12 Frugal Exercise Ideas

Posted on 08/16/2007

If you're not careful, getting in shape can cost quite a pretty penny. From the monthly cost of a gym membership, to very expensive home workout machines, to workout clothes, an MP3 player, a heart-rate monitor, costly shoes, very costly bicycles, health magazines and books, workout shakes and supplements, and more — physical fitness often isn't very cheap. However, you don't have to buy all that stuff, and if you'd like to get fit on a shoestring budget, it's very possible. Here's how.

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1. Skip the gym. One of the biggest costs for many people is the cost of a gym membership. It's actually worth the cost, if it will motivate you to work out, but if you can motivate yourself to work out at home, or at a community pool, or on a track or trail, you don't need to pay the monthly gym fee. Cancel your membership and use one of the options below.

2. Cheap home equipment. What can you do at home instead of using gym equipment or expensive home workout machines? The possibilities are endless, but some favorites include getting a barbell or a couple of dumbells. With either of these, you can do a very complete, full-body workout. (Here's one example.) Or try jumping rope, or using a medicine ball, or a stability ball, or stretchable bands, or a chin-up bar that you can install in your doorway.

3. Walk. Walking is free. You don't even need fancy shoes (although you want comfortable shoes) or fancy workout clothes (again, find some comfortable clothes already in your wardrobe). Find a school track or a nice park, and you're all set up.

4. Run. Running can be expensive, actually, if you buy a lot of gadgets such as a heart rate monitor and other similar items. But really all you need is a good pair of shoes. Other than that, you can run anywhere, just about, and get a good workout.

5. Swim. If you have to pay to use a swimming pool, this isn't a frugal option. But you might live near a beach or a lake, where you can swim for free, or there might be a community pool near you for very cheap. And swimming is one of the best workouts there is.

6. Even cheaper home equipment. Don't have the cash for some dumbbells or medicine ball? Use stuff you already have. A stairway can give you a free step workout. Heavy cans can be weights. Your kid's swing set can be a chinup bar. Be creative. Or, alternatively, you probably know 10 people who have exercise equipment they're not using (it's extremely common) — ask them if they'd let you have them for free.

7. Sports. Play pickup basketball with some friends, or go outside and play soccer with your kids, or join a local league. The key is to get active.

8. Free fitness info. Instead of buying a bunch of books and picking up a magazine every time you go to the store, surf the web for some free exercise info. You can find a ton of useful info online: RunnersWorld.com or CoolRunning.com for runners, or try Zen Habit's health tip day, or Google "exercise" or "fitness" or some variant thereof, and you'll find a million free articles.

9. Cheap workout fuel. Instead of buying expensive workout supplements, you can just use what you normally have in the house. A great post-workout drink, for example, is chocolate milk: it has protein and carbs, which is really what you want. Other good sources of protein include egg whites, low-fat yogurt, soy protein, and nuts.

10. Bodyweight exercises and pliometrics. Another great free workout that doesn't require any equipment is bodyweight exercises: pushups, chair dips, crunches, Hindu squats, Hindu pushups, lunges, squats and many more. Also try pliometrics, where you use explosive exercises to improve athletic performance and burn tons of calories.

11. Use the stairs. If you work in a building, use the stairs every day instead of the elevator. Over the course of a month, you could burn a few pounds of calories.

12. Converse or contemplate. Instead of buying an MP3 player to keep your mind company while walking or running, try free alternatives: conversation with a partner or contemplation while you're alone. They're actually very calming and worth giving a try.

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Sharon Deane

Posted on 10.08.09 at 10:11 AM

I get a lot of my exercise through gardening. It's not exactly free, what with soil amendments (I garden organically) and seeds and whatnot, but it's cheaper than a gym membership and a lot more peaceful. This year, a friend offered to buy some of my surplus veggies, which ended up covering more than the costs of the garden. I would have shared them with her for free, but she insisted on paying me. I also walk a lot, particularly as I don't have a driver's license.

kristy weinberg

Posted on 10.12.09 at 9:01 AM

Try www.exercisetv.tv/workout-videos


Posted on 10.12.09 at 9:19 AM

4. Run

You need sneakers, and if you're a woman, don't forget the jogging bra!


Posted on 05.04.10 at 1:22 PM

Try out:


For some great ideas on body weight exercise and budget fitness ideas


Posted on 07.17.10 at 2:08 PM

Growing a garden is a great way to get exercise as well as reduce food costs.
Pets are also a great way to get exercise but can be a cost to maintain (well worth it though).


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Posted on 11.21.11 at 3:00 PM

Netflix and YouTube also have great free-ish fitness videos.


Posted on 07.16.15 at 2:59 PM

If your internet is crappy like mine, you can go really old school and totally free. The LIBRARY (find one, I know you haven't been since grade school) has workout DVDs you can borrow for free for weeks on end, you can renew it many times from home, too. Keep it in the DVD player in your living room and it's super easy.

Diana Heffner

Posted on 09.27.17 at 10:32 AM

Don't forget tennis.
All you need is a racket and balls. You can find free public courts or high schools

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