With boutique fitness classes commanding rates of $30 or more per class, it’s no wonder getting in shape can make you feel squeezed. Skip the high-dollar classes and the ongoing expense of a gym membership and tone up at home instead — it costs less than $100 to stock up on what you need.
Keep your hands off your phone when watching late-night infomercials. The home fitness equipment you need doesn’t come in three payments of $34.95. When it comes to getting in shape on the cheap, basics are a girl’s best friend. Just like your trusty LBD goes with anything, these trusty, tried-and-true pieces of equipment can be paired with any workout.
The main thing is to remember you need equipment that can help you master all five components of fitness:
- Cardiovascular endurance (cardiovascular health)
- Muscular strength (muscular health)
- Muscular endurance (muscular health)
- Flexibility (healthy range of motion)
- Body composition (healthy fat to fat-free mass ratio)
Because improved body composition is a byproduct of training the other components of fitness and eating well, you really only have to choose equipment for three things: cardiovascular health, muscular health and range of motion.
Home equipment for cardiovascular health
Your own two feet are about as good as it gets for cardiovascular “equipment” — since you can use them to walk, jog, cycle, jump or dance your heart to good health. But, if you’re looking for other tools to get you there, two “cheapies” top my list: a jump rope or a Hula-Hoop.
If you’re comfortable working at a higher level of intensity, try a jump rope and aim for just 10 minutes of jumping per day to start. Lightweight speed ropes are the best options for beginners, and you can pick up a high-quality model, like the HumanX X2 Speed Rope, for just $15.
That said, if you have knee, hip or back problems, or you’d rather ease your way into fitness with a lower-intensity routine, grab a weighted Hula-Hoop. You can score one for just $20 from Walmart, and you can use it to add very light resistance to other moves, like squats, lunges and shoulder presses.
Total cost: $15-$20, depending on which option you choose
Home equipment for muscular health
Strength training is an incredibly important part of total health. If you don’t stay active and take care of your muscles, they waste away at a rate of about 3-5 percent per decade after you turn 30. That’s some serious muscle-wasting — and it won’t do any favors to your waistline, either. Muscles are energy-consuming beasts, which means they burn more calories at work and at rest than other tissues (namely, fat). If you lose your muscle, you lose out on its calorie-burning benefits.
It’s completely fine to start a home fitness routine by using nothing more than your own body weight to perform strength-training moves — including squats, lunges, burpees and push-ups — but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself by adding weights to your workouts. Weights also make it possible to train your back — something that’s more difficult to do if you’re limited to basic body weight exercises.
I have three basic options for choosing the right strength-training equipment, and each of them adds up to about $55.
- Select two sets of dumbbells. This enables you to adjust the weight you use based on the exercise and challenge yourself as you improve. Pick up a pair of 5-pound and 10-pound dumbbells from SPRI for $53.
- Select one set of same-weight kettlebells. You can use them as dumbbells to perform squats, lunges, curls and presses, or you can use them to perform kettlebell swings, which will also increase your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular health. Grab a pair of 8-kilogram kettlebells from Onnit for $52.
- Select a suspension trainer and a set of dumbbells. The suspension trainer is great for working the back and challenging balance, while the dumbbells can be used for weighted exercises. Buy a MostFit suspension strap from Amazon for $30, and pair it with a set of 7-pound dumbbells from SPRI for a total of $54.
Total cost: $52-$54, depending on selection
Home equipment for range of motion
When it comes to equipment, flexibility is easy. All you need is a mat to stretch on and — if you have any wiggle room left in your budget — a stretch strap and a yoga block to help you get deeper into your stretches. That said, a towel can sub in for a stretch strap, and a big book can act as a yoga block.
The key to choosing the right mat is to select one that’s firm and grippy enough to perform poses and stretches on, but cushy enough to sit on for ab work and other strength-training moves. I have a 5-millimeter mat from Gaiam that I love — I use it for everything and it only costs $30. If you think you can get by with less padding, you can select a 3-millimeter mat from Gaiam for about $22.
Total cost: $22-$30, depending on selection
Bringing it home
It’s one thing to buy equipment, and quite another to use it. The good news is you don’t have to spend a dime to find high quality fitness instruction. Tune into YouTube or subscribe to a service like Grokker to access high quality, free fitness videos. Following someone else’s lead is a great way to learn how to use your equipment effectively. I personally host a free, live workout on YouTube every Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Central Time — feel free to join in or access the workouts after they’re done.