Think you can’t afford to sustain a regular workout routine? Think again. An active lifestyle doesn’t have to mean ponying up a big chunk of cash on a pricey gym membership or personal trainer, nor do you have to invest in expensive gear or apparel. With these thrifty tips, you can flex your penny-pinching muscle and burn calories without burning a hole in your budget.
- Incorporate bodyweight exercises. Experts agree that bodyweight workouts are the most budget-friendly way to work out. Running coach Jason Karp suggests the following bodyweight circuit: alternating jump lunges, pushups, side-to-side skaters and triceps dips, each for 20 reps. Repeat the circuit three times.
- Look for free or discounted classes. Group fitness instructor Kat Haselkorn points out that some smaller fitness studios offer promos throughout the year to attract new members. "You can typically find free yoga, boot camp and community classes on Eventbrite—you don't even need a gym membership if you strategize well and look for free classes in your region," she says. Follow local studios on social media to get updates on free workshops or group exercises classes, as well.
- Try community workouts at local stores. "Many local running stores and clothing stores like Lululemon and Athleta host weekly community workouts in the mornings on weekend days, which are [almost] always free to the public," says personal trainer and group fitness instructor Ashley Pitt.
- Use household items for resistance. No dumbbells on hand? Fitness trainer Cheryl Russo suggests using gallon containers of water, milk or laundry detergent to add more resistance to bodyweight exercises.
- Pound the pavement. Walking and running outdoors is one of the most popular and effective ways to get in a cardiovascular workout without spending a penny. When the weather isn’t cooperating, head to your local shopping mall or convention center for a brisk indoor walk.
- Use your local park as a gym. Fitness trainer Treva Brandon Scharf recommends designing a cross-training circuit using park benches, steps and ledges for pushups, triceps dips, lunges and squats. You can also bring a resistance tube or light weights for bicep curls, shoulder presses and other upper-back exercises. Use the grassy areas for core work and stretching. "You can work every muscle that you would at an expensive club," Scharf says.
- Try a one-month challenge. To get fit on a budget, try a 30-day or one-month challenge through a local gym or fitness center, suggests running coach Kyle Kranz. These programs are popular around the holidays or before summer, and can be a great kick-start to continued good fitness habits after the challenge is over. In many cases, if you successfully complete the month, you could get some or all of your money back, as well, Kranz notes.
- Use a jump rope. This inexpensive piece of equipment provides a low-impact cardio workout, strengthens the arm muscles and is wonderful for the lymphatic system, notes Russo.
- Look for secondhand equipment. Garage sales, discount stores, sports consignment shops and local online marketplaces can all be great sources of gently used, budget-friendly fitness gear.
- Invest in a resistance band. You can get in an amazing resistance workout with nothing but a band, notes Pitt. Pick one up on Amazon for less than $20, or get one at a second-hand sports store for even less.
- Try meet-ups. Instead of joining a formal club that will typically require paying dues, less formal workout groups can be found on Meetup, says Jill Brown, a certified functional strength and nutrition coach. "The fees will usually be very nominal, donation-based or free," she says. "It’s a great way to make new friends and accountability partners."