Six Ways to Exercise at Home on a Budget

exercise weights and equipment

Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to work out more. Perhaps you’re ready for a beach vacation, your doctor had concerns at your last physical, or there’s a family event on the horizon and you want to look great in the photos that will inevitably end up on social media. Whatever your reasons are, they are valid! However, the cost often holds people back from starting a new exercise regimen. A gym membership costs an average of around $40 a month. But you don’t need to go to the gym: You can also work out at home. Of course, that could mean buying one of those popular brand-name spin bikes, if that’s in your budget, but for the rest of us, there are plenty of ways to have a varied, effective exercise routine for very little financial outlay.

Look on the Internet

woman doing workout on laptop computer

Televisions, our phones, and the Internet can be time-wasters and keep us from exercising, but they’re also great resources for finding free workout routines you can do at home with very little equipment. People have been working out to exercise videos since the 1980s, but these workouts have come a long way since Richard Simmons’s Sweatin’ to the Oldies (although those videos, along with many other classics, are also available on YouTube).

  • 69 Best YouTube Workouts You Can Do for Free: YouTube has a plethora of workout videos and routines. In fact, it can be absolutely overwhelming to find the sort of workout you are interested in. Lists like these can help beginners find channels that suit their individual needs.

  • Fitness Blender: This site is easy to filter to find workouts you are interested in, including free ones that don’t require equipment.

Choose Workouts That Don’t Require Equipment

man and woman exercising

If there’s no room in your budget (or home) for exercise equipment, it’s possible to get in a great workout without any equipment at all. Body-weight exercises provide strength training and cardio exercise and you don’t ever need to buy one weight or even leave your living room. Bodyweight cardio exercises include side steps, jogging in place, dancing, jumping jacks, or knee lifts. The faster you do them, the more calories you will burn. Strength training exercises include lunges, push-ups, squats, triceps dips, and back extensions. One issue some people have with body-weight exercises as they advance in their fitness journey is that it’s hard to continue to challenge their muscles, but there are ways around this. Going through the motions more slowly increases the tension the muscle encounters during the exercise. Pausing and holding positions while completing a lunge or squat also adds a new kind of resistance to the workout. It’s also possible to simply add more repetitions to push your muscles to fatigue.

Use Your Home

man exercising outside

Your home also offers some exercise equipment, though you may not think of it that way. For example, you can run up and down the stairs for an intense workout that combines cardio with strength and balance training. A dresser or kitchen counter can double as a barre for stretching exercises or even for at-home cardio barre routines. If you’re interested in CrossFit-type workouts, set up an obstacle course with things you already have in your garage and work on your balance, stamina, and cardio all in one go. Lifting tires can make for a great strength training workout. If you have kids, you may also be able to use some of their toys as fitness equipment. For example, a kid’s jump rope can be the basis of a great workout. Also, if you have an old bike, now is the time to invest in fixing it up so you can ride it around the neighborhood. Or you could just walk around your backyard, complex, or neighborhood. Each little bit of movement you incorporate into your day adds up to an overall healthier lifestyle.

Invest Wisely

woman doing yoga

When you’re ready to make some small investments in workout gear, skip the pricey brand-name items that only perform one task. Honestly, how often do you really want to do the one very specific sort of abdominal crunch that that machine you saw in an infomercial allows? Instead, invest in pieces that you can use for a variety of exercises.

  • Good Sneakers: Being able to walk or run comfortably can open up new exercise horizons.

  • An Exercise Ball: Exercise balls can be used in a variety of ways. For example, they can support the body during body-weight exercises. They also can be used just to sit on while watching TV or answering emails, which actually will allow you to sneak in a bit of core-strengthening exercise. They can also be used to make other body-weight exercises more effective.

  • An Exercise Mat: A good mat will make floor work more pleasant, which means you can start incorporating more yoga, stretching, and crunches into your routine.

  • Resistance Bands: Resistance bands are inexpensive, take up very little space, and let you go further in strength training.

  • A Step: A step can be used for cardio workouts or as a weight bench for strength training. It’s also one of the cheaper pieces of workout equipment on the market.

Include Friends and Neighbors

people jogging on an outdoor trail

Starting any new venture is easier with support. Starting a new fitness routine is no different! Having someone you can share your fitness journey with makes a big difference in how successful you’ll be. Friends and neighbors also make it possible to lower the overall cost of working out.

  • Look on Meetup or local Facebook groups for running or walking clubs. Having a set time on your schedule to get outside and move makes you far more likely to do it, and most of these groups are free to join.

  • Check out your local parks department to see if they offer any free or low-cost sports groups.

  • Share equipment. If you have some weights but your friend has a great bike, you can borrow each other’s equipment without spending any more money.

  • Make a standing date to work out together. This even works with long-distance friends if you make a standing date for workouts using the same app or YouTube workout video.

Think Outside the Box

feet running on treadmill

Another way to save money on setting up a home gym is by getting creative!

  • Check out Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace to score deals on lightly used exercise equipment.

  • Thrift stores can be great places to score used exercise bikes, treadmills, trampolines, and other gear.

  • Fill up empty plastic jugs with water to make your own dumbbells.

  • Bags of rice also make great exercise equipment for strength training.

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