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How to exercise at home with limited space and budget

By Michelle Rogers, CPT | March 24, 2020 | Healthy Lifestyle

Young woman poses on yoga mat while high fiving her toddler son

As I write this, people across the country are staying home to quell the coronavirus. For many, budgets have suddenly tightened. Gyms, community recreation centers, and group fitness classes have suspended operations.

Is it really possible to get in shape without a gym, special equipment, or spending a lot of money? The answer is definitely YES! You can get results working out at home, even with minimal space and supplies.

I did it. When I first started exercising regularly, I was a working mom without much time or resources to spare. I also felt self-conscious about doing it in front of a roomful of people, so I didn’t want to join a gym. Perhaps you’ve felt the same way.

Working out at home was a game-changer for me. Over the next year I lost a large amount of weight, and the daily exercise improved my emotional well-being as well as physical. Becoming fit and healthier changed my life.

Today, I’m a certified personal trainer who works with clients online, creating home workouts for them. Here are some practical ideas on how you, too, can get fit at home.


Benefits of working out at home

It’s convenient. There’s no having to drive weary-eyed in the early morning or late night to a gym – which saves a huge amount of time. Minutes are precious when you’re fitting it around your work or family schedule.

No gym membership needed. The estimated average monthly cost of a gym membership is $58. Working out at home means one less monthly bill to pay.

It’s private. There are no prying eyes of strangers, plus no waiting your turn for the equipment.

Work out when you want. Exercise in the early morning, before dinner, or late at night — it’s up to you. Your place is open 24/7.

No childcare needed. In fact, you could invite your kids to exercise along with you. You’re setting a wonderful example of health and fitness for them to follow.


Maximize your space

You might think that you need a decent amount of space or a dedicated room in order to work out, but the truth is you don’t. You can exercise no matter the size of your home.

Find a good spot. Consider what exercises you plan to do, then you can decide where. Most strength work can be done anywhere since little space is needed. For aerobics, you’ll need an area where you can move about 6 feet in any direction. Push furniture out of the way to make room.

Do you have a machine, such as a treadmill or stationary bike? Consider having it face a TV or a shelf where you can put your laptop or tablet. Watching a favorite show or movie makes the time fly by.

Make it mobile. Get a portable bin with handles where you can store your weights and other supplies. Then when you’re ready to work out, you can take it where you want to go. Perhaps one day it’s to the living room to do a video. Another time it’s to the back yard so you can exercise outdoors on a beautiful day.


Use what you have: Think outside the box

I love the story I read in the New York Post about an 86-year-old grandmother in St. Louis who went from a size 22 to a 4 by taking long morning walks — in her one-bedroom apartment! She lost 120 pounds “with her daily 3,000 step routine boogieing between her kitchen and living room.” Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

You aren’t confined to a corner of a room when it comes to working out. In fact, there’s no reason to limit yourself to one room. Think of ways you can creatively use all of the space you have, both indoors and out.

  • Run up and down the stairs.
  • The railing on your deck or porch, if sturdy and safe, could be used as a barre for stretching.
  • Pull-ups can be done using a doorway pull-up bar.
  • Do exercises in your kitchen while dinner is cooking. Here’s an exercise routine you can do in the kitchen.
  • You can even exercise while you watch TV. Do squats, lunges and push-ups in the living room while you catch your favorite show.
  • Walk or run up and down your driveway, around the perimeter of your yard, or around the neighborhood.

READ: Expert tips for getting started with a walking program


Gearing up for your home workout

Start small and keep it simple. You don’t need much to get started beyond a set of dumbbells. If you don’t have dumbbells, you can hold water bottles or cans. And you don’t need any equipment to do bodyweight exercises like lunges, crunches, planks and leg lifts; and to walk or run.

Stability ball, weighted ball, kettlebell, resistance band, dumbbells, exercise mat.
Some of my home fitness supplies: Stability ball, weighted ball, kettlebell, resistance band, dumbbells, exercise mat.

Here are some low-cost, portable fitness supplies that are home workout friendly:

  • Dumbbells
  • Resistance band – See our resistance band workout here
  • Exercise mat that folds or rolls up
  • Kettlebell weights
  • Weighted ball (medicine ball)
  • Stability ball
  • Bosu ball
  • Ankle weights
  • Jump rope
  • Hula hoop

In addition, optional but helpful items include a mirror to check your form, a fan, and a Bluetooth speaker or headphones.

If you can make extra room (say in the garage or basement) and have a little more in your budget, you could invest in some larger equipment:

  • Barbell and plates
  • Weight bench
  • Treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike

Consider used equipment. I’ve found many quality items at used sporting goods stores, thrift stores, yard sales and online classifieds. You might also offer to buy a friend’s unwanted gear.

Utilize workout videos or online classes. Public libraries are a great source for exercise DVDs. Plus there are many fitness professionals and services that offer online fitness classes, either live or video-on-demand. And of course, there’s YouTube, movie streaming services, Pinterest, Instagram and endless apps — but use caution with these sources. Be sure to select an instructor who is certified, and modify exercises if necessary.


Getting started and sticking with it

Establish a workout schedule. It can be very tempting to put off exercising when you’re at home and there are chores and other things that need your attention. But if you do, chances are good that your workout won’t get done. Set a time that works for you, and be consistent with it. Schedule it in your calendar and set an alert on your phone. It needs to have priority, so that you will get it done.

Seek professional guidance and accountability if you need it. You don’t have to go to a gym to work with a personal trainer. Many trainers, like me, work with clients online. Some make house calls. With online training, we use a video conferencing app to do live sessions. Your trainer will create a personalized home fitness plan for you based on your goals and the equipment you have, and provide ongoing support to help you succeed.

Make a plan, and work the plan. Whether you have help or you’re going solo, for best results you need to have a solid plan of action — and a healthy dose of perseverance.

What’s most important isn’t the space, supplies or budget you have. When it comes to exercise, the most important thing is that you DO it. So, let’s get moving!