Fitness Articles

Declare Your Independence from the Gym

10 Ways to Get Fit without Fancy Equipment

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It's an excuse many of us have heard or even said ourselves: I want to get fit, but I can't afford a gym membership. While a health club can be a fantastic place to work out, it's not the only way to get fit. In fact, you can enjoy a variety of different workouts at home or outdoors that are extremely low cost and sometimes even free!

If you think that toning up or losing weight takes a gym or fancy fitness equipment, think again. Here are 10 workouts you can do sans gym that will challenge your body and give you great results.

10 Gym-Free Workouts

How to do it: Grab 10 small note cards and write one exercise on each: 5 cardio moves (jump rope, high knees, mountain climbers) and 5 strength moves (push-ups, lunges, crunches, etc.). Shuffle the cards. Warm up for 5 minutes by marching in place, then draw a card and do that exercise as many times as you can for 1 minute. Then move on to the next card for 1 minute. Try to go through the full set of cards, working up to running through the circuit of cards two, three even four or five times!
  1. Try a DIY Bootcamp. An outdoor bootcamp can be a lot of fun—who doesn't like fresh air and a good challenge? You can always create your own bootcamp, but it's more fun with a group, so gather a few pals and hit a local park with open space, trees, benches and other landmarks. With your group, agree on a duration of time you'll spend working out, then brainstorm different strength and cardio exercises you can perform using what's found around you. Get creative! Examples might include triceps dips on a park bench, seated squats up against a tree, pushups with your feet on a curb, sprints to a pond and back, and even hill repeats. No matter which exercises you choose, be sure to warm up with a 5-minute walk and cool down with some gentle stretching.

  2. Pop in a workout DVD. There really isn't an excuse not to work out at home with the vast array of workout DVDs available including Pilates, dance, strength, kickboxing—the list goes on and on. While many DVDs require little to no equipment, others allow you to use things you have around the house such as soup cans as dumbbells or a chair for support. No matter what level of exerciser you are, there's something out there for you! If you're not sure where to start, why not try Coach Nicole's convenient and effective DVDs, which are broken into 10-minute segments?

  3. Go for a walk. Walking is one of the best activities to do because it requires only a pair of supportive shoes, and it's something that comes very naturally to most of us! If you're a beginner, hit the pavement at a pace that gets you slightly out of breath but not so much that you can't carry on a conversation. If you're a seasoned exerciser, walk in an area with hills or try intervals of speed walking followed by a slower-paced walk. For more tips and workout ideas, take a look at SparkPeople's Walking Guide.

  4. Circuit train. Circuit training is a great way to fit in your cardio and strength training simultaneously.
  5. Try yoga. One of the best things about yoga is that you only need your body and a mat to do it. From online workouts that explain the poses to a variety of free yoga videos on YouTube, you can try any style of yoga without leaving your living room. You can even download workouts to your iPod and take your yoga practice outdoors! While yoga isn't known for its calorie burn, it is fantastic for flexibility and can be a muscle builder when doing more strenuous poses like plank. It's also a wonderful stress reducer.

  6. Take a hike. If you live in an area with access to hiking trails, you're in for a real workout! Hiking is a great calorie-burner and aerobic workout—not to mention a fun and beautiful way to spend an afternoon! So grab a friend or loved one, lace up those hiking boots, pack some water and food (depending on how long of a hike you're going on) and hike yourself fit. I guarantee the scenery and your feeling of accomplishment after hiking will be loads better than doing hills on a treadmill at the gym!

  7. Go old school with calisthenics. Get fit with a retro calisthenics workout. From jumping jacks to sit-ups to push-ups and lunges, this dynamic form of working out requires nothing but your body weight and is just like what you did in P.E. class as a kid. Revisit those early roots for some serious calorie burning and body toning!

  8. Turn housework into a workout. Yes, you can put the lean back in clean by turning your usual household chores into a heart-pumping workout. The key is to focus on cleaning activities that have a higher calorie burn such as scrubbing, vacuuming and washing windows. Turn on some upbeat tunes and really put your back into it. Even try throwing in some lunges, squats or push-ups between chores to really feel the burn.

  9. Play! So few of us make time in our lives to just have fun and play. Whether it's engaging in a sport, playing an active video game or even just dancing around your living room, lighten up and do something active that you love. As long as you get your heart rate up you'll burn calories—and have a good time doing it. Consider an adult sports league to add a little friendly competition into the mix.

  10. Run it out. Just like walking, running is the perfect gym-free workout because all it requires is a good pair of running shoes and some space. Whether it's around your neighborhood, at a park or on a track, running burns more calories than almost any other cardiovascular activity, and those who do it regularly claim that "runner's high" is a real-deal. Visit SparkPeople's Running Center for workouts, training plans and more get-started tips.

See? No more excuses about not making it to the gym. A world of fitness is right at your fingertips!
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • Love the idea of the note cards! I can make up the exercises I can do as I have limitations. Thank you! - 2/4/2016 9:57:29 AM
    These are excellent tips. Though I do like doing aerobic exercises with others at the gym, I do prefer working out in the privacy and convenience of my home. - 11/6/2015 6:04:55 PM
  • I lost 50 pounds without a gym membership. The first 25 with body weight, no exercise equipment. Then people realized I was serious and started giving me dumb bells, DVD's and other small stuff for birthdays and Christmas. I got an exercise bike and a rowing machine that someone bought with the intention of using had was collecting dust in their garage. They were mine for hauling them away. - 11/6/2015 9:38:21 AM
  • These are great ideas. Sometimes I just plan do have time to workout, because I have young children in the house, so we go outside and play tag, hide and seek, or niece drop toy and auntie pick it up until she tired of it. Sometimes I have to walk around the house with her until she finally falls asleep. - 11/6/2015 6:58:10 AM
  • I agree!
    I don't like gyms, and I always quit after 2-3 weeks.
    Why? I prefer to work out alone, I don't have time to travel, change clothes and the extra shower.
    At home, I stationary biked and did easy ST with dumbbelles and stability ball for a year, lifted weights for 6 months, have been doing yoga for 2 years and I run/ walk outside for more than 5 years, and I still love every minute.
    What a difference! - 11/6/2015 6:18:17 AM
  • AIME_M
    There's certainly no need to head to the gym every time you want to exercise - if you're not confident about working out, it can be the most scary thing to go try out equipment when you have to mix with folks that all look like they know what they're doing!

    The main thing when you workout on your own is to remember to nudge yourself to do a little more than your body feels comfortable with. The body only changes and adapts when it's forced to. Once it can handle the demands you have made on it, it will coast along at that level of fitness until you nudge it forward some more or you slack off / quit and it decreases it's fitness level.

    Providing your body with the STIMULUS to change should be short and efficient. Selecting exercises that provide true all around fitness benefits would involve an exercise for increasing Power (eg. 2 sets of 5 reps for dumbell deadlifts), then moving into several exercises for building muscle (eg. 2 exercises for chest, delts and triceps, all PUSHING muscles for 1 set each of 8-10 reps), followed by several exercises that stimulate the metabolism via lactate threshold and endurance training by keeping your heart rate high (80 - 95% max HR, which we call META-STIM Training) (eg. 15 bench step-ups or bench jumps with pushups, jumping rope for 30 seconds and then dumbell clean and press, rest 1 minute repeat for 3 cycles) and finally some aerobic intervals on a treadmill, bike or eliptical runner or sprinting outside, running 50 meters followed by 100 meters of walking, etc. for 4 minutes).

    You can train half your body one day and the other half two days later, get your metabolism stoked with Meta-Stim training and finish with Aerobic Intervals that will set up your body to build lean muscle, burn fat, increase glucose metabolism, reverse metabolic damage and strengthen your heart and lungs - all in 16 - 30 minutes!!

    You're busy - so make the time you do exercise be the most effective it can be.

    Don't forget though, that training is only 20% of the health and fitness equation. What you put in... - 8/17/2015 5:09:48 AM
    I have never liked gyms. I joined Curves one year and I think I went once or twice. Then I decided that I would check out the selection of workout DVDs that my library has. I became hooked!! I have quite a selection that I have purchased either on Ebay or in garage sales. If I see a DVD that looks interesting, I'll get it from my library first and then if I like it, I will find out where I can buy it for cheap. I also go walking several times a week with a friend. I live in an area with a lot of hills, so it's challenging. I like the idea of the cards with the exercises. I will try that because I do like to add variety to my workouts. - 7/21/2015 4:34:41 PM
    I dont have enough time, I just go with dumbells. but good - 7/16/2015 10:01:45 PM
  • I've tried the use of cards, it worked really well for me! - 11/18/2014 7:29:52 PM
  • I did a version of the first one today, using an online timer and writing everything down in between. I'm way sweatier than I would have expected from 10 minutes of work (plus warm up/cool down)! - 7/4/2014 2:53:20 PM
  • I use an old exercise record. I believe that I got it in the 1970s. - 7/4/2014 5:40:51 AM
  • JMAF83
    I lost 52 kg without a gym. I started with walking my dog and after about a month I added DVD workouts. I have not always been consistent but at least I don't have to pay a handful of money on something I really hate. - 11/27/2013 8:31:20 AM
  • Now that I am walking with my mom every morning before work, I am more consistent than I was when I belonged to a gym. I've added strength training to my routine and that seems to be working well for me. - 9/16/2013 12:25:33 PM
  • ive never been a fan of gyms - i spend too much time being self-conscious while surrounded by thinner, fitter women. id much rather work out in the comfort of my own home, or go jogging and know that passing motorists are way too concerned with their radios and cell phones (and occasionally the road...) to care about me huffing and puffing my way along. the only reason i ever had a gym membership at home in chicago was for the pool. now that i live in florida and there are pools everywhere, thats not even necessary anymore. - 7/20/2013 10:32:34 PM
  • Working out at homes is definetly easier for me, cheaper is just a bonus! My 4yr old likes to come in and watch and critique me (why u not jump as high as them?) and sometimes joins in (he thinks the rebounder is his trampoline). It's a nice feeling.
    I tried the gym thing but it was such a hassle, and took twice as long. And i always felt like i was wasting money if i ran outside instead of at the gym.
    When we go on vacation I am always excited to explore the hotel gym and try dif equipment in diff environments, just got to try the step 360 last week, while watching the sun rise, pretty awesome! - 7/15/2013 6:17:56 PM

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