If you’re like me, for various reasons, you don’t work out in a gym. (Personally, I prefer the solitude and lack-of-travel-time that staying fit at home provides. Plus the money I save.)

This begs the question: what’s the best way to stay fit at home? How do you do it if you have limited space and money?

With seven years of at-home workouts under my belt, here are my proven tips and tricks for how to stay fit at home with limited resources.

If You’re on a Budget

Cardio

three women sitting on bicycles outside

If you don’t have the money for a Peloton, you’re not alone. Large, gym-type machines are expensive!

Fortunately, there are a few workarounds you can employ. First, if you’ve got the space and your neighborhood is decent, you can simply ride a regular bike, outside.

This can be tricky if the weather is bad, or your neighborhood isn’t the safest, but actual bikes are much cheaper than indoor versions, plus you get the benefits of fresh air; it’s a win-win. Check Craigslist or big-brand retail stores for the best deals.

And it’s even easier if you prefer to run. You basically only have to invest in comfortable clothes and a solid pair of shoes and you’re out the door!

If you’re not a biker or a runner, check out YouTube for bodyweight cardio routines. This is completely free (though some routines may require modest equipment, like a jump rope) and there are literally hundreds of programs from which to choose to help you stay fit at home.

Strength Training

What if, like me, you prefer to lift weights as your go-to form of exercise? Sets of barbells and the racks that go with them can be just as expensive as cardio machines. Plus your neighbors might take issue with the loud SLAMs when you need to drop the weight.

Enter the adjustable sets of dumbbells! This magical piece of equipment takes just two physical dumbbells and adds plates to each end. You spin the knobs at either end to select your weight, and bam! You’re lifting.

Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells

While you may not have the same versatility as you’d get with barbells (you might have to start your dumbbells resting on books or large yoga blocks, for example, to complete a conventional deadlift with proper form) but most exercises that utilize barbells can be done just fine with dumbbells.

Depending on your budget, you may need to save a little for a set of these, as they start at about $150, depending on the brand. However, I’ve had my set of Bowflex SelectTech (those ones, on the right!) dumbbells for about six years, so that one investment can last for awhile.


Pro Tip: If you have your eye on, say, a rad pull-up power tower (like I did) or perhaps need a treadmill for bad-weather days, stockpile gift cards. Whether you prefer to shop on Amazon or in a brick-and-mortar store, ask for gift cards for every holiday involving a gift exchange.

Then, when you’ve got enough, use them to get that upgraded piece of equipment you’ve been dying for.


If You Have Limited Space

Cardio

Again, a regular bike or running outside means no need for clunky equipment cluttering up your living space. However, if you need to get your cardio fix indoors, your best bet is, in fact, to save up for a machine.

There’s a whole range of folding, compact cardio machines on the market, from pedal exercisers to treadmills.

Similar to if you’re low on money, if you have access to a DVD or Blu-ray player, your needed-space just got even smaller. With literally hundreds if not thousands of at-home workout DVDs on the market, you can choose your ideal way to get your sweat on and stay fit at home.

Whether it’s dancing, kickboxing, or football drills, your options for cardio—with or without equipment—are practically limitless. Just pop in that DVD or stream a workout and try not to knock your candlesticks off the coffee table.

Strength Training

I seriously can’t say enough about adjustable sets of dumbbells. Not only are they more cost-effective than barbells, but they save so. much. space.

You could take the time to build an entire set of separate dumbbells, from 5 pounds up to 50. But multiple sets of weights, plus the racks they sit on, take up space.

And if space is in short supply, having those weights all in one compact, two-square-foot area is priceless. Some sets even go up to 90+ pounds each, so you can progress fairly far in your lifts.

If you can’t afford the adjustable dumbbells yet, or ever, you can usually find resistance bands for fairly cheap. They won’t give you the same ability to measure your progress, but they’re definitely small enough to fit in any living space.

orange resistance band balanced on yoga mat
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Pro Tip: If you’re really limited on space, like confined to your own bedroom for example, you’re going to have to get creative. Think jump rope for cardio or perhaps attaching exercise bands to your door.

You could also try negotiating with your roommates on living room time. Does your ‘mate like to watch TV every single night? See if you can convince them to let you have the space for even an hour, possibly in exchange for doing their dishes one night a week.


If You’re Limited on Money AND Space

We’re entering tricky territory, people, but I was here once too! When I was just starting out on my fitness journey, I had a yoga mat and a DVD player. That’s it.

woman stretching on orange floral yoga mat

For both strength and cardio, I’d suggest hitting up your local used DVD store or scouring the internet for free bodyweight routines. I legit started with the Skinny Bitch DVDs back in the late 2000s and a yoga flow.

The internet has literally thousands of workouts you can adapt for your needs. This isn’t even counting the number of free apps you can download to help track your runs, inspire your bike rides, or smooth your yoga routine.

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