Fitness Articles

Get Fit Without Leaving the House

Home Gyms are Practical and Affordable

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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

  • JANETEMILY
    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
  • JANETEMILY
    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
  • THELADYCASH
    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
  • You don't even really need dumbells. You grow out of dumbells pretty quickly anyways! Instead I perform a lot of body weight exercises and do pilates. Pilates has given me more of a workout than dumbells ever did.

    - 5/9/2014 11:48:47 AM
  • 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
  • JOYAOLSON1
    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 discouraged...you 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
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