Fitness Articles

Declare Your Independence from the Gym

10 Ways to Get Fit without Fancy Equipment

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

  • 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
  • I would be nice if "scrubbing the floor" was on the fitness tracker and other such household chores. - 7/10/2013 8:09:26 PM
  • I always work out at home. I figure the time I use going to and from the gym could be part of my workout time, plus working out at home cost a lot less than a gym membership. - 7/5/2013 7:08:26 AM
  • I'm a person who has been a member of various gyms on and off over the years, and in fact, I just joined the fitness center at work. But I think that working out at home is the best. There are so many fitness videos available on SparkPeople and YouTube, and it is relatively inexpensive to pick up a few pieces of equipment such as a jump rope or a set of dumb bells or resistance bands. - 7/4/2013 9:45:42 AM
    Great tips. Thank you, from someone who can't afford to go to the gym. These tips should come in handy! - 7/3/2013 11:01:16 AM
  • I always exercise at home, not wasting time traveling to and from. - 7/3/2013 7:55:33 AM
    I love going to the Gym!! When we were on vacation for 9 days it killed me that I couldn't go! - 7/2/2013 11:07:32 AM
  • Great article. I love going to the gym and workout. Even when I am hurting I still go to the gym. Love it. - 7/2/2013 8:51:24 AM
    Good article.....Gyms in general have a huge "eewwww" factor for me...I just cannot get into using equipment that someone has been sweating all over. I know, "get over it"....but I've tried and just can't do it! Someone told me once that "if you have 2 feet and a floor you can get fit"! I have to agree with that.... - 3/1/2012 4:11:39 PM

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