5 Free and Cheap Ways to Exercise at Home

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

You’ve vowed to get fit, lose weight or build muscle, but a gym membership isn’t for you. Maybe those pricey monthly fees won’t fit in your budget, or you hate people looking at you when you’re sweating your way through a torturous hour on the treadmill. Or perhaps your personal schedule is so packed, the only way you’ll have time to exercise is if you work out at home. (We see you, working moms!)

You don’t need a personal trainer or a Peloton bike to get fit at home. There are many free and cheap options available to fitness enthusiasts, whether you’re swole, ripped and fit, or just starting out on the road to better health.

Exercise videos

woman sitting on floor by exercise ball.
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The aerobics videos of yesteryear have morphed into YouTube channels, featuring fitness teachers and influencers leading free HIIT, yoga and toning classes online. All you need is a laptop or tablet and some affordable equipment, such as a yoga mat, exercise ball or step.

Try PopSugar Fitness, Yoga With Adriene, Blogilates and Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home for some of the best YouTube workouts. If you don’t like standard aerobics or resistance-training exercises, look for more appealing options, such as cardio dance (like Zumba) or kickboxing.

Your cable or streaming TV subscription may also offer exercise channels or free cardio workout videos. Check the on-demand offerings for fitness channels. Amazon Prime members can find at-home exercise videos included in their Prime Video offerings.

Are the online fitness classes you want to take behind a paywall? Look for free seven-day or monthlong trials. You can try it before you buy it to make sure your investment is solid, or try a new workout at home every month.

Workout apps

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Another great option for exercising without a gym is to use a workout app. Whether you need a daily yoga fix or are training for your first 5K, free fitness apps can help you get and stay in shape.

The best free workout apps fall into several categories. For runners, Nike Run Club gets top marks for its guided runs and workout plans, all completely free. Gamers might want to check out the Zombies, Run! app, which encourages you to keep running in order to defeat (or escape from) the fictional living dead.

Yoga apps, like Down Dog and Yoga for Beginners, come in free or paid subscription models, but will help you mix up your morning sun salutations. For the time-crunched, a series of seven-minute workout apps gives you no excuse to skip your daily exercise habit. Fitness enthusiasts on a budget should seek out the no-equipment workout apps, so you don’t need to invest in free weights, bosu balls, steps or other equipment just to get in shape at home.

Even the trendy-yet-pricey Peloton company has an app that offers free fitness instructions from Peloton’s trainers and teachers. You can do these free workouts with your off-brand home gym equipment — or just a yoga mat!

Want to measure your success? Use a free fitness tracker app to plot your progress and keep you honest about how many minutes you spend exercising each day.

Home gym

Woman working out at home
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If you’ve got the space – or can be a little imaginative – you can create a workout space at home for less than an annual gym membership.

The key is finding cheap home gym equipment. Scour local online sale sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or community-based websites for people selling used cardio machines and weight benches at a discount. (I bought a used elliptical trainer off NextDoor for $75.) Just make sure you have a way to transport the heavy, bulky equipment back to your home. Post on your local Buy Nothing group that you’re looking, and perhaps someone has an old treadmill gathering dust they’ll give you for free if you haul it away.

But you don’t need a giant cardio machine to get fit at home. The best cheap exercise equipment will be small, such as free weights, yoga mats, balls and resistance band sets. Put a pull-up bar in a doorway and – voila! – instant at-home workout.

No-equipment workouts

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You can keep fit at home for free when you get creative with no-equipment workouts. Start with the obvious body resistance exercises: sit-ups, push-ups, planks, squats and lunges. All you need is a clear bit of floor space and yourself. For cardio, try jumping jacks, burpees, or run up and down the stairs of your house or apartment building.

If you want some guidance for a balanced exercise plan, look for no-equipment workout routines posted online at health and fitness websites.

You can also improvise fitness equipment from common household objects. Use soup cans or empty jugs filled with water instead of free weights for your bicep curls, and swing heavy detergent bottles instead of kettlebells. Use the paper plates left over from a picnic for sliding planks or lunges. Strap on a backpack full of books to increase resistance, and set up a folding chair as a makeshift weight bench for exercises like tricep dips or step-ups.

Outdoor activities

dog walker
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When you want to exercise without a gym, simply step outside. There’s no fee to work out in your backyard or neighborhood park. The main cost to you will be a good pair of sneakers.

Running, walking and hiking are all inexpensive outdoor activities that will get your heart rate going and build muscle. Walk with a family member or neighbor, or join a local group for accountability and social motivation.

Jump ropes cost only a few dollars and are excellent cardio and agility workouts. Kick a soccer ball or play football with your kids to get your heart rate up. Remember that nearby playground with the outdoor fitness garden? Take advantage to practice your chin-ups and crunches while enjoying beautiful weather and outdoor scenery.

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