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Fitness Articles  ›  Family & Lifestyle

Get Fit Without Leaving the House

Home Gyms are Practical and Affordable

-- By Liz Noelcke, Staff Writer
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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

  • I like to exercise on a mat. - 12/21/2013 6:38:08 AM
  • I've worked out exclusively at home for years. You don't need the fancy equipment. Just a few dumbbells, DVDs (or free workouts on the internet) and a mat! I have an exercise ball and recently bought a resistance band as well, but I only use those occasionally. I also go for runs outside.

    Love working out to Jillian Michaels, Jessica Smith, and FitnessBlender.
    - 12/11/2013 12:35:26 PM
    I live in a 32 foot 5th wheel. I have several work out D.V.D.s Ones that are for strength building, walking, cardio, stretching and breathing. I also have graduated dumb bells, stretch bands, ball and mat. I have a treadmill in the shed. It really does not take a lot of space to get a good work out. I also have an oxygen concentrator I must use while exercising. I do belong to a fitness center that I use for the pool aerobics, I do not need the oxygen to do that. - 12/11/2013 11:10:03 AM
  • After falling off the fitness/weight loss wagon HARD over the last year, I decided to get back on my program. I recently purchased a few Leslie Sansone DVDs which I *love*! I have a multitude of small pieces of equipment for weights/resistanc
    e workouts and a mat. The only thing I don't have is a stability ball which I may get some day. I do have a gym membership, and I'm trying to get there two days a week after work so I can use the rowing/elliptical
    /Cybex machines. But I know that I can get a really good workout at home with the equipment/DVDs I already own. - 12/10/2013 10:10:36 AM
  • I have all of the things listed in this article, plus a few more in a very tiny house and IT IS really all you need to get a great work out! And workout DVD's or the internet, like one person commented, is a GREAT tool. Even free exercise apps are great. I have a free yoga app that I absolutely love. So, if you are feeling dont need a whole gym in your house to get fit. These small effective items REALLY work. I have all of my workout equipment in one corner of a room in my house and use them frequently. - 12/10/2013 9:08:13 AM
  • I have done Jillian Michaels 30 Day shred videos from You Tube as well as P90x is on there too. So if you don't want to buy dvd's all you need is the internet. - 11/6/2013 4:52:30 PM
  • I have used my credit card rewards to buy exercise equipment. It makes it seem like it's free! I bought a FitBit, kettle balls, and resistance bands along with workout DVD's. - 11/6/2013 6:20:57 AM
  • You could also check at Goodwill and flea markets for exercise equipment. - 8/9/2013 8:38:37 AM
  • I have a 3 lb and 5 lb pair of dumbbells, resistance bands, resistant sash, and a tricycle.
    I have several different DVDs. As for SP, ALL my DRs have approved of SP and I have given them cards to pass out to other patients. DR Carney, Art Carney's nephew, has given me high praise as did my neurologist, even though I am on a plateau. They know that the road to Thinsville can be rough, but have kept supporting me. - 8/8/2013 8:30:09 AM
  • I had a treadmill in my home but it broke so now I am looking forward to getting another one plus I want to get me a bike. I have a extra room so I was thinking about making that my gym room. Then I think about when the folks come where will they sleep. - 6/25/2013 7:45:49 AM
  • an inexpensive piece of cardio equipment is the mini-trampoline. It's easy on the joints and fun to use. - 6/3/2013 8:28:45 AM
  • I have completely transformed my body at home with Coach Nicole and a set of 5 lb weights. - 5/3/2013 12:08:39 AM
  • In my "lessons learned" buy good quality equipment, even used, is better than cheap, rinky-dink stuff whether it is weights or an elliptical. I wasted between $200 and $600 on inexpensive exercycle and elliptical and learned I won't use equipment that sounds or feels rickety. There's a place near us that sells reconditioned Precor equipment and it makes all the difference. My husband weighs over 200 pounds and when we got the Precor elliptical he started using it every day and it's now been over 3 years.

    We started very basic years ago with just a ball and resistance bands (got a Nike kit for $30). They were very effective and we gradually added a mat (to replace the beach towel), rubber coated weights (more comfortable than just plain metal and easier on the hands if you don't wear gloves), a Bosu balancing board (which also comes with resistance bands and makes for an excellent all around work out). Craig's list is a great source and there is an amazing amount of barely used equipment - go figure (grin).

    One last note, storage is an important factor for us as we don't have an entire room to dedicate. The elliptical is in a room where we can put a light weight screen in front of it and we reorganized a closet to fit everything else in - it did require prioritizing fitness at the top of our list because we did end up having to get rid of other things to make room.

    Taking out and putting away the workout gear is part of our routine and it helps get our mind focused on what we're doing - not as much "mindlessness" as when we tried leaving it out where we would trip over it and eventually not really "see" it anymore. - 5/2/2013 8:48:12 AM
  • I really hate going to the gym so I have accumulated an exercise bike, a set of bands, a set of weights of three sizes, a fitness ball, a mat and various DVDs - most Coach Nicole's. I also have a thigh exerciser and a gadget to help with abs strengthening. I have no room for any other large machines without taking up the spare room. A mini-stepper would be useful though as mentioned above.I live on the top floor of a mansion block and there are 175 stairs to my apartment - so I don't need a stepper. I also walk a lot - generally by the sea although I tend to be a fair weather walker! - 5/2/2013 7:43:20 AM
  • Since leaving my years of gym membership behind about 18 months ago, I have steadily built up quite a nice collection of home workout equipment.

    Of course I have DVDs (Jillian Michaels & Nell McAndrew being my all time go-to DVDs - I like to work HARD!).

    I also have three sets of dumb bells of varying weights, a resistance band, and yoga mat and of course the great outdoors.

    Since I've been working out at home and also running outside, I feel a totally different person.

    My "gym" is always open, always empty except for me - and it doesn't matter what clothes I wear or what I look and sound like as I'm working out! - 5/2/2013 1:07:10 AM
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