SP Premium

7 Fun Ways to Get Slim without the Gym

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Do you find yourself holding even tighter to your purse strings these days? I'm always looking for ways to cut my expenses, especially with gas and food prices on the rise. This can be challenging to do when you're trying to lose weight and adopt a healthy lifestyle though. After all, they say it costs more to be healthy: "Health food" is usually more expensive per calorie than junk food (although that isn't always the case); going to the doctor for regular checkups can add up, too. And exercise? Well, moving your body safely and effectively isn't always cheap: Workout shoes, clothes, classes and gym memberships can really add up.

As a fitness instructor, I don't have to pay for access to a gym. But if I did have to (knowing my cheap self), I probably wouldn’t. Beyond the three classes I teach per week, I rarely set foot in the gym. Partly because the gym feels like "work" to me, and partly because I need a change of scenery, most of my workouts take place outdoors or at home.

So whether you're trying to save a buck, spend more time at home (and less time in transit), or simply don't like the atmosphere of a gym, don't worry. There are plenty of ways you can get fit and healthy without ever signing a contract or forking over even a single month's worth of membership fees. Here are some of my favorites!

Workout DVDs
I heart workout DVDs! They offer endless variety and a cheap way to get tons of exercise ideas that suit your needs. You'd only need a couple good ones to get a great workout, and you can resell them, trade with a friend, borrow more from your local library, or "swap" them online for a brand new title for just the cost of postage (I like swap.com for this). Whether you want gentle yoga, a hardcore strength workout, dancing or even step aerobics, workout DVDs only get better and more diverse over time. Here are some of our favorites to get you started, but read these money-saving tips before you buy.

Get On Your Feet
Truly some of the best cardio workouts you can get, walking, hiking and running are ideal for exercisers of all ability levels. Start with a walk, progress to a walk/jog, then take up running. Over time you can add hills, speed, distance and time to your workouts to continue challenging yourself in new ways. Head outdoors, hit the mall, or find a lovely trail and you are set. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes.

Pedal Power
Many people have bikes, yet few of us use them regularly. Tune up your bike this weekend and head out for a ride. Whether you go on the street, on a bike path, or even commute to work, it's a great workout that you can also use as a multitasker and money-saver if it becomes part of your daily routine.

Yard Workouts
This past weekend, I spent three straight hours hauling dirt and compost, weeding, raking, planting seedlings and mowing the lawn. Talk about a workout! There was no way I'd need to hit the gym after all of those full-body cardio and strengthening moves. Gardening and yard work can be major calorie burners, and they're functional, too. They use your body through various planes and directions of movement, helping you develop strength, balance and coordination for the types of activities you do every day. I boost the burn by using fewer labor saving devices when I work in the yard. I use a manual edger (no motor), a reel mower (no motor), bins for hauling dirt and compost (as opposed to a wheel barrow) and a watering can that I refill and carry throughout the yard.

Everyday Objects
You don't need a home gym or heavy weights to get a good strength-training routine in at home. Look around you: What could become exercise equipment? How about a towel? That playground ball your kids play with? Your filled water bottle can double as a dumbbell. That baby sling can act as a weighted vest while you walk, squat and lunge. Can you turn laundry into a workout by squatting as you transfer clothes in and out of the dryer? Those full bags of groceries can be curled, raised and extended to tone your biceps, shoulders and triceps (respectively). If you look around you, exercise opportunities abound—no fancy equipment required.

Pick Your Own / Farm Share
I'm a big fan of pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms. You go out and provide the labor (exercise) and get a good price on some fresh and healthy food as a result. I buy dozens of pounds of berries every year this way. I've also just joined a CSA (farm share) that requires me to work 40 hours over the growing season. Not only is the produce fresh, local and way cheaper than I could get at the store, but I'm getting great exercise and learning a lot in the process.

Of course, SparkPeople.com offers dozen of free workout videos and exercises you can do at home (with or without basic equipment) to help you get in shape. We also offer walking guides, running plans, yoga routines and more to help you slim down without paying high for a gym membership. You'll find all of that and more in our Fitness Resources section.

Do you think a gym membership is a must? What is your favorite (or most creative) way to get slim without setting foot in the gym?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


I don't go to the gym, have a matt and a few weights in my garage and I take my lap top and do videos off you tube and SP. Report
NASFKAB 8/2/2020
Great Report
KATHYJO56 6/30/2020
Especially now, please exercise at home for your health and safety Report
BOB5148 6/15/2020
Thanks Report
It's all work, no matter what you do or where you do it. Report
SPINECCO 4/19/2020
Great stuff! Thanks. Report
GETULLY 3/23/2020
good ideas. I try to turn laundry (stairs, weights, squats) into a workout. Report
ERIN_POSCH 2/29/2020
thanks Report
KATHYJO56 2/18/2020
I like these suggestions, but I love to go to the gym Report
NASFKAB 10/31/2019
Just work out at home. Report
Most of the exercising I have done in the past has been at home. I've belonged to various gyms off and on for years. I've been going to a physical therapist who specializes in back problems, and she is like having a personal trainer. First time I've been sore after going to PT. But it's helping. I joined the fitness center in our suburb that is very reasonable. I did it because they were the only one to have the NuStep, a machine I've seen at about every physical therapy or hospital rehab place. It's cheaper to join to use it than to spend the $2500 to get my own. It's sort of a seated step climber/eliptical machine. It helps my back and great for the knees---strengthens the thigh muscles to take the load off the knee. I'm facing a "revision" of the knee replacement that I had 20 years ago. The orthopedist said that it's a tougher surgery than the original knee replacement, so I'm "NuStepping"ing it big time to delay that surgery. Not a fan of extreme pain. Report
Thank you for this great article! Report
My treadmill and DVD with Leslie Sansome really help me. Report
Thank you for this article. I prefer exercising alone at home. Light dumbbells and a yoga mat and blocks and self-starting motivation are all I need. Report
Great suggestions Report
These are great ideas. I don't go to the gym but have somewhat of one in my home. Report
Great ideas! Thank you, Coach Nicole! Report
I try to make my housekeeping chores a work out! It adds a bit of fun to the chores. Report
Great ideas, Thanks! Report
These are all great ideas for when I can't make it to the gym Report
This is great. A gym isn't in my budget, I have to do it all at home. Report
I feel that way too that the "gym" can feel like work and then you have to pay for it too!?! I do eventually go to the gym but once I have a consistence workout plan place I am following. Report
I love this article. Well done! I like to workout at home. There is a multitude of farm chores that need done on a daily basis. Yard work, pasture work, fences and whatnot! Plus I ride my horse in the fall/winter (cooler weather) and just getting packed up and ready to go to the trails is a workout! Report
This is a really informative blog. I gave these things a shot, but the gym doesn't really work for me. As I feel more comfortable exercising at home. I was a little over weight a few months, I used this application which really helped me a lot as well as my sister who gained weight after pregnancy. We didn't really cut down much on food, but really followed the postures which the application helped us in learning, and also the diet chart. I must recommend it to you all. As I think it will really help someone. It was the 'Couch to 5k app' as well as the 'yoga app', it even shows you the erect positions and everything in detail. I hope this would turn out of some help, just log on to google and type Mobile Media City, the website link will appear click on it & check out the amazing applications that they have, a lot new are being released like Hundred Pushups Pro. It's the newest app with amazing graphics. My brother just started using it too! Lets see how he finds it.
I hope this really would help you.
Take care. Report
Some really great alternatives, here. Thanks! Report
Dance! No one mentioned dance the most fun way to get fit without a gym! Report
Actually, I have never gone to gym. :) I think gym is nice with great musics and cool environment, but I love my home better, that's why I choose my Wii. Report
I read you loud and clear. What I have down on my own is to turn house work into a work out. This gives me all body areas to work on. Also makes house work more fun than a 'have to do". Thanks for all the input you give. Report
Leslie Sansone's Walk Away The Pounds DVD's is easy for me...but, I'm thinking of
joining a local YMCA for water aerobic's. Report
I have my DVD's, weights, stability ball and Wii, so yeah, I keep busy when my foolish foot isn't in a cast due to surgery (UGHERS !) I am just waiting to feel BETTER !!! Anxiously so !! I also go rollerskating on weekends with the Grands. Report
I have my DVD's, weights, stability ball and Wii, so yeah, I keep busy when my foolish foot isn't in a cast due to surgery (UGHERS !) I am just waiting to feel BETTER !!! Anxiously so !! I also go rollerskating on weekends with the Grands. Report
I do not have a gym membership as of yet, but am thinking of gifting myself one for my birthday. For me it's too easy to become distracted (or lazy) at home. If I have to pay for it, I WILL make it a priority. Report
The Wii and Xbox 360 Kinect have been a great replacement for the gym. Report
I love that you used yard work as a workout. Cause it truly is. I had stopped logging it as such but my body still reflects the work I have been doing. I also LOVE the idea of the pick your own farms! I forgot what a great workout it is to go pick apples or strawberries. GREAT idea! And fun for the kids as well.

I can have a free gym membership through my health insurance program, but with a pool in the backyard, a recumbent stationary bike in the great room, two good feet for walking, along with housework, gardening, etc., I can't see spending the gas to go to a gym. Report
No, I do not think that a gym membership is a must. The gym opened my eyes to Zumba and that was one of my only reasons for wanting to attend, but work schedule prevented me from keeping up with my workout schedule. Now my Wii has become my best choise for this weight loss journey. I am motivated to exercise for an hour each day, because I am trying to beat an old score or achieve a perfect score. I am still losing weight and that is the goal. I also work in my yard twice a week. I want to have the best lawn in the neighborhood. The sweat that is produced in this act is astounding. So again, no, I do not think that a gym membership is a must. Report
I love the gym but also try and incorporate other things during the day. Report
I like to either walk or go running and do strength exercises without equipment or the sparkpeople exercise videos. Report
I certainly make do very well without a gym. How about this for a radical idea: I believe with the help of Spark, I can play hooky on my yoga school for the rest of my life!

For sure I can't afford it, and I never really could. But the amount of time available to have been spent on the research and experimentation on my own, to get me to the kind of practice I now have, has been very sparse with my crazy schedule ...

Honestly, my home practices are longer-than-class-length. Three and four times a week.

I plateau more frequently and kink myself up more frequently than would occur with attendance more than weekly. But I rarely could afford to attend more than weekly—those Hamiltons (for the AFFORDABLY-priced class in the locality where I live) add up fast.

Anyway, as with temple, the classes do send out prayers and intentions for all those "who could not practice with them in class today". I am in receipt of all their kind intentions (at no extra charge)—YES! I'm finally going to take them up on their "word".

Because, on the whole, after the first 10 minutes, the only thing reminding me that I am alone is, I have to change the music myself ... Report
I love the gym because of the external motivation. I'm not very far into my weight loss journey, so it can be embarassing to be at the gym. But when I can lift more weight and bike longer than the other, skinnier people there, it helps to keep me motivated. I figure, whatever works! Report
Very nicely stated. Being an outdoor person helps. Report
I see no need to pay for a gym membership since I have a treadmill, legs, weights of diffrent sizes, resistance cords & a ball. I also have access to a bike but I prefer a stationary bike usually. Plus Sparkpeople and YouTube have hundreds of exercise videos to follow along with. I would like to have a stepper and a jump rope but other than that I have everything I need to get exercise and an effective workout. I perfer working out and exercising by myself as well so I don't overextend myself so solitary exercise is best for me.
The only time I would want to pay to go to a gym is if I wanted to take a certain class to make sure I am doing the exercises properly like aerobics, spinning, yoga etc... Report
I love my gym- I have been a member for 2 months; very reasonable offer at $10/month. All classes are included in this 24/7 membership so I can spice things up- do new things keep from getting unmotivated, bored, and in a rut! It is on the way home from work so there is no excuse! I still do things outside the gym, but I love having the option! Report
I can understand people who workout solely at home. Kids, cost, transportation issues, and other factors. I guess I am lucky not to have such interference at this time.
Our local gym options are very affordable though.
Planet Fitness is $10 a month (24 hours through the week, 7am-7pm weekends).
Snap Fitness costs $40 a month but is 24/7/365 via electronic keycard entry, and monitored by video cam.
After trying both I prefer Snap Fitness. The people seem more serious and dedicated to fitness and achievement rather than socializing (though we do that, too). Plus the weekend hours work better for me because I can go anytime.
Again, for anyone who can't make it to a gym for whatever reason, working out at home is awesome too! I do some P90X and Bodyrock.Tv (on youtube).
I wish more people shared their fitness and nutrition trackers so we could get more examples of what is working for people. Report
A jump rope is $10 and some fun yet killer cardio. Report
I wouldn't go to a gym if you paid me. I am strictly a solo person when it comes to exercise. I don't even want to walk with a companion. I am a fan of Nicole's exercises demos and videos on SP. One of the reasons I value SP is that SP folks (experts and members) offer alternatives and sometimes adaptations. I have physical limitations and am on disability, so I appreciate the exercises I can do or adapt, without equipment or with minimal equipment. I have small dumbbells and will be checking yard sales this summer for bigger ones.

I have minimal problems with motivation. I need to do physical therapy daily, and since I live alone except for a cat, before bed, I put out my yoga mat and outfit. Since I can manage my pain easier by doing my physical therapy, I do that unless I am severely ill. And since I do the therapy, I start with stretches, then the physical therapy, and it is easy to segue into "real" exercises.

I am learning on SP to vary my routines and to add to them, as well as to track cardio. Because of my physical limitations, I run new ideas past my chiropractor and the personal trainer who works in her office.

My daughter adores the gym, but with the birth of her kids, it is no longer practical or affordable. She has an ellliptical at home and since she had previously worn out two treadmills and an exercise bike, I am certain she can be consistent in using her elliptical at home.

Different strokes for different folks. Isn't that what SP is all about? Report
"Do you think a gym membership is a must?" It really depends on the person. I get bored SO easily, so for me, a gym membership is a must. My gym is FANTASTIC. But pricey! There are a ton of different classes to keep me motivated and interested, and the machines are all very hi-tech, with games you can play programmed in them.

"What is your favorite (or most creative) way to get slim without setting foot in the gym?" Playing a game with friends - mostly volleyball. Doing housework always seems to get my heartrate up too! Report
I used to belong to a women's only gym when I was in my early 20s. I joined with my sister and two of our friends. At the time it was a real social outing and with work and university that was a chance to catch up on news with friends. Once we all got married and started raising families, the focus changed. Our activities revolved around our spouses and kids. Now that my daughters are in their teens I feel that I could join a gym but not sure if I want to. I do execise at home. Report
No you don't need a membership at a gym. Most of my exercise in the past and even now has not been in a gym. But I do have a membership. Bally's offered me a whole year without payments or anything down for $100. So I could not skip this deal.

I often hike to get my exercise. Witch in my opinion is the best cardio and muscle work. I mean I am a person that will do a hour and a half of cardio at the gym. But I get my but kicked hiking especially what I did last weekend cross country. It was tough. In the past I also use to walk my kids to school when they were little. I use to have all kinds of tricks to get me to exercise without feeling like I was. Report
Walking Guide