check SkinCancer.org this spring for availability in your area.

Order a free health calendar

Get one from the National Women’s Health Information Center. The 2010 calendar lists recommended health tests, reveals surprising symptoms of serious health conditions, and offers important advice on how to read drug labels and get a second opinion.

Surf for deals

Thunderfap.com, FreakyFreddies.com, and Freemania.net have free-by-mail samples and coupons for items like hand sanitizer, bandages, deodorant, tampons, and toothpaste. Ebates.com gives cash back for purchases at stores like Drugstore.com, Bath & BodyWorks, DERMAdoctor.com, GNC, Kiehl’s, Nutrisystem, and many more.

CouponCraze.com has discounts for anti-allergy bedding, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers. And RetailMeNot.com features coupons for contact lenses and supplements.

Get a free radon test

Radon, an odorless natural gas present in many homes, is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers. January is National Radon Action Month, so visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site to check the availability of free or low-cost test kits in your state.

Click off the weight

Studies show that interactive online-weight-loss programs help people drop pounds and maintain weight loss, too. To get diet counseling, try SparkPeople.com. You can access calorie-counting tools at http://www.CalorieCount.about.com.

Strike a pose

Try your Downward Dog for free — or pretty cheap — thanks to the Internet. Every week, Yoga Today streams a free, one-hour class. (Downloads cost $3.99.) Also, mark Jan. 23, 2010 on your calendar: it’s Yoga Day USA, when yoga centers around the country will offer free classes. (Check YogaDayUSA.org for availability in your area.) Why yoga? It hikes flexibility and strength, provides help for relieving stress and controlling weight, and lowers risks of heart disease and sleep problems.

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Bargain hard

Many health clubs and gyms are willing to cut you deals or give you free passes to try their facilities. Bally Total Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and 24 Hour Fitness offer free seven-day trials. Remember: everything is negotiable. And once you’re a member, train with a buddy to cut trainer costs in half, or sign up for 30-minute training sessions instead of hour-long ones. Bonus: Besides being cheaper, the shorter workout may move faster and be more intense.

Do a smoke checkup

Some local fire departments offer smoke alarms (a potential lifesaver, considering up to 20 percent of the alarms installed in people’s homes don’t even work) for free or at discounted prices. Speaking of smoke: if you’re trying to stop smoking, call 800-784-8669 to find a coach who’ll help you kick the nasty habit for free. Quitting will not only save you money but also lower your risks for heart disease and cancer.

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Create a medical family tree

Start planning a healthier future today by asking relatives about their health conditions and those of your ancestors. Then visit this site from the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office to create a free Family Health Portrait that reveals your risks. Raising health awareness this way can help lower your risk of major diseases.

Save $170 in the shower

That’s how much you can cut from your water bill each year by taking shorter, cooler showers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Your budget and your skin will thank you. Hot water causes blood vessels to expand, causing you to lose more moisture, says Dr. Jeannette Graf, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. To keep your skin soft and supple, limit showers to around five minutes and think warm, not hot.

Snag free health apps

There are about 3,000 iPhone applications designed to boost your health and fitness — and many are free. Swine Flu Tracker Map pinpoints where people in your area are sick with the H1N1 virus. MyNetDiary has 91,000 foods in its database to help you plan healthy meals, and its community forum is reviewed by a registered dietitian. Free Menstrual Calendar helps you predict your periods and fertile days. FitnessKeeper uses GPS tracking for runners who want to keep tabs on their distance, speed and calories burned. And one of our personal favorites: Vibrating Massager literally turns your iPhone into a feel-good massager. (Yep, there’s an app for that!)

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Boost your immunity

To help keep winter colds at bay, get free samples of Emergen-C powdered multivitamin packs at EmergenC.com. Each packet contains 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C — more than 10 times your daily requirement — plus other antioxidants and energy-boosting B vitamins.

Moisturize for free

Stop by Sephora stores across the country and ask for a free sample (you can literally try out hundreds of moisturizers), and you’ll get three more freebies — like Dylan’s Candy Bar Birthday Cake Batter Body Smoothie Lotion or Bliss All-Around Eye Cream — if you buy something at Sephora.com. And at Aveda.com, you’ll get a free Tourmaline Charged Exfoliating Cleanser sample when you buy any two Tourmaline Charged skin-care products.

Eat healthier, no cookbook required

Got a tummy ache that needs some soothing? Try the Belly Balance Smoothie (developed by Health magazine nutrition guru Frances Largeman-Roth, RD) and find loads of other good-for-you, low-calorie options for every meal at recipes.health.com.

Tweet for discounts

Follow your favorite stores on Twitter and get hot sales alerts and great advice. Twitter.com/targetdailydeal offers new discounts every day on items like vacuums, healthy cookware, and bedding. Twitter.com/walgreens brings you deals like 25 percent off eco-friendly makeup applicators, $10 off purchases of $40 or more on vitamins and supplements, and other discounts on products like diabetes tests. And Twitter.com/Clinique_US features all kinds of useful free tips like this one: to give parched skin a dewy look, mix foundation with a drop of moisturizer in your palm and smooth over your face.

Try a new sport

You’ve always wanted to try cross-country skiing, right? As part of its anniversary sale on January 9, WinterTrails.org will help you try it for free at a location near you.

Give and get for free

Loads of useful items from babyGap, Science Diet, Tempur-Pedic, Love My Belly, and more great brands are available for free on the grassroots network Freecycle.org, a smart online location for secondhand giveaways. The site’s goal is to keep good stuff in use instead of letting it get thrown away and end up harming the environment. Keep in mind: available items change daily.

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Sign up for a free pedometer

JustKeepMoving.com, a healthy-lifestyle-information site from the company that makes Tylenol, will send you a pedometer (while supplies last) if you register. Studies show that using the simple gadget is an effective weight-loss tool.

Talk it out

There’s a free self-help group out there for whatยญever is bothering you, whether it’s physical or mental. Find a searchable database of about 1,000 support groups for people dealing with acne, addictions, allergies, breast cancer, headaches, infertility, eating disorders, OCD, parenting, and many more issues.

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