Definitely my favorite way to work out

I am SO EXCITED about this month’s Reader Suggestions because it tackles a topic that comes up over and over again as folks try to slim down their monthly spending: EXERCISE! Paying to exercise is something many of us do without even considering the impact on our budget because it’s for a good cause. And yes, exercise is good! But it’s not something you have to pay for. Much like the #1 fave frugal topic–food–it’s easy to ignore that gym membership line item in a monthly budget simply because it’s ultimately a “good” thing. But just like food, there are ways to get at the same end for less.

Before we go any farther, I want to point out that sometimes, paying to exercise really is the best decision and I’m all about spending on your priorities. If a gym/CrossFit/yoga membership is one of your highest priorities and you don’t have an option for frugalizing it? Then stick with it and know that you are spending on what matters to you. But, there are a surprisingly large number of ways to exercise for free, as the droves of Frugalwoods readers who responded to this month’s question demonstrated!

Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions!

How I’ve Exercised for Free

Over the years I’ve found a number of different ways to exercise for free, some of which have been more successful than others. Here’s a rundown of what has worked for me:

1) Barter and trade

Free yoga!

This is my very favorite example of free exercise: the barter and trade method! Back when we lived in the city, I volunteered at the front desk of my yoga studio in exchange for free classes. I LOVED doing this as it netted me free yoga classes and also made me part of the yoga studio community. I made friends, I did yoga, and all was right with the world.

Once my kiddos are older, I’m hoping to find a similar arrangement at a studio here in Vermont. The barter-and-trade method isn’t just for yoga studios–it’s a model employed at many gyms and studios and I’ve heard from readers all around the world who’ve successfully struck up a similar arrangement with their exercise studio. Can’t hurt to ask!

2) The great outdoors

Walking, hiking, snowshoeing, chasing children around, gardening (aka trying to keep children from pulling up plants/stomping on plants/eating the vegetables), are all (mostly) free! Pre-kid and pre-homestead, Mr. Frugalwoods and I went hiking as many weekends as possible. We’d spend glorious Saturdays summiting mountains for the price of gas for the car and admission to a national or state park, which was usually less than $5. When we were city-bound for a weekend, we’d take epic walks around town with Frugal Hound and enjoy the bustling sights. Pro frugal tip for city walking: don’t take any money or credit cards with you–then you won’t be tempted to duck into a coffee shop or pop into a store!

Now that we live rurally, we’re able to hike right outside our front door, which we try to do every day. If you’re wondering how to get out and about during the cold, cold wintertime (if your wintertime happens to be cold, that is), take a gander at these two posts for motivation: How We Recreate In Winter: The Gear, The Mindset, and The Baby Sled and Reader Suggestions Of Frugal And Fun Winter Activities.

3) Commuting by foot or bike

I never successfully managed this, but Mr. FW biked to work every day (even in the wintertime) back when we lived in the city. An ideal way to save money on commuting, get exercise, decrease pollution, and enjoy your commute all at once!

4) Daily life

Cleaning our bathroom! A workout of sorts!

Don’t discount all the opportunities to move your body that are built into daily life. Cleaning the house, hefting/chasing kids around, toting laundry up the stairs, walking the dog… the list goes on! We also have a bunch of outdoor chores–like chopping wood–that keep us active, but there’s no need to live on a homestead in order to take advantage of chores-as-exercise. Some days this is all the exercise I get and I figure it’s better than nothing.

5) Via the internet

Everyone’s favorite resource for everything has tons of free workout videos, tips, and guidelines! I personally enjoy the site Do Yoga With Me, which offers a bunch of free yoga videos at different levels, styles, and durations.

How Frugalwoods Readers Exercise Frugally

I’m always astounded at the creativity and diversity of your answers to our monthly Reader Suggestions feature and I learned a ton this month!

Due to your exuberant outpouring of ideas, I couldn’t include everyone’s response. However, you’re in luck because you can peruse the full conversation on our Frugalwoods Facebook page. And if you’d like to weigh in on next month’s topic, join the Frugalwoods Facebook page.

I divided your suggestions into the following categories:

  • Exercising For Free
  • Chores/Daily Tasks As Exercise
  • Get Paid To Exercise/Trade For Exercise
  • Exercising For Cheap (many of these suggestions relate to building a home gym, which could’ve been a category all its own!)

There are certainly other ways to exercise for free, but these categories seemed to capture the vast majority of your suggestions. Thank you to everyone who weighed in! Get it? “Weighed” in? I’m hilarious.

Exercising For Free

Tracey reports, “I run, walk to work every day, swim in the ocean, do yoga videos online from YouTube, and do Pilates at work all for free.”

Mr. FW working on our veg garden clean-out. Workout with a wheel barrow!

Brenna shared, “On my lunch hours at work I’ll run the stairs and do some pushups and things in the stairwell. It’s very hard work! I’m lucky in that there’s a small but dedicated group of people visibly doing active things on their lunch hours so I’m not alone in this although I do often encounter people using the stairs for their intended purpose. My workplace also has a staff change room which also comes in handy for cycling to work. Two birds with one stone there, a commute and some exercise!”

Kyra does, “Hula hooping (make your own or buy inexpensive adult size ones on Etsy). Burns up to 400 calories an hour and it’s fun! Also, yoga videos (check out Buti Yoga) on YouTube and bodyweight fitness (Reddit has a great community).”

Krista wrote, “The app Zombies Run 5k is free, as is The Walk. Both are exercise/story games.”

Katie recommends, “Parkrun! It’s completely free and slowly taking off in America (in UK, where I am it’s everywhere).”

Sarah shared, “A friend gave my partner and I an older model treadmill… so I set it up in the living room! Now if I’m watching television after work etc, I walk through an episode, sit for an episode. Guilt free relaxation.”

Dieta wrote, “YouTube workout videos . I’ve done Pilates, prenatal cardio, mommy-and-me work outs… free and convenient.”

Joanna does, “Healthy Habits Happy Moms workouts on YouTube! I do them 3-4 times a week. They are great full body workouts named for famous women.”

Sarah prefers, “Hiking! Trails are almost always free!”

Mr. FW and Babywoods on the trail last winter. Carrying a baby: good workout!

Lesley wrote, “I only recently found out that where I live in England in Towerhamlets the borough runs an ‘Exercise for Free’ program with classes in the various parks with qualified coaches. Also our Church is running free Chinese dance classes for over 60s so people can ‘age gracefully.’ Haven’t tried that yet but it sounds lovely and a bit different.”

Gudrun likes, “Plain old walking, usually an hour on weekdays. Also gardening. Hiking and biking sometimes.”

Amélie does, “Yoga using YouTube’s Yoga with Adrienne or body weight strength/HIIT training using any free 7 mins app, YouTube or following trainers like Kayla Itsines, Tone it Up or Kelsey wells on Fb or Insta, as they always give so many free workout ideas. Add in power walking and you’ve got strength, cardio & flexibility.”

Jen shared, “I have had such a hard time getting motivated to do exercise at home! For me it was about finding the right combination of time and motivation. Running for running’s sake is dreadfully boring for me. Finally I found the distraction of listening to a podcast on a nice day made it pleasant. After dozens of failed attempts to get up early to workout I knew that would be a no-go. January I challenged myself to follow a yoga challenge and do their videos (free) every night. That’s when I realized that was the key for me: I dedicated only 15 minutes every night. Then, some nights I felt like I could do more, and now it’s a habit. I do as much hiking with my kids as possible, which also means having one of them in a carrier a lot of the time. We joined Hike It Baby and have met a lot of other great friends and kids. We also have a few parks in our city with workout stops: i.e. there is a designated loop that has workout stops with instructions along the way. Sometimes I will meet a mom friend to go do this together with our kids and maybe have a picnic afterwards. I love going for bike rides on nice mornings when my husband is home to be with the kids.”

Angela wrote, “High intensity interval training! It requires only a timer/stop watch (ie. use your phone). If you need ideas for what exercises to do, you can google (from totally open sources) in order to make a list of ones that suit your goals and specific needs or watch a free youtube video for your level and needs if you need a ‘coach’ encouraging you. You can select the activities according to your needs, too (ie. don’t do jumping jacks if you need to avoid high impact activities, choose lunges/planks or running on the spot instead). HIIT exercise is not just financially efficient, it is also *time* efficient as you will be huffing, puffing and SOAR after 20 or 30 minutes, and it covers your need for cardio and really pushing your muscles ALL AT ONCE… and it grows with you, as you can easily increase difficultly as you get stronger and fitter.”

On the trail in our $5 thrift store jogging stroller

Kendra reports, “Thankfully, my health insurance plan covers gym membership. I have multiple, from the YMCA because it’s close to my home, to the big box center a block from my work, and a yoga studio. Since I’m already paying for the insurance, it’s worth it to use these free perks, as the cost of all of these memberships, if I paid for them, would be more than my out-of-pocket for my healthcare plan.”

Jennifer said, “To cut back on expenses I got rid of my gym membership a few years ago and instead do free Yoga With Adriene videos on YouTube, go walking or hiking (mostly in Spring, Summer or Fall), or do low weight/bodyweight exercises from Tone It Up, YouTube or Pinterest!”

Rebecca said, “Joined the local MRTT (moms run this town). I can find someone to run with almost every time, every day, any distance. I’ve made lots of friends too! Just need shoes every few months. I get my running clothes from thrift stores.”

Siera wrote, “Walking our dogs a few miles every day; hiking a few times a month; biking (not free if you have to buy a new bike, but I’ve had my mountain bike since I was 12 years old and keep it well-maintained); yoga and the “7 minute workout,” both of which can be done at home with Youtube videos, using very few pieces of equipment – just your own body weight, a wall and a chair! My husband plays basketball once or twice a week with local community groups that are either free (preferably!) or not too expensive (his parents often pay the basketball fee for his birthday or Christmas gift). I tried going to the gym in college when it was free for me at the student rec center, but always hated it, which means I began to avoid it. Exercise needs to be enjoyable and built into your daily life to make it sustainable for you – even little things like parking farther away from your destination, taking the stairs, and gardening/ doing yard work helps get us moving more!”

Hillary suggests,

“- YouTube has TONS of workouts – cardio and strength
– body weight exercises (pushups, squats, running man, etc)
– walking/jogging outside
– local community centers and sometimes libraries offer free classes
– free trial periods at various gym or class passes!”

Kate suggests, “Follow Silver Sneakers on Facebook. They offer videos, mostly just a minute or two long, with scads of workout routines for every ability and age level. It’s not just for old people like me. In fact, many of them are too challenging for me and the demonstrators are very young – like 30ish.”

Mr. FW biking off to work when we lived in the city

Jackie likes, “Running! I started with the Couch to 5k app and increased my distance from there. Just need some good shoes and inexpensive exercise clothes. My daughter enjoys it too!”

Kenzie recommends, “! ALL free, awesome workouts, and you can donate zero or as much as you would like to their page to help them keep this great service to everyone. There are workout programs for all levels and tastes, from yoga to lifting!!!”

Liz says, “Yoga on YouTube and Spotebi are great options. Spotebi has some paid content – but lots of free options.”

Heather wrote, “I’ve been doing HIIT workouts from YouTube. All I need is internet and a yoga mat, which was about $24. The workouts are kicking my rear and I feel GREAT! I was running but I wasn’t getting the full body workout I wanted. HIIT gives me a lot of cardio, core, arms, legs…I put on a hip hop workout remix (also free on youtube) and I go to it! My favorite is Blender Fitness.

On days that I don’t do HIIT, I have a weight bench and a set of adjustable dumbells from BowFlex. They were a bit of a big expense at first, but they’ve been durable. My husband and I both use them and have had them for at least a decade, so money well spent. I usually find a workout on youtube for toning arms.”

Chores/Daily Tasks As Exercise

Megan reports, “We heat with wood. That old adage, ‘chop your own wood, and it will warm you twice’ is really true. I can be extra inefficient some days, so cutting, splitting, and moving it around is my exercise. When you count work around the homestead as exercise it makes you more forgiving of your inefficiencies!”

Randall wrote, “Yoga and body weight exercises and walk to work and to grocery store. Lots of walking.”

Jessie exercises by, “…taking my kiddos to playgrounds as much as possible and joining in the fun, I go down the slides, chase them around, have monkey bar races.”

Maluna does, “Yoga once, sometimes twice a day, hiking in woods, gardening, taking care of water fowl, cleaning, shoveling snow… it’s all free! Just keep moving!”

Jen says, “My favorite way is to chase my eight year old around and wrestle and tickle with him. We also race the sidewalks and blare music and rock out to it. The other thing I did, since I love to dance, is invest in instructor training so I can teach the dance classes myself.”

Get Paid To Exercise/Trade For Exercise

Splitting wood by hand. Good workout!

Lisa relayed, “My husband teaches yoga at our Y which gets us a free membership which includes a lot plus we get a discount too on swim and sports for the kids too..Which really helps out.”

Felicity shared, “I started delivering catalogues. So I now get paid to exercise  😂 Being motivated to exercise is not my strong point so having this as an obligation means I will actually exercise at least a couple of times per week.”

Nancy wrote, “One of my side hustles is working at a gym! I work 2 hour shifts, 6am-8am, 3 days a week and occasional Saturdays. I can workout on my shift, and have a free membership so I can come on my own time. I make a little bit of extra money, make good use of my early mornings, guarantee that I won’t skip the gym, and don’t have to pay for a membership!”

Brianne relayed, “I do free yoga videos on YouTube, and attend free classes in the community (Library, LuluLemon). My most frugal workout tip is to turn your workout into a side hustle and EARN money while working out! Right now I teach mermaid swimming classes with Aquamermaid and it’s so much fun! A few other ideas could be to be a dog walker or deliver for UberEats by bicycle.”

Exercising For Cheap

Who doesn’t need a toddler to help them with sledgehammer work?!

Sari shared, “I subscribe to Beachbody on Demand. $99 a year. Home workouts! $.27 a day! I’ve found its so much better than the gym also.”

Emily reports, “We stream exercise videos on our fire stick through YouTube. We also use the great outdoors. Lots of walking, hiking, running, biking, etc. As a triathlete the only thing I spend money on is the one day fee to swim indoors at our local aquatic center. It’s $2.14 per visit, which at once a week is lots cheaper than the $400/yr gym membership and we only do that when it’s too cold to open water swim in the lake (October – May).”

Veneta wrote, “There’s a gym that opened up in my neighborhood about three years ago called YouFit. They have a $10/month membership, which offers full access to all cardio equipment, weights, locker room, etc. I think there are now more gyms that offer this option but I haven’t checked since I like mine. I also go for runs when I get a chance but having the option of a gym allows me to work out if it’s raining or too cold outside.”

Christopher shared, “Kept the Gym Membership but work pays for 50% so it is only $50/mo, includes free Yoga for the wife, spin class, and Zumbini for the kids. Well worth it.”

Kendyll wrote, “We found a brand new Total Gym machine for $30 last year. We bought it and set it up for use in our basement. If we aren’t on it, we are out walking or running. My daughter and I will do YouTube videos from the Fitness Marshall and just dance as well.”

Jessica relayed, “Our rec center has a free indoor walking track, and you can bring strollers which is awesome. For awhile I did light weights at home, but I’ve since decided the $20 a month was worth it for the gym. There I have to show up. At home I’m more likely to skip.”

Kandace reports, “Every year or two I buy a workout video or set of workouts from someplace like BeachBody or Jillian Michaels. It’s not free, but it’s cheaper than the gym and much easier to do on my own time. I also invested in a fairly inexpensive elliptical/recumbent bike and rigged it up so I can pedal while working. I have some free weights, which I’ve collected over the years when they’re on sale. You can also get sets online but I never found one that had the right weights.”

Picking berries: moderate exercise!

Terri has, “…a treadmill that I bought at a garage sale for $5 three years ago. Frugality in motion!!”

Melissa recommends, “Running shoes and the great outdoors! You can also do body weight exercises at home. The basics are free and work all body parts (push-ups, squats, lunges, etc). We do still have a gym membership too, though. Ours is $10 a month and you can bring one person with you for no extra charge, so for $10 a month my SO and I go to the gym together a few days a week.”

Nicole wrote, “Body Pump is my favorite workout, and I was paying $55 each month for a YMCA membership to take part in their Body Pump class. Then I realized that Les Mills, the company who choreographs Body Pump, has an on-demand streaming option for $12.99. I bought $150 of weights and a barbell and have been exercising in the comfort of my home for a few months now!”

Alicia wrote, “I go to Planet Fitness which is only $10/month. It’s pretty basic but has what I need- treadmill, floor mats, weights, etc. I also love Pop Pilates free videos on YouTube and of course going on hikes/walks.”

Ashley suggests, “Join a hiking group! Hike it Baby is wonderful for families with young kids. It cost $10/yr. There are also free groups through or those organized by local parks.”

Laura wrote, “We invested in a quality piece of workout equipment, specifically a treadmill, yes it was pricey upfront but unlike a gym membership I actually use the treadmill. I don’t have to go anywhere or find a sitter. I can hop on anytime I have a few free minutes.”

Jenny wrote, “We bought a used treadmill several years back, (There are tons of them out there! Seems like lots of people like to buy treadmills that they never use…) so we have that set up in an extra room in our house. My husband also bought a used weight set that we keep in the same room. YouTube is full of videos you can watch for free. And there are lots of great free apps I use to train for runs. We’ve invested maybe $200 in our home gym equipment, and it’s more than paid for itself.”

Get Creative and Get Moving

The overarching message here is to get creative in how you exercise. Don’t be hemmed in by what you’ve always done and don’t assume you can’t get a great workout for free. I love learning from the Reader Suggestions and this month was no exception, except that reading it did make me feel like a massive sloth, seeing as I gave birth to my second daughter last month and we are still covered in snow up here in Vermont. I am now shamed/motivated into amping up my exercise regimen after reading about all the awesome ways that you people exercise. As with most things in life, there’s a way to frugalize your workout routine and save money while staying in shape!

How do you exercise for free or cheap?

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  1. Thank you for this! I am just finishing up the month at my current gym, and my goal for April was to explore free options for working out at home and getting outside more, so this was great timing. This change is going to save me $1000/yr. if I can stay motivated.

  2. These are great tips! I’ve recently fallen in love with yoga, but 10 bucks a class adds up quick! Luckily, youtube has AMAZING, FREE videos on nearly every workout possible. It’s amazing.

  3. Love it! The most important thing is to do what works for you, whether or not it’s “perfectly frugal,” because you only get one body and money can’t make it healthier. You have to do the work.

  4. That’s a great list. I’ve been meaning to try that zombie app, might have to check that one out. And a $5 treadmill, that’s a great deal.

    I usually run outside for as long as the weather will allow and then get a $10/month membership to the community center, which has a running track. I usually get that $10/month back from my health insurance if I go enough times in a month. So essentially free.

  5. I’ve been told “if you want to excerise, get a couple of toddlers, that’s excerise!”

    Hula hoop is pretty darn clever. That’s what I use to do but I stopped because I thought…”Well I look ridiculous. How many calories am I burning exactly??”

    (Just did a quick search)

    “The study found that it burned 210 calories in a 30-minute workout, or 7 calories per minute”
    Oh that’s not bad!! I should get back into hula hooping!

  6. Thank you for sharing the great ideas! I have two main forms of exercise:
    – Walking almost an hour every day to and from the metro and the office.
    – Housework (vacuuming, cooking, doing the dishes, etc.)
    – Free yoga at home with the help of YouTube videos.

    I bought an intro yoga pass for a month and decided to frugalize my exercise by doing in my own bedroom.

  7. When we lived in Atlanta, I did Planet Fitness for $10 a month and loved it! It had treadmills, TVs to watch, other people exercising, and showers. It was exactly enough gym for me. I’ve also considered the $99/yr BeachBody on Demand workouts, which I hear are great, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. My favorite free exercise + social outing + mental health session is running with friends. We meet up three mornings a week and gossip, run, and diagnose each other’s problems. It’s the best. Plus, we get out in nature.

  8. Go to your local library and/or city hall, to ask about free classes and activities. Thanks to this tip from a fellow senior citizen, I now participate in a 3 day a week exercise class, and a book club. This is a better motivation for me, because it gets me out and socializing too.
    Not to waste gasoline, I always do errands while out, and treat myself to home brewed coffee and lunch in the park as well.

  9. Nothing like walking the hound dog twice a day for two plus miles through woods, fields or along the shore. No leash required. No expense. All weathers. Snow, ice, rain, warm bright sunshine, fog. Walking does wonders for dog & master! True happiness is having a dog to walk! 🐕

  10. So I can’t help but notice that there is no frugal option for weight lifting in any of these suggestions! Which is surprising to me because it’s one of the most efficient in terms of body transformation: time ratio workouts out there. I use a $20/month planet fitness membership, and pay $30/month for an online trainer who designs workouts, helps with my nutrition, and keeps me accountable. I consider that money well spent, though I’d love to set up my home gym eventually.

    1. If I want to add weight to a workout for free, I either grab my dog (20 lbs.) or items I have around the house (bags of rice, bottles of wine, etc.).

    2. I agree, Rach! I have a few kettlebells at home that I’ve managed to get either new or from Gumtree but I consider them such a good investment. It’s such an efficient way to exercise, as well as body weight exercises, and there are so many free workout sites on the internet. Once you get familiar with the exercises you can make up your own workouts – I sure do.

  11. This is such a fantastic list. I’m mostly a runner when I can’t be skiing. Still, there are days when I prefer to work out indoors and this list of free sites just made my bookmark list. Thank you Mrs. Frugalwoods and all the content providers for sharing your secrets!

  12. On your suggestion a few years ago I started using the Do Yoga with Me videos and love them. There’s a good variety and I’ve definitely found my favorite teachers on there.

  13. We walk our dog around town or go for walks with her in the woods. I do take cards/cash with me in case of an emergency. We’re not going to pop in anywhere with her tied up outside or in the car, so it’s a just in case kind of thing.

  14. is the best. I’ve used it for years. Hundreds of free workout videos and low cost 4-6 week programs if you prefer. Love them!

    1. I second Fitness Blender! So many choices! When I was really out of shape, I used the free videos from Jessica Smith TV on YouTube. Jessica helped me to get to the Fitness Blender level.

  15. These are excellent suggestions!

    I live in downtown Philly so I mostly walk and bike (I belong to Philly’s bikeshare, Indego) everywhere. But for more exercise, I stretch, run, and do strength training. Stretching and running are cheap.

    Strength training is a little trickier. I bought an adjustable set of 105 pound dumbbells and use them in our apartment to do overhead press, rows, lunges, and squats. I also put a chin up bar in a doorway. And I do other other body weight exercises as well.

    Mrs. FF is a serious runner who is running in the Boston Marathon next month. She also does strength training at a cheap gym. The gym is really a rehab center that sells cheap memberships and is only open during the day during the week. So it works great for people that FIREd like us. She also teaches Yoga.

    P.S. Liz – I’m really enjoying your book! I got it from the library, so I’d be frugal. 🙂

    1. Tell her to look out for Wicked Running Club at mile 17! I’ll be out on the course volunteering with my fellow Wickeds!

  16. We’re one of the families who pays quite a bit for a gym membership. We agonized over the decision since we like to be frugal. But due to extreme stress, chronic pain, depression and frankly a declining marriage, we decided to go for it and haven’t looked back. My husband and I have been super motivated to go, due to the expense and how good it feels to exercise, and we are finally seeing results after way too many years of attempting to establish exercise routines at home for free.

  17. You need only two things to remain fit and limber (ok, maybe 4 things): 1) a $129 fold-up exercise bike by Marcy (we do 15min at 3 increasingly difficult intervals– by the end you are sweating and your heart has had a good work out); 2) the stretch and exercise book by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the RGB Workout. We use this to stretch before the bike work. Amazing regime- has helped cure lower back pain with all of the great stretches it simple lays out. The optional items are: 3) yoga mat-on which to do the stretches, and 4) a set of exercise cords– to work upper body and lower back. Oh yeah, one last thing: do about 150 stomach crunches every evening. I promise that if you do the above at least 3-4 times a week and eat a balanced diet that his heavy on fruit and veg (and no processed foods or sugars whatsoever), you will be fit, happy and healthy. Daily wine and coffee a must!

  18. To your point – I’ve chosen to allocate dollars to fitness because it’s a hobby I enjoy in the pursuit of FI.

    Several years ago I discovered CrossFit and fell in love. But during my Uber Frugal Month, I realized how much the $125-$150/mo membership was a painful number on the budget, so I decided to invest in a home gym.

    For less than $1k (about 10 months of my CrossFit membership), I bought a barbell, bumper plates, squat rack, loadable dumbbell handles, and a DIY plyo box. That lets me do a huge percentage of workouts. There’s plenty of free programming available online (, Comptrain, etc.) and you just have to be creative with working around equipment you don’t have.

    Again, this isn’t the cheapest option, but I really enjoy CrossFit, the variety, and it’s ability to change it up to meet my goals, so it keeps me disciplined doing it, and I “paid it off” in less than a year.

    1. I pay for membership at a Crossfit gym. It’s expensive but honestly it’s a great social boost to my week. Crossfit is also much more expensive because the business model relies on members actually participating as opposed to most chain gyms where many sign up but few actually use the facilities.

  19. Local senior center has low impact aerobic classes 3x per week 1 hr. long for $1. Line dancing 2x per week—one group is free, the other $1. Free chair exercise class 1/2 hr., 3x per week. The only hitch is you need to be at least 55 years old.

  20. So many great ideas! Personally I love running (the roads are always free), and doing online yoga videos. There are also free yoga classes offered if you look around for them – especially in/around cities. For any Twin Cities readers, check out Saturday morning yoga at Union Depot! I’m fortunate to also have a small gym available at work. A group of us started doing Beach Body workouts that someone had downloaded onto a flash drive. Free, at work, and accountability from coworkers.

  21. We set up a home gym with Craigslist freebies and low cost items. Probably spent under $100 and people are happy to give away one off items. The treadmill is great in the winter. Plus if I don’t use it, I’m not wasting a monthly fee.

    I was signing up for 5K races to keep me motivated for running. This was expensive ($30-50 for 30-60 minutes) so I went back to my high school job – refereeing soccer. I run for 50-90 minutes and get paid $40-75 per game. Sometimes I do 2-3 games per day on the weekends. I need to run during the week so I can keep up with the kids and I get to mentor younger referees. I still do one race with my friends to challenge myself but I pay for it with my refereeing. I made $1600 this past year refereeing minus my expenses like uniforms and gas.

  22. Some creative ideas in this list. I really like those in the “Get Paid To Exercise / Trade For Exercise” category! Similar to Mrs. FW, we find that living in the country is enough to keep us on our toes. Mowing, weed-eating, pruning, cutting up down limbs / trees and other such tasks usually have us breaking a sweat fairly regularly during the summer.

    I grew up playing sports and now enjoy playing competitive volleyball year-round in the local city league. We play on sand in the summer and indoor courts in the winter. A fun way to get some exercise while letting out that competitive fire.

    And ever since an Achilles rupture (definitely not recommended) suffered five years ago on the volleyball court, I’ve taken up cycling. Was a big part of my rehab to regain full ankle motion and restore calf function after surgery. Purchased a hybrid crossover between a mountain bike and a street bike that can still handle some gravel while maintaining low rolling resistance and did a lot of 20-40 mile road rides that year. Since I’m a data nerd, I use MapMyRide to log details of each trip like my route, distance traveled, and average speed so I can compete against personal bests.

    My goal last year was to complete a “Spoke Challenge” of riding round trip from our house to each incorporated city, town, or village in our county, but dawn-to-dusk hours at work and the addition of our first child kept me out of the saddle more than I’d like to admit. Now that we’re finally free of my job, I’m looking forward to crossing this challenge off my bucket list!

    Mrs. FFP enjoys running outdoors, and has put me to shame by adding several 5K’s to her name along with a Half-Marathon. Since our son was born, she’s been doing quite a bit of yoga using Caroline Williams’ YouTube program.

  23. Please do not feel shamed for not exercising as much as some of your readers! You JUST had a baby AND published a book! Exercise more if you want to, but be gentle with yourself!

    And thank you for publishing such a fabulous list. I recently recovered from surgery for Melanoma, and spent the entire winter in a surgical boot. I got to do exactly zero snowshoeing, which I love. I am super excited to start hiking again, and to get to introduce my 18 month old daughter to the trails! This reminded me that I wanted to re-join my local Hike It Baby chapter once my foot healed up!

  24. Love this! I don’t have a gym membership, but I do know some people who use it enough that it’s a worthy expense. It’s great to find free ways to work out, but if you’re a hardcore athlete, it might be worth cutting elsewhere to make up for something you love doing.

    I stay fit by exercising on an elliptical that we bought as a floor model years ago. I think it was $120? Anyway, I’ve used it nearly every day since then and we’ve more than made our money back.

    I also watch free yoga videos on YouTube and do Fitness Marshall dance videos to spice things up.

    Also, purchasing a standing desk was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my fitness! I now stand the majority of the day and I feel so much better. I’d wager to say my work is better, too.

  25. We’re contra dancers — I’m the treasurer of the group and pay the band/caller/sound guy, and get in free for that. My husband often volunteers to set up sound, and gets in free for that. And sometimes we just pay for him, because, hey, the band does have to get paid and we’ve got other stuff going on. (For me, social dancing is such a big experience — exercise, but also intergenerational social interaction — and leaves me feeling good for so long (research says you feel the psychological effects of social dancing for a week afterwards) that I wouldn’t give it up even if I had to pay for it, but in the case of our group there are always volunteer jobs to be bartered for dancing.

    My mom also teaches yoga and barters a class a week for membership for her household (3) AND my household (4) in exchange for that class. So I get to go to the gym/pool without paying. Nice deal for me!

    And, finally, we have bikes and a park not far away. Just getting out and walking around the ‘hood with the stroller, OR riding bikes around town, is great exercise.

    (Where we’re splurging: My teen (16) has struggled with mental health the last couple of years AND has never been athletic or into sports. We’ve been wanting them to exercise more for quite a while–they’re not overweight, but we feel like they would benefit from a mental health standpoint. They saw a presentation from our local roller derby and decided they really wanted to do roller derby. So… we’re paying for roller derby. They’ve been doing it for about 6 weeks on rental skates while I’ve been looking around for secondhand skates, but after driving way out here or there a couple of times only for skates not to fit, I just paid full price for skates –$$$! — I KNOW I could have been more frugal about that, but they love their brand new skates and I’m glad to be done skate shopping.)

    1. What a great rundown of activities! I love it! There are lots of contra dances in our area and I’ve been wanting to go so badly–unfortunately they’re in the evenings right when our kids go to bed, but it’s something I can’t wait to do as a family in a few years.

  26. Hiking outdoors is no hardship where I live in beautiful Colorado. It’s a great multi-tasking trifecta; enjoy nature, get exercise and spend time with my guy. After I typed that, I realized I forgot the money savings benefit…so I googled what a perfect aligning of four events is called. Quadfecta (quad + perfecta) is actually the appropriate word according to Wiki. So, maybe I should have said the perfect multi-tasking quadfecta?

  27. I feel like it’s not too actionable for a lot of people but I got a big discount at my boxing gym because I’ve done martial arts for so long. I got talking with the owner after the first class and he offered it to me!

  28. Momma Strong! (or PapaStrong!) It’s $2 a month and she has soooo many videos. They’re only 15 minutes, little to no equipment, and geared towards making you strong and functional. She’s got programs for recovering from pregnancy/postpartum stuff (diastasis recti, getting your core back to being engaged) and a prenatal program, if that’s your thing. She also has an ongoing daily 15 min HIIT series. It’s great! Her videos are short and doable, and she knows her stuff. She also keeps it pretty real (sometimes kids and dogs make appearances in the videos) which I kinda love.

  29. Wow this make me feel very lazy! Al these super fit people! We walk regularly and a few years ago bought a good quality rebounder. It is often so hot and humid here in Brisbane in the summer months that you just feel to drained to go outside to exercise. It is a great form of low impact exercise and depending how energetic i feel I can be more or less energetic. It is great for lymphatic drainage. It is small and doesn’t take up loads of space like a treadmill and not noisy if i am exercising and watching a movie with my husband.

  30. We’re city dwellers so most exercise comes in the form of walking to and from the train each day (about 1 hour round trip).

    Another form: Our weekend grocery shop requires hitting about 5 different locations and takes about 90 minutes; so I load myself down with everything we buy (I use a 70L backpack). My arms are usually burning at the end as I carry the heavy cans in reusable bags.

  31. We have found kettlebells to be a good option. They are cheaper than a full weight rack (only need 1-2 at your skill level). They cost roughly $1 per lb new, so it was $25 to start. We have also found a set at Aldi, of all places, for far cheaper.

    We like that the workout is fast, efficient, and can be done at home. As others have said, Mr. Steward makes use of the Fitnessblender videos on YouTube to guide him. He has built serious muscle using just bodyweight and a couple of kettlebells.

  32. Great suggestions. I hate the smell of gyms! The only ones that aren’t so bad are the super crazy expensive ones. I have been known to do trail memberships at various gyms to get the free week at each one. Mostly I hike outside, though I’ll need to find an alternative as I live in the desert and I think 120 degrees might be too hot even for me.

  33. This is great! There were a few things on this list and in the comments I had never heard of before like contra dancing (I had to look that up), and parkrun. I love hiking and embracing all the seasons by being active outside year-round. Another tip is if you have young kids to really play with them. Run around, chase each other, wrestle. If you’re at the park, climb and run around with them instead of sitting on a bench. They love it and it’s free great exercise!

  34. I live in Italy so the gym isn’t really a great option for me. I also travel a lot and tend to stay in frugal places without gym equipment. I’ve found the best frugal options that are lightweight are resistance bands I have three,and a jump rope. I have a pinterest board with workouts I can do with the bands and the rope. I also use 1.5 liter water bottles when I travel to do my youtube arm exercises. I usually walk 18-20K steps a day when I’m on travel in a city so that helps too.

  35. We are one of those families that prioritize the membership. The y is pricey, but we added it last fall. Got us out of the house all winter and into a heated therapy pool! For less than the cost of the gymnastics class my 9 year old had grown sick of, we now have full family access to 5 YMCA clubs in a 20 mile radius. Ready to sign up for those included children’s swim classes in two weeks. I still get us outside as much as possible, but as I age the arthritis makes it less of an option (or at least less of a realistic happening) for me in the winter. I am loving all these hard working posts!

  36. One person commented that they enjoy 5K races but found them to be expensive. I agree! As an avid runner, I often compete in my running club’s “Grand Prix” series which can come to a couple hundred dollars! A few observations though:
    1) The running club itself is a great deal! $30 for the year and that includes the support of the team as well as weekly group coaching and discounts on gear.
    2) Barter barter barter! I’ve found that I can do a lot of races for free if I volunteer with the organization for a different race. I’m doing a half marathon in June (usual cost around $95) for free because I’m volunteering a few weeks before at a different half marathon. Its well worth the couple hours of work for the price of the race.
    3) Remember where the money is going…. when all else fails and I need to hold my nose and pay a race fee, I remind myself that this is essentially charitable giving (for the most part). Our race series often includes mostly charity races such as cancer charities, scholarship funds, and other worthy causes. I tend to shy away from the races that are held by for profit organizations because I like my fees going to a good cause.
    and finally….
    4) Find a group that you can run with! My running club (see #1) has multiple group runs per week. I typically run with a group on Thursday nights and Saturday mornings. Its great to have friends to run with and makes the exercise go by faster. From that club I’ve found that there are many low cost options for weekly 5k’s including a few held by a local bar, one held monthly by a group that promotes races (and gives out race entry fees as raffle prizes!), and a running club in a neighboring town that runs a weekly 5K for $1 a week. Now that’s some cheap racing! 😉

    Thanks to the reader who referees soccer! That’s a great idea for the summer/ fall this year! I’d love to get back into soccer after a long hiatus! 🙂

  37. I love this post and have a few ideas to share. I became Zumba certified several years ago and serve as a substitute instructor at the YMCA. Note, I did have to pay for the certification class. Subbing gets me both a free membership and an outdoor pool membership 🙂 This is a great perk if you travel as I live in the Northeast and have utilized my membership in NC and FL so far.

    Other ideas:
    -Free Saturday morning classes at Lululemon, just make sure you leave without buying anything.
    -You can follow your favorite studios on facebook and then utilize the “bring a friend for free” week and split the cost with a friend.
    -Many studios in my area have a donation class once a week where it’s “pay what you wish” and the $ goes to a local charity.
    -Take advantage of a new student membership deal, e.g. $40 for unlimited classes for 1 month.
    -When a new Orange Theory store opens the first 2 weeks are free!
    -Look for deals on the Mindbody fitness app.

    1. I’m really happy you shared this. I’ve been thinking about getting Zumba certified, but have a hard time justifying the cost, since I’d probably end up teaching only one or two classes per week. But I wasn’t considering the free membership! My husband is about to start teaching yoga at the gym we work out in, so I know that this is something they offer.

  38. This post could not have come at a more crucial time, as always! I love the DYWM site you recommended years ago, I have tried many of their classes and they are just beautiful. It’s time I got back into doing more consistent things so I’ll be doing yoga, I have a few sets of weights and kettlebells at home, and my soccer season’s just started back up again so that keeps me pretty dang fit throughout the season. I’m inspired now after reading all the comments!

  39. Got to love the jump rope!

    Jumping rope burns more than 10 calories a minute while strengthening your legs, butt, shoulders, and arms. And it doesn’t take long to reap major rewards. For instance, you can burn more than 200 calories in two 10-minute sessions each day (that’s 1,000 calories a week)!

    I personally jump rope while I am watching Netflix. I do a combination of jump rope, pushups, one legged squats and burpees that burns 1000 calories in 40 minutes or 500 calories in 20 minutes! Also, this workout routine can travel with me since all it requires is a jump rope! (I use a chair for the one legged squat) Also, this routine doesn’t require much space at all. When my wife and I travel outside of the US, this routine has served us well.

    Also, check out for free body weight workouts if you get tired of my routine.

  40. I garden, run around the neighborhood, and I even have some super-old-school VHS yoga videos that I still play in an actual VCR because they have never been made available on DVD or YouTube! (I also pay for a gym and a personal trainer, but I like spending that money!)

  41. So I’m in both camps here. I do daily yoga through YouTube on the Yoga with Adriene channel and I love her workouts. On the flip side, I spend $100 a month for Crossfit. The thing is I love our little community that we have and it’s a great way for me to get out and talk to other adults. After reading your book, I’m still not certain if it’s a necessity or something I can get rid of. Especially now because we are saving up for a new to us van.

  42. I have a small rebounder (mini trampoline) which I run on for 20 minutes most days. I place it in front of the tv and catch up on my favourite tv or YouTube videos while running. It’s a win win because I get my exercise and have guilt free time watching tv…all for free!

  43. Going for a walk with a weighted backpack (rucking) or just a regular walk and some bodyweight exercises is probably as cheap as one can get when getting healthier. I enjoy doing both, as well as running outdoors or on a used treadmill I bought two years ago on the cheap. Great ideas shared here!

  44. I definitely want to check out some of the websites folks have mentioned! I sometimes like to do videos at home. But…I have found that the best way for me to actually commit to exercise is to change my clothes at work and exercise before going home. And while it’s not free, I have found that going to a gym near my office with a variety of cardio equipment and classes is the best way for me to make myself go do it. BUT our office manager negotiated a deal for us, so I get a good rate (especially for Silicon Valley — $34 a month is a steal), can go with work friends, and by the time I’m done, I’ve usually beat rush hour for my 50 mile commute. I’d encourage anyone to see what perks their workplace might be able to negotiate — there’s more leverage when there’s a lot of people involved. (And my office is not a huge company — only about 80 employees. )

    Oh! And we also have a yoga instructor coworker who offers weekly classes in our office, just to share her talent, get in a lunchtime workout, and encourage people to give yoga a try. I know another friend who has a dance instructor coworker who does the same. So be on the lookout for the talented and generous people all around you.

  45. I’m doing the Uber Frugal Challenge right now and cut back on personal training, which has been FANTASTIC for my fitness but is obviously very expensive. I put a few items on my wait list to purchase in the near future so that I can do strength training at home: a medicine ball, free weights, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s workout book, which shows how do a wide variety of exercises at home or in the gym. I already have a set of resistance bands and am looking forward to getting my workouts in for free after these start-up expenses!

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