Taking Control of Your Physical Fitness on a Budget

Benjamin Smith

Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

woman running with headphones

Have you ever invested in a gym pass and hardly used it? Many of us are guilty of this. People often feel better about their health because they have a gym pass, even when they are not regularly using it. What if you don’t have the funds or simply don’t want to spend the money for a gym pass? There are so many ways that you can stay in great shape both at home and in your local area. This article will help you start reaching your fitness goals no matter what your budget is.

Working out at home

Let’s say that you decide that going to the gym is too expensive for you. How are you going to get the same level workout without all of the equipment that they gym offers? Don’t worry, there are many ways to do this.

Do you have any books around the house? How about some old water jugs, water bottles, or a garden hose? Robert Herbst, world champion powerlifter, personal trainer, and wellness coach, has a number of suggestions to help you use some of the basics around the house to whip your body into shape.

  • Water jugs — Since you won’t have access to kettlebells, you can use some old water jugs filled with water. Water weighs about eight pounds per gallon.
  • Water bottles — You can fill these up with water and use them as dumbells.
  • Garden hose — You can use a hose in place of a battle rope.
  • Stairs — Running up and down stairs can help you get your heart rate up and build up your endurance.
  • The street — Doing sprints in the street in front of your house or apartment will help you get your heart rate up, burn calories, and build up your endurance.
  • Books — To increase the burn on a regular push up, make a couple stacks of books to do pushups on.

Invest in the following simple pieces of equipment: stretch bands, a chin up bar, and a jump rope. Having these around the house will help you to stay a bit more active without spending the big bucks on a gym pass.

monkey bars

If working out at home is hard for you, head outdoors. Stephanie Blozy, owner of Fleet Feet shares a couple of ideas of how you can stay in shape while exercising in your local area.

  • Join a local running club — Google “Run Club, Your Town” and find a group that speaks to you. It's easier to stick to a fitness program when you've got a posse of friends to motivate and welcome you.
  • Turn a playground into a gym — Taking your kids to the playground? Create your own circuit using the playground equipment. You can do pull-ups on the monkey bars, bear crawl under the slide, bust out burpees under a moving swing, or climb the pole. Get creative and have fun.
  • Make your kid's sports practice into a workout — Run laps around the field instead of sitting in the bleachers. Break up the laps with a set of lunges, sit-ups, and push-ups.
  • Go for a hike or trail run — Find a state or national park and get running. Not only do these hikes provide a breathtaking view, but if you're climbing up a hill or mountain, you'll get in one intense workout.
  • Spice up your downtown runs — Add exercises like stair repeats, push-ups from the steps, lunges, or sprints from telephone pole to telephone pole.You can even grab a friend and make your run through town a partner relay.

Often times people want to start working out more frequently but don't know what things they need to be doing to help their bodies the most. Matt Kite, Director of Education at D1 Training suggests starting with four basics. These include the following: 

  • Cardio — If weight loss is part of your fitness goal, cardio is critical.  Long distance running is a good option for burning calories, but if running doesn’t sound appealing, you can definitely speed walk or ride a bike if one is available to you. The goal of cardio is to get your heart rate up and to maintain that for an extended period of time. 30 minutes of cardio a few times each week is optimal and free. What is stopping you?
  • Strength — Most people think you need to have a gym membership to be able to strength train, truth is there are many exercises you can do outside of the gym. A few moves that Matt likes to incorporate on a regular basis are lunges with a core twist, squat-jumps, tricep dips, and good old push-ups. These moves utilize your own body weight as resistance and require no equipment.
  • Flexibility — Increasing flexibility is a common goal for those seeking to improve their fitness and it's great for preventing injuries. Stretching after your workout and every morning is a great way to make your muscles more flexible. If that is not enough for you, you could look into yoga. Yoga helps both strengthen and stretch muscles as you hold poses. 
  • Wellness — Physical and mental health should always be a priority for anyone looking to get into shape. Matt suggests that you drink plenty of water throughout the day and also recommends that you do some sort of meditation to calm your body and mind. This can be reading a book, sitting in a quiet room, or listening to music. Do something to center yourself in order to empower you to reach your goal, no matter what it is.

Matt believes that "With discipline, good nutrition and a bit of research, it’s more than possible to get in shape with little to no money spent on memberships or equipment."

Eating well

As you work towards improved health and physical fitness, it is important to remember that little progress can be made without adjusting your diet. Eating healthy can be intimidating to some people. When we think about eating healthy, we often think that it will be expensive and we give up. Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and gut health expert who runs thecandidadiet.com, shares some awesome tips on eating healthy without spending a lot of money.

  • Fresh vs. frozen — Fresh is not always “best.” Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can often be just as nutritious and sometimes even more than fresh versions.
  • Whole grains — Whole grain pastas, breads, and rice are often just as cost effective as the more refined versions.
  • Beans and legumes — These are great inexpensive ways to get in plant-based proteins along with many other essential vitamins and minerals for reaching your fitness goals.
  • Mean planning and prep — Planning your meals in advance and cooking in batches can help you eat more at home and eat out less. Eating out is generally less healthy anyway. This also will give you more time to exercise.

food prep, lentils and vegetables

Saving money

Putting physical activity, technology, and food aside for a minute, there are a number of other ways to save money while working on physical fitness. One of these was brought to our attention by Nathan Grant of Credit Card Insider. Did you know that there are credit cards that can help you save more money on exercise equipment and athletic/sporting goods?

The Ducks Unlimited Rewards Visa Signature® Card may prove surprisingly useful for those with fitness goals that can add financial strain, because it offers a whopping 5 percent cash back rewards at sporting goods stores and on gas, all without an annual fee.

Who knew that you get could extra rewards for purchases that you were planning to make anyway? If you are planning to invest in some fitness equipment anyway, this may be a good way to save a bit of money in the process.

Mobile Apps

Over the past decade there has been a large influx in the number of people that own smartphones. Do you own one? Another fun way to get fit while on a tight budget is taking advantage of the technology that you have at your fingertips and finding fitness Apps to provide workout plans, tips and tricks, and help you track your progress. Lee Wratislaw with Gold's Gym has quite a bit to say about this as Gold's Gym has recently come out with a new App that brings fitness, music, and technology together so that you can have a personal trainer in your pocket. 

GOLD’S AMPTM has been available for download for iOS and Android on the App Store and Google Play since late 2017. New workouts are uploaded each week to add to the hundreds of coach-led, music-driven indoor and outdoor cardio, bodyweight, and stretching workout for users at every fitness level. Workouts range from 6–60 minutes and include treadmill and outdoor walking, jogging, and running, as well as elliptical, bike, stair climber, rowing and more. The most commonly used workout series are the HIIT workouts. 

Once you have the App downloaded on your smartphone, you can start a 7-day free trial. Give it a go to see if this App can help you stay in shape without paying for a gym pass. 

Get out there

I guess I have to apologize, but I’ve eliminated all your excuses! Whether you have a gym pass or not, you don’t have an excuse to feel sorry for yourself and not take care of your body. Start with the little things. Do some push-ups. Run some stairs or get out on a hike. No matter how much money you have available you can create a gym wherever you are!


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