Get Fit Without Leaving the House

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 truein 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 to $20 for a pair of five-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. 
  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 a piece. 
  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! <pagebreak>

The Extras

  1. Cardio Machines: Next, consider a piece of aerobic workout equipment. Whichever you choose, make sure your machine has different resistance levels to allow for workout variety and challenge as you progress. Also available, for a price of course, are computer systems with timers, calorie counters, RPMs (for bikes, ellipticals) and even heart rate monitors. Before you make a major purchase, try one for several minutes in a store. While it might be tempting to buy the cheapest available, you’ll want to make sure you are investing in a solid piece of equipment that you are comfortable exercising on. 
    • If you like running and walking, a treadmill is a good option. Keep in mind, however, that running outside is free, while these machines are costly—at least $600 for the most basic model. 
    • Stationary bikes or elliptical machines are more affordable alternatives. Elliptical machines, which cost at least $400, are low-impact (and fun!). Bikes come in two different varieties, recumbent (like sitting in a chair with a backrest) and upright (standard seat) and also cost at least $400 for a decent model. 
    • Of course, a jump rope is a cheap piece of equipment that can also get your heart pumping!
  2. Workout Bench: Space and budget allowing, a good workout bench is a solid investment. Look for one that adjusts at varying angles (incline, flat and decline). Many benches start at around $90. Make sure to purchase a sturdy bench (test it out for length, width, weight limit) to support you effectively while you work out.
  3. Universal Gym Machine: Finally, the king of home workout equipment is an all-in-one weight machine. You’ve probably seen them on infomercials, but are also available for purchases in many stores. They will run at least $800, but are often well over $1,000. These machines include a bench and various pulleys and weights, which combine all the machines in a commercial gym into one compact unit, allowing you to do squats, presses, curls and pull-downs. 

All of these pieces of gym equipment are available in a variety of places—sporting goods stores, department stores, websites and by catalog. For a great deal, consider purchasing gently used equipment. Look through the classified ads, auction websites and even garage sales. If possible, test it out before you buy.
 

The Set Up


Start small. A few basic pieces of equipment are all you need. You don’t need five different weight machines to have a great gym, although if your budget and house allows it, consider yourself blessed. Keeping just the basics on hand will help make healthy lifestyle goals much more attainable.
 
Make sure you have enough space for your gym. Choose a room with a high ceiling (so you won’t hit your hands while working out), and a sturdy, clean floor (to prevent slipping). Finally, add some good lighting, ventilation (possibly with a fan), and a stereo to crank your favorite tunes, and you’ve created a gym that you can really enjoy!  

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Member Comments

Thank you! Report
Good info on getting started with our own workout area. I like the list of essentials too. Thank you. Report
I have many dvd workout videos, but I use YouTube nowadays. In good weather, I walk 4-5 miles a day Report
thank you Report
My favourite cardio machine is an indoor rower !!

Works more muscle groups, including core, shoulders, arms ... besides legs and heart Report
Great info Report
CECTARR
Thanks Report
I thank yu for posting as I do all my fitness t home here-- I shall use this info- Report
Thank you for posting this it truly assists me with what I need to get and don't need. Report
After several months of inactivity (was going to gym 3-4 times a week) due to Covid I bought a row machine which was my favourite at the gym as it worked multiple body parts - cost just over $1200 Canadian. I have added walking in place, upper body weights, plank and stretches. Was experiencing pain in legs and hips but that not any more! Report
Many of us have learned how to use our home as a gym during covid. Easy commute! Report
A great list of basics and ways to use them. Report
We’re currently working on building our own gym/dance space. My partner and I love having home space to workout and my daughter is a dancer who needs space to practice. We got lucky and have a great basement that’s perfect for all of this! Just slowly investing in equipment! Report
Missing my crossfit buddies who have set up their own gyms during COVID. I prefer a trainer/coach and classes with my friends, my daily "adult recess!" Report


 

About The Author

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