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Get Fit Without Leaving the House

Home Gyms are Practical and Affordable

Imagine a gym you can commute to in seconds. It’s open 24-hours, so you can come and go as you please—on your time. It’s comfortable, and you feel completely at ease when you work out there. Oh, and membership is free. You may be daydreaming, but the perfect gym is a dream that can come true…in your own home.
There is no reason that you can’t make a home gym part of your reality. A home gym adds convenience and privacy to your workouts. When you exercise at home, you save time, money, and the rush hour headaches (on the road and in line for the elliptical). Although you might be cautious due to budget and space limitations in your house, building a home gym isn’t as impractical as you might think. After all, gym memberships can occupy a large portion of your budget at several hundred dollars per year.
The Basics
Remember, you want to build a gym based on your own personal needs and fitness level. As you progress, you can add on equipment, so don’t feel that you need to buy everything at one time. Your gym can be as simple or complex as you want.
  1. Dumbbells (Free weights): A good set of dumbbells will help you start a strength training routine. There are two basic options when it comes to dumbbells. You can buy single sets based on the weight you want to lift. These are often metal, but can also be covered with a rubber material to keep them from slipping out of your hands. Expect to pay $15-$20 for a pair of 5-pound weights. Prices will increase as the weight goes up. A second option is to buy an adjustable dumbbell set. This includes two handles (or bars) for you to grip, as well as plates of varying weights that can be attached. Depending how many plates you get, expect to pay at least $60 for a set like this. Fancier versions can run up to $350 or more.
  2. Resistance Bands: Bands are great because they are compact, portable, and allow for a wide range of motion. Resistance bands come in three or four different levels of resistance and usually run around $15 for one band. These can be used pretty much any way that a dumbbell can be used, so if you are in a budget crunch, these might be the better option. To learn more, read No Need to Stretch the Truth About Resistance Bands.
  3. Stability (Swiss, Balance, Physio) Ball: An exercise ball, no matter which name it goes by, is simply an oversized inflatable ball. These are extremely versatile, and not just for core workouts anymore. You can sit, lie, and balance on them during almost any exercise, rather than investing in an exercise bench. Plus, this unstable surface targets your core muscles and improves your balance and coordination. The balls come in different sizes (based on your height and weight), and a rainbow of colors, and cost around $25 apiece. Read Exercising with a Stability Ball to learn more. 
  4. Exercise Mat: Place a good exercise mat on the floor to stretch comfortably, cushion your body during floor exercises (from crunches to modified pushups), and prevent slipping while lifting weights. Consider this a must if you do a lot of Pilates or yoga. Plus, they can roll up out of the way for storage if your space is limited. For about $20 you can get a sticky mat (for Pilates and yoga), which is thin—but better than a hard floor. The price goes up for larger and thicker mats.
Once you’ve purchased some or all of the basics, you’re well on your way! Continued ›
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About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

Member Comments

  • And you can exercise for free, at home too!

    When you're done with those plastic milk cartons, wash and dry them. Set them on your bathroom scale, and fill bottles with soil, mulch, rocks, or even water will do. You can easily make a five pound weight...voila you have dumbbells, complete with handles!

    Use the stairs in your house as a STEP. Put on some music, and do basic STEP exercises!

    And here's the best one.
    Open your front door, and get out and walk! - 7/29/2015 6:41:12 PM
    well done. easy but lazy - 7/16/2015 10:00:53 PM
  • I haven't seen a REAL universal weight machine since college. - 6/9/2015 9:08:02 PM
  • ELKINSC11414
    I actually got a good treadmill and elliptical machine from Wally World and paid only $400 for both! - Delivered to my home for free - though I had to set them up - they are fordable and convenient. - 6/9/2015 12:02:55 PM
  • JEANW2
    My home gym consists of dumbbells, exercise bike, exercise mat and lots of exercise DVDs. I'd like to add a bench to that eventually, and heavier dumbbells as my upper body strength increases. But I'm a huge fan of body weight exercises: Keeping it simple, eh? - 6/3/2015 3:49:30 PM
  • You can also use your own body weight without having to buy equipment. Modify a strap with a belt or rope; broomstick placed on two chairs while laying down to pull yourself up, etc... - 3/4/2015 10:44:13 AM
  • In my "perfect" home gym, I would include a small wall mount flat screen tv and a dvd player. When I get a little bored with my home program, I grab the laptop and play one or two of Nicole's videos just for a change. - 1/18/2015 9:45:59 AM
    I have a set couple of sets of dumbbells, a mat, a ball, and a resistance band. I have found I can follow just about any routine online with these pieces of equipment. Rather than having a piece of cardio equipment, I use online videos (free!). Jessica Smith is a great resource. I found I get bored trying to stay on a treadmill or other machine for a long period of time. - 11/20/2014 10:27:13 PM
    I have two sets of dumb bells and a thick mat. We used to have a treadmill, but I've never enjoyed walking on one. I prefer walking outdoors, year-round. Tracked my 1500th mile on SP last month! I work out with Gilad's Bodies in Motion and Total Body Sculpt everyday. They incorporate aerobics, body-weight, and free weight routines, and are free! I've saved them (almost 100 episodes) on my DVR, but they can also be downloaded online. I've lost over 50 pounds, and improved my strength and flexibility.. oh, and I turned 58 today! - 8/1/2014 9:32:33 PM
    I have two sets of dumb bells and a thick mat. We used to have a treadmill, but I've never enjoyed walking on one. I prefer walking outdoors, year-round. Tracked my 1500th mile on SP last month! I work out with Gilad's Bodies in Motion and Total Body Sculpt everyday. They incorporate aerobics, body-weight, and free weight routines, and are free! I've saved them (almost 100 episodes) on my DVR, but they can also be downloaded online. I've lost over 50 pounds, and improved my strength and flexibility.. oh, and I turned 58 today! - 8/1/2014 9:32:33 PM
  • I have a treadmill, an exercise bicycle, resistance bands, jump rope, mat, stability ball and hand weights. I've been using the excuse that I was working and didn't have time, but I was standing and walking for 6-8 hours a day. that was my excuse. most of my items are in the house, but the treadmill and bicycle are in my shed outside. Now I have no excuses. The shed is air conditioned in the summer and heat in the winter. I even have my own sound system out there. All I need now is to put my DVD player out there and use my exercise dvd's to work out with. I usually do that in the house. I have sciatic nerve problems, so don't do much with the jump rope, but I will do jumping jacks from time to time. I just get discouraged when I don't see any results, so I give up. Trying to do better, though.
    - 8/1/2014 5:58:06 PM
    We have weights, bands, mats, dvds, an elliptical and a treadmill.

    We spent $150 on the treadmill new. It was a floor display (but set up on a rack and so never used) that retailed for $450. Our elliptical was $69. It was also new, a floor model that would have been $350.

    You can find equipment at reasonable prices new. Maybe not the big name brands, but good enough for everyday, basic use. Looking at Craigslist is another option for used equipment at good prices as well. It's not out of reach. - 7/12/2014 3:16:36 PM
  • C4HA2NA9
    It's amazing how many different workouts you can find that rely on just body weight and maybe a couple of inexpensive dumbbells. You may want to progress beyond these eventually, but for beginners there is no need to join a gym. - 6/24/2014 5:27:40 PM
  • I have a vision in my mind for an at home gym. It includes a treadmill, row machine, and at least a leg press machine(more mirrors?). I do feel pretty blessed for the equipment pieces I do have. I have a nice collection of workout videos and dvds, a recumbent bike, good set of dumbbells and just purchased my first set of kettle-bells! I won't be getting that new gym membership anytime soon! Oh well, I won't have to make the 30 mile drive then! My next piece of equipment I have to keep an eye out for is a nice workout bench. Little bit at a time! I only pay to go to the Zumba classes in town. I just love being around other people. Belonging to a gym would be a plus, but it is so far away. Maybe I should just get a job there!! LOL!! - 5/25/2014 12:47:18 AM
  • Practical movement can be the best exercise and can be done at or around home.

    Martial arts have long been a big part of my exercise regimen and they provide an excellent workout. You think about how good an exercise running is and then realize it's the same movement (more or less) over and over; martial arts involve many different movements, that together work all muscles, with every movement starting with the midsection. And they're done at high intensity as interval training, so they can do a lot of good in little time.

    If you add weapons to the training you have the effect of hand weights, but with a much bigger variety of movements, because resistance comes more from inertia than gravity, which pulls straight down instead of resisting in all directions like inertia. Plus you get more bang for your buck because you also increase your ability to defend yourself. And you don't need to buy special martial art weapons: use things around the house you might defend yourself with, like a hammer for example. Just be really careful with it so it doesn't slip out of your hand and destroy your TV. And don't hit yourself in the knee.

    I also do running inside my house sometimes; short sprints, up and down stairs and things like that get you exhausted pretty quickly. Getting down flat on the floor as fast as you can and then back up quickly is also excellent exercise, and good self defense practice.

    Even things like housecleaning, laundry, and gardening can be good exercise if they're done right, and you get useful things done while you exercise. The same goes for walking or running or riding a bicycle instead of driving whenever you can. And when you do drive, parking far from the store to avoid getting door dings adds more exercise.

    So if you want to buy special equipment for exercising at home go ahead, but you don't need it. - 5/24/2014 11:23:12 AM

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