Regular physical activity can improve your mood, help you lose weight, maintain your fitness, and prevent a whole slew of chronic health problems. That’s why more and more health insurance policies include discounts on gym memberships. But what if a gym membership just isn’t for you? Maybe you cringe at the idea of exercising in front of others—or you’d rather not make a monthly payment to the gym. Home workout equipment may seem expensive, but there are budget options for nearly every piece of workout equipment you’ll find at the gym. Here are some choices—sorted by type of exercise and activity—to help you get started creating your own workout room at home.
Stationary Bike Alternatives for Low Impact Workouts
Stationary bikes can boost cardio fitness, help you lose weight, strengthen your lower leg muscles, strengthen your core muscles, and reduce body fat. Because biking is a low-impact exercise, stationary bikes are a good choice for people with joint problems. They’re also good for those with finicky downstairs neighbors who might take issue with the thud-thud-thud of a jump rope or treadmill over their heads. The cost of a stationary bike can be prohibitive, but there are excellent budget alternatives, including those that will fit under your desk or tuck away under your bed.
Stamina 2-in1 Recumbent Stationary Bike
At just over $200, the Stamina 2-in-1 Recumbent Bike may not fit everyone’s budget, but it’s worth budgeting for. A recumbent bike is a good choice if those little banana seats on upright stationary bikes make you cringe. It’s kinder on your back because it provides better lumbar support and it’s safer because it discourages standing up on the pedals—a leading cause of stationary bike injuries. We especially like that this one has a work desk, so you can get your cardio in while you use your tablet or laptop, and it doubles as a standing desk.
Under-desk pedal machines are the absolute bare bones alternative to stationary bikes. They fit under your desk or sit in front of your chair and they allow you to pedal away while you work or watch your favorite shows. Most are compact enough to shove under your bed when not in use, and some even fold for easier storage. If you’re really ambitious, you can even use them to work out your upper body by putting them on a desk or lying down on the floor. They’re priced at $35 to $70, depending on features and construction. The XWELL Folding Pedal Exerciser is especially budget-friendly, and even has an LCD display so you can track your revolutions per minute, miles traveled, and calories burned.
Rowing Machine for Full-Body Workouts
Rowing machines are growing in popularity—especially among women—for very good reasons. They give you a full-body workout, exercising up to 85 percent of your muscles. They provide high-intensity workouts without the high-impact strains on your joints and without giving you the all-too-familiar jelly-leg feeling you get with a treadmill or a long run. Exercising on a rowing machine can tone your legs, tighten your tummy, and shape your glutes. In short, it’ the dream cardio, strength, and fitness workout machine.
Resistance Rowing Machine With Independent Arms
Rowing machines can take up a lot of floor space and put a healthy dent in your wallet. The Sunny Health & Fitness 12-level resistance rowing machine with independent arms is a low-priced alternative that provides the benefits of the pricier models. It gives you all the stability you need for a great workout and lets you adjust the resistance on the left and right arms separately so you can target the areas that really need work. It folds flat for easier storage, and at just over $100, it’s one of the best home fitness bargains available.
Resistance Band Rowing Workout
Want the benefits of a rowing workout without a rowing machine? Men’s Health fitness director B.J. Gaddour developed this four-minute rowing workout using just a single resistance band and a solid stationary support. Resistance bands are among the cheapest home fitness equipment you can buy. Add a wall/ceiling mount for less than $15 as an alternative to a TRX mount to give you the support you need to work out safely and comfortably.
Striders and Steppers for Cardio
Striders and steppers, like the familiar Gazelle from Tony Little, provide a low-impact, joint-friendly cardio workout that also tones your legs, thighs, and glutes. They’re good alternatives for high-impact aerobic exercises like stepping and jogging.
Compact Cardio Stepper Machine
The Fitness Step Air Stair Climber is small enough to tuck under a chair or bed when not in use. It’s a stripped down version of a standard stepper machine, consisting of just the pedals and a pair of hand loops. It’s a good option for someone who doesn’t have balance issues and wants to get the benefits of stair climbing without the impact stress on their joints.
Stamina Wirk Orbit Strider
This little under-desk workout machine is a game-changer. Unlike typical seated pedal machines, the Stamina Wirk Orbit gives you a 360-degree range of motion, so you can swing your feet back and forth, side-to-side or in circles. Even better, it’s designed to keep your knees level, so you’re not slamming them against your desk with every step. It’s the ideal solution if your main aim is to keep your legs moving while you work.
Total Budget Workout Equipment
Of course, you can put together a budget-friendly home gym without the standard gym equipment. These are a few pieces that you should have in your home if you want to work out regularly without giving up floor space and your entertainment allowance.
Resistance bands are among the trendiest pieces of gym and home workout equipment. You can use them to work out just about any muscle group in multiple ways. The ResiBand set includes five bands of varying strengths and everything you need to get started with more than 150 different resistance exercises.
Fitness Jump Rope
Jumping rope provides a great aerobic workout, improves cardio fitness, and burns more calories than just about any other type of exercise. Best of all, you don’t really need any special equipment. All you need is a rope that’s long enough to swing over your entire body when you jump. You can invest in a jump rope that has some serious bells and whistles if you really like gadgets, but you’ll get just as much benefit from jump rope.
For about $25, you can have one of the most versatile pieces of workout equipment available—a stability ball, aka a yoga ball. You can get a complete full-body workout with nothing but your body and a big, bouncy ball.
A Set of Dumbbells
Dumbbell training is a good, safe way to get started in weight and strength training, and it continues to offer benefits even for advanced lifters. For your home gym, dumbbells take up less space and are much easier to use than barbells. You can get a full set for less than $30.
Getting fit doesn’t have to cost anything if you’re creative enough. You can walk up and down the stairs in your house, use your kitchen counter as a stabilizer while you work out, or use a towel as a resistance band. If, on the other hand, you like the idea of having dedicated exercise equipment, these tips will help you pull together a decent home gym for very little money.
Build your home gym with these items:
- Stationary bike
- Under-desk pedaler
- Rowing machine
- Wall mount
- Stepper machine
- Orbit strider
- Resistance bands
- Fitness jump rope
- Stability ball
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer who specializes in home, education, and lifestyle topics. She draws on her experiences as a teacher, mother, grandmother, and all-around creative spirit to help others achieve their own goals.