The Best Home Exercise Equipment | Spending
U.S. News takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.
Exercising regularly has always been great for your body but not so great for your wallet. If you’re paying for a gym membership or fitness classes, those costs can add up quickly. You can create a home gym, of course, but that requires cash, too. And throw in the pandemic, and everything really gets complicated.
But if you don’t mind spending some time hunting down exercise equipment, you can still find a lot of items fairly cheaply. So if you’re looking for inexpensive ways to exercise at home, here are affordable ideas to get you started.
Mecayla Froerer, a trainer with iFit.com, an interactive connected fitness platform that powers NordicTrack, ProForm and FreeMotion equipment, is a big fan resistance bands. “Also called mini bands, (resistance bands) are the cheapest and most versatile piece of equipment to have at home,” she says.
These elastic bands are ideal for strength training and can be used to create tension between your muscles. “Using these bands is an excellent way to get a total-body workout. Resistance bands are suitable for just about everyone,” Froerer says. “From my experience working with patients in an outpatient physical therapy setting to working with my clients who are looking to exercise for aesthetics, they are an excellent way to target specific muscle groups and reap the rewards.”
Best of all, they’re cost-effective, as well as light and portable. You can often purchase them for around $10 to $20, depending on the brand and set you select, and they’re available at major retailers such as Amazon, Kohl’s, Target and Walmart. [Shop Now]
“Most resistance bands come in sets of different thickness, so you’ll get the most band for your buck as well,” Froerer adds.
If you’d like to work out with dumbbells or barbells, you don’t have to spend a fortune. And you can probably get a barbell with weight plates for even less, says Amber Nash, founder of FitHealthyBest.com, a health and fitness website geared toward women. “Dumbbells and weights are made to last a lifetime, but people who purchase them generally do not use them that long,” Nash says.
If you’re on a budget, Nash suggests buying used dumbbells and weights. If you can’t find a friend willing to sell, there are stores like Play It Again Sports Fitness that specialize in used exercise equipment. EBay and Amazon are also good places to purchase discounted used sports equipment.
All of that said, Nash says that it’s not as cheap to buy used weights as it used to be. A year ago, you’d find them for maybe 50 cents a pound. Not any more. “I’ve seen upward of $1 or $2 per pound for used weight in my locality,” she says. This is due to the pandemic, which is creating more demand for home gym equipment.
“Unfortunately, when gyms are closed, this is the going rate and if you can snag used weights for $1 per pound, I would jump on it while you can,” Nash says. [Shop Now]
Kettlebells are often used for strength training and doing exercises like squats and lunges. Nash says that kettlebells are also excellent for buying secondhand, but if you want a new one, they’re still pretty cheap.
If you can find them. With the pandemic, everybody is looking for a good kettlebell.
“Things like dumbbells and kettlebells are hard to come by. I have members of my programs who can’t find any of these things, even used,” says Stephanie Lincoln, a certified personal trainer and the founder and CEO of Fire Team Whiskey, a website that offers a health and fitness program for military members, veterans and first responders. [Shop Now]
This is a simple wheel with handles. That doesn’t sound so bad, but you get on your knees and then lower yourself on this ab wheel, and, as you can imagine, you either roll forward and fall flat on your face, or you roll and are able to do an intense workout on your abdominal muscles, hips, back, thighs and many other muscles you didn’t know you had.
Walmart sells one for $6.22. Dick’s Sporting Goods has one for $19.99. And you can go higher, of course, but $15 to $30 seems to be the typical price range. [Shop Now]
A Jump Rope
A jump rope can offer an interesting and effective cardiovascular workout. As a bonus, they’re inexpensive, generally retailing for less than $20. For instance, Dick’s Sporting Goods is currently selling a Fitness Gear Jump Rope for $14.99 ($5 more, it should be noted, than the price at this time last year). [Shop Now]
A Yoga Mat
If you’re going to be exercising on the floor or completing at-home yoga flows, you may want to invest in a yoga mat. Target sells inexpensive yoga mats from a variety of brands starting at $15.99. [Shop Now]
This is a cylinder made of, well, take a wild guess (and keep your dog away from it because it could make an excellent chew toy). Generally, you’ll sit down or lay down and put it under your legs, and you’ll roll around a bit on it. Fitness experts say that they can be great for stretching and alleviating muscle soreness.
TJ Maxx is currently selling a foam roller for $10. You’ll often see them for around $20 to $30. [Shop Now]
A Medicine Ball
These weighted balls, often the size of a soccer ball or basketball, are usually made of vinyl and filled with a gel. They tend to weigh between 2 pounds and 30 pounds and are used for a variety of reasons, from strengthening the core to increasing strength and balance. While some medicine balls are expensive, you can snag a discount at retailers like Walmart, which is currently selling them starting at 8-pound balls for $25.97. [Shop Now]
An Exercise Ball
Wait, isn’t an exercise ball a medicine ball? Or maybe a medicine ball is an exercise ball?
No, they’re different, although people often use the terms interchangeably. There are many types of exercise balls. Slam balls are filled with sand; you can lift one over your head and slam it to the ground. Do that enough, and you’ll work up a sweat. Wall balls, you throw at a wall; those tend to be heavy, almost like a soft soccer ball.
Medicine balls tend to be small and heavy, while an exercise ball is often light and large – some of them large enough that you can sit on them if you can keep your balance (and keeping your balance is a good way to improve pelvic muscles and other core muscles).
Walmart.com currently is selling an exercise body ball for $9.73. It also sells a wall ball for $34.96 that it says can double as an exercise ball, slam ball, medicine ball and stability ball, which is really just a fancy name for an exercise ball. [Shop Now]
These discs can be used with your hands and feet, and they help you slide around the floor as you do exercises like lunges and plank jacks, and create resistance and tension. You can find fitness sliders just about anywhere, including Walmart (prices and brands vary, but they are currently available for about $9 and up).
“You can get these for as cheap as $5, and they make any workout much more challenging by requiring you to use your core to keep the sliders under your feet. These are great for those who have a base level of fitness by doing bodyweight but are not yet ready for strength training,” Lincoln says. [Shop Now]
A Used Treadmill or Stair Stepper
You can buy expensive gym equipment for a cheap price – sometimes under $200, if you’re willing to buy refurbished or used equipment.
Steve Adams, a public relations account executive with the Cyphers Agency, an advertising and public relations firm in Crofton, Maryland, who describes himself as a frugal fitness enthusiast, says that he prefers buying used exercise equipment on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
“Limit yourself to equipment that lists the exact make and model, or provides it when requested, so that you can research the product and read reviews,” Adams advises.
He also suggests buying equipment that has multiple photos or asking for them, so you can zoom in and look for rust or other wear and ask the seller why they are selling it and if the price is negotiable if you pay cash and do the moving yourself.
He also suggests making sure that an online parts dealer – he suggests National Gym Supply — has replacement parts available since it’s very likely you’ll need to replace something eventually.
“I’ve bought four nearly brand-new stair steppers, originally priced at roughly $1,200, for $150 from great people who either received them as gifts or simply never used them over the last 10 years,” Adams says. “I’ve only had to replace a few parts, after using the machines every day for years, so between buying secondhand equipment and not needing a gym membership – something that’s certainly a sunk cost right now – I figure I’ve saved well over $10,000 over the last decade or so.”