Exercising on a Budget: 20 Exercises to Help You Ditch the Gym
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Exercising on a Budget: 20 Exercises to Help You Ditch the Gym

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Exercising on a Budget: 20 Exercises to Help You Ditch the Gym

Posted a year ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton


Dr. Kevin R. Gendreau

Dr. Kevin R. Gendreau

Author and Scientific Reviewer

Expert Approved

As living costs rise, you’re probably looking for places to save. One of those places may be your gym membership. 

But if you ditch the gym, won’t that derail your exercise routine? Won’t you become an award-winning couch potato?

Not necessarily. Exercise doesn’t require expensive equipment, and exercising on a budget is easy and enjoyable. 

In fact, you might find it’s more enjoyable than jogging under fluorescent lights next to the guy who doesn’t believe in deodorant. You’ll also enjoy having more money in the bank. 

Keep reading to learn 20 budget-friendly activities, how to choose the right exercises, and tips for building a lasting exercise routine. First, though, why exercise at all?

Why Is Exercise Important?

You can ditch the gym membership, but don’t ditch exercise. Exercise is a fundamental pillar of health.

For starters, people who exercise regularly age more slowly. Their immune systems appear younger[*], and their telomeres (a genetic marker of aging) appear longer.[*

Aerobic exercise may also promote the growth of new brain cells, supercharge learning and memory, and boost mood.[*][*] It may also help to reduce the risk of nearly every chronic disease, improve sleep, build bone, facilitate weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower high blood pressure. Cardio even has the potential to extend lifespan.[*

What about strength and flexibility training? Only do those if you want to stay functional into your later decades. If you don’t care about picking up your grandkids (or the groceries) when you’re older, don’t worry about them. 

And you don’t need a big time commitment to capture the benefits of exercise. Thirty minutes per day is sufficient, and less if you do high-intensity workouts. Furthermore, research indicates that two 15-minute strength sessions per week may be all you need to experience the benefits of resistance training.[*] It’s the best time investment you’ll ever make. 

You Don’t Need a Gym to Exercise

Joining a gym has become synonymous with getting fit. It’s the place where New Year’s resolutions are fulfilled. 

And there are benefits to joining a gym, including:

  • The chance to socialize
  • Exercise equipment you wouldn’t otherwise have access to
  • Increased accountability (you’ve paid for it, so you want to follow through)
  • The opportunity to see attractive people

But these benefits come with a price. You don’t just pay in dollars, but in all the activities you forgo.

Instead of punching in at the gym, you could be hiking a beautiful nature trail, playing a vigorous tennis match, or reconnecting with your body and breathing in yoga practice. 

Once you expand your exercise horizons, you don’t need a gym to exercise. You may not want the gym anymore.

Read on for specific ways to expand your exercise horizons and have fun doing it. 

20 Exercises That Don’t Require a Gym Membership

Who needs the gym? These exercises will keep you fit for free.  

5 Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do (Almost) Anywhere

Strength training machines dominate most gyms, but you don’t need them. All you need is your body. 

Bodyweight exercises offer resistance training on demand. Feeling bored and stiff during an extended family gathering? A few air squats will make you feel better while livening up the stuffy atmosphere. 

Try these five bodyweight stand-bys to gain or maintain strength: 

  1. Bodyweight squats. Perfect for hitting quads and glutes while waiting for your flight. 
  2. Lunges. Another booty sculptor that needs no equipment. 
  3. Push-ups. Do 3-4 sets every other day for chest, back, and core strength.  
  4. Pull-ups. The perfect complement to push-ups. Does require a bar or tree branch.
  5. Planks. Planks strengthen your core, and core strength helps with balance, stability, and getting out of bed. 

5 Exercises in the Great Outdoors

Exercising outdoors is both enjoyable and beneficial. For example, researchers have found that walking in nature improves one’s psychological state.[*

These five outdoor activities will keep you fit and relaxed without breaking the bank:

  1. Hiking. A true Zen activity. 
  2. Jogging. Running outside beats the treadmill any day. 
  3. Tennis. Or play [insert favorite sport]. 
  4. Biking. Going fast is fun!
  5. Swimming. If you live near a swimmable body of water, you’re lucky. 

5 Desk Exercises at Work

Stuck with your computer all day? Try these exercises to stay mobile:

  1. Standing. Standing burns more calories than sitting.[*
  2. Grip squeeze. A firm grip correlates with longevity.[*] Keep a grip strengthener handy. 
  3. Walking meetings. Take your next call while perambulating your neighborhood. 
  4. Jumping jacks. Guaranteed to boost endorphins before cracking your inbox. 
  5. Yoga squat. Sink to your lowest squat and hold it to build strength and flexibility.  

5 Ways To Exercise Without Exercising

You don’t need a rigid routine to benefit from exercise. The trick is to weave movement into the fabric of your life. 

Here are some examples:

  1. Spontaneous dancing. Dance like nobody’s watching for a deeper burn.  
  2. Play with your kids. If you don’t have kids, drag your friends to the jungle gym. 
  3. Housework. Anything that gets you moving counts. Honey, leave the trash to me!
  4. Sex. Need we say more?
  5. Walking. If you prioritize one exercise from this article, prioritize walking. It’s the ultimate low-level activity aligned with human biology.[*] It’s particularly helpful for lowering blood sugar if you walk right after meals.[*]

Did we cover every possible gym alternative here? Of course not. But these twenty exercises should give you plenty to chew on. 

Building Your Gym-Free Exercise Routine

Ready to build your free workout plan? These tips will help guide your effort. 

Pick exercises that suit your goals

What are your fitness goals? To lose weight? Add muscle? Delay the aging process? Perform like a thoroughbred on the pickleball court?

Your answers should inform your exercise plan. For weight loss, lean towards cardio. For muscle gains, lift heavy things. For performance, incorporate HIIT.[*] And for longevity, strike a balance and walk everywhere. 

Use Carb Manager

Tracking daily exercise keeps you accountable to your routine. You get more done when you have a list and check things off that list. 

Carb Manager makes fitness logging easy. Just add the exercise (cardio, strength, etc.), and the AI will do the rest. 

Carb Manager also integrates with Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin, and Google Fit fitness devices. You'll like having everything in one place. 

Pick exercises you enjoy

Exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore. It should be fun. 

If you’re not having fun, switch up your routine. Play tennis instead of stationary biking. Take a yoga class instead of stretching statically. And get outside. 

The more you enjoy something, the more you’ll do it. And if you save a few bucks in the process, that’ll make you smile too. 

Comments 1

  • MarvellousKale356284

    MarvellousKale356284 9 months ago

    I really enjoy yoga . I use the pelaton app:)