6 Tips for Getting Fit on a Budget

Want to get in shape? Don't worry—it doesn't have to cost you half your paycheck.

Whether you’re trying to get bigger biceps or you just want to be able to run a 5K and feel good afterwards, you’ve likely figured out that the quest to get fit can be expensive. From pricey spinning classes to athletic wear that costs as much as designer jeans, you might wonder if it’s even possible to find ways to get fit on a budget.

“The cost of getting fit can definitely be a factor to quitting or not starting if you don’t know what’s available to you,” says Jessica Collins, a personal trainer and health and fitness writer who blogs at Flashfit Trainer. “But you don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get fit. It’s possible to get in shape with just your own body weight.”

Despite what all of the ads are telling you, you don’t need deluxe yoga mats or pricey protein powders in order to get physically fit. Here are six effective tips for getting fit on a budget:

1. Get outdoors

Spent one too many nights or weekends on your couch binge-watching your favorite TV show? By exercising outside, you can get some fresh air and learn how to get fit on a budget at the same time.

Tips for getting fit on a budget include getting outside for fresh air and a good workout.

“One free way to get fit is to use the environment,” says Robert Herbst, world powerlifting champion and health and wellness expert who blogs at W8LIFTERUSA. “Walking and running outdoors are free and a good way to get into aerobic shape.”

Some of Herbst’s other tips for getting fit on a budget are to run up and down stairs, chop wood or, if you’re in for the extreme, hit an old tire with a sledge hammer—anything that gets your heart rate up and works your muscles.

2. Use the internet

Dreams of a six-pack? You don’t need to shell out for a fancy contraption you saw advertised on an infomercial, promising you a washboard stomach by yesterday. In fact, leveraging the internet is one of Collins’s favorite ways to get fit on a budget.

“YouTube and Pinterest provide some really valuable tools for getting in shape,” Collins says. “Just type in the type of workout you want and the time you have available to work out, such as ’30 minute barre workout,’ and you have your choice of hundreds of workouts.”

3. Visit your library

If you can’t find the fitness resources you want online without forking over some cash—maybe you have to pay to download your preferred exercise programs, for example—consider looking on the shelves at your public library. A great trick for how to get fit on a budget is to check out videos and books from your trusty local library at no cost.

“They usually have workout videos you can take out on loan,” Collins says. “You can also check out a handful of health cookbooks to gather nutritious recipes. If you’re interested in learning more about anatomy or a particular method of exercise, such as Pilates, you can check out books about that too.”

4. Create a home gym

You might not think that creating a home gym belongs on a list of tips for getting fit on a budget, and you may be right if the home gym is equipped with expensive dumbbells and a brand new treadmill. But there is a way to get fit on a budget and get top-of-the-line workouts without all of that pricey equipment.

“One can put together a good fitness program with some inexpensive resistance bands and a jump rope, especially when combined with body weight exercises,” Herbst says. “You can also fill bottles of different sizes with water and use them like dumbbells or kettlebells.”

If you’ve always wanted a home gym but are also determined to figure out how to get fit on a budget, Collins recommends buying used items. Online marketplaces like Craigslist, sporting goods stores that carry resale items and garage sales can be good places to find workout equipment, often at a fraction of retail prices.

“My treadmill was $100 at a rummage sale and still runs amazingly over 12 years later,” Collins says, adding that weights, weight benches and larger equipment are often available on Craigslist and in the resale aisles of sporting goods stores.

“The cost of getting fit can definitely be a factor to quitting or not starting if you don’t know what’s available to you. But you don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get fit. It’s possible to get in shape with just your own body weight.”

Jessica Collins, personal trainer and health and fitness writer at Flashfit Trainer

5. Save on your gym membership

If you still want to attend classes or join a gym on your quest to learn how to get fit on a budget, there are ways to ensure that the costs of doing so don’t interfere with your financial goals.

“Lower cost options like Planet Fitness have all the necessary equipment, so don’t feel like you need to join a more extravagant fitness club,” Collins says. She also recommends looking for deals offered in January or before the summer, a popular time for gym applications.

Securing coupons or deals online before signing your gym application on the dotted line is another way to get fit on a budget. Deal websites like Groupon may be worth checking out, as are programs like ClassPass, which allows you to attend classes at a variety of fitness studios in a given city. You could also comb local entertainment coupon books—often sold as fundraisers by charities—for cheap offers like two-for-one gym deals for you and your fitness partner or no-cost months when you buy a membership by a certain date. These types of special offers can sometimes be negotiated with a gym directly.

Wondering how to get fit on a budget? Find lower cost gyms and ask about discounts on membership.

Herbst has found his own creative ways to get fit on a budget and still use a gym.

“Many gyms offer discounts if you pay for a certain length of membership in advance or if you refer a friend who joins,” he says. “They may also offer special rates if you are willing to work out at off-peak hours.”

If you want to take your gym membership to the next level and get coached by a personal trainer, Herbst says a simple way to save money is to sign up for group training instead of one-on-one sessions.

6. Look great for less

It’s true that exercising requires the proper gear. Whether your focus is going to be on running, yoga or biking, it’s important to wear clothing suited to your task—think stretchy materials or protective gear like helmets. While athletic wear can be costly, it doesn’t have to be.

“I head straight to the clearance shelf at stores like JCPenney for shoes,” Collins says. “You can also find really great workout clothes for cheap at T.J. Maxx and consignment shops.”

Herbst agrees that you don’t have to spend a lot for workout clothes and, as one of his tips for getting fit on a budget, suggests that you steer clear of brand names to save.

“Workout clothing need not be expensive,” he says. “For the gym, I wear a simple t-shirt and shorts.”

If you're looking for ways to get fit on a budget, don't overspend on workout wear.

Don’t give up

Despite the fact that fitness can sometimes be expensive and trying to figure out how to get fit on a budget may seem tricky, it doesn’t have to be—and it shouldn’t keep you from getting in shape.

“Being in shape is priceless, but it does not have to be expensive,” Herbst says. “With some ingenuity, creativity and drive you can get there on a budget and then maybe even have some money left over to enjoy being in shape on vacation.”

Collins agrees that you shouldn’t let your finances hold you back.

“If you want to get fit, don’t let anything stop you, especially not money,” she says. “You don’t need anything other than your own body to get in shape. Everything else is just nice to have. You just need to be resourceful to get fit on a budget.”