How to exercise on a budget: 5 easy ways

Many of us are trying to cope with record-high inflation by cutting expenses, especially to anything we might think of as a “luxury”, like fitness memberships. Luckily you don’t need to belong to a gym or own fancy workout equipment to get all the amazing benefits of an active lifestyle.

5 simple ways to exercise on a budget:


1. Perform bodyweight exercises

If you’re looking to get stronger without the expense and hassle of buying and using free weights or machines, try bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, glute bridges and sit-ups. You can perform these equipment-free exercises almost anywhere and anytime, so they’re ideal if you have a busy schedule or limited space. Bodyweight exercises are also versatile because they target different muscle groups, and you can even modify each exercise depending on your fitness level, goals and abilities.

2. Follow along with free online exercise videos

Tons of free workout videos are available on fitness websites, apps and social media pages – all you need is a computer, tablet or smartphone. You can watch them whenever and wherever you want, pause them anytime to rest, rewind them so you can re-watch and retry movements, or stop and switch to a different video if a workout isn’t working out for you.

A woman doing a yoga pose in front of a laptop in a living room. Following along with online exercise videos is a great way to get active on a budget.

You can access a variety of free exercise videos on ParticipACTION’s exercise videos page, YouTube channel  and social media channels. Our videos offer a variety of inclusive workouts, from cardio to strength training to yoga, and show you proper form and technique to help prevent injury.

3. Exercise on a budget in the great outdoors

Getting active outside is usually free or inexpensive and provides you with fresh air, beautiful and stress-reducing natural surroundings as well as vitamin D-boosting sunlight. Walking, wheeling and running are probably the simplest and most accessible outdoor activities because they’re equipment-free (all you need are comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate clothing) and you can do them almost anywhere, whether it’s around your neighbourhood, at parks or on local trails and paths.

A woman walking beside an older man using a walker on a sidewalk.

In the great outdoors, you can also cycle, rollerblade or scoot on designated trails or paths; play sports like basketball, pickleball, volleyball or soccer at your community court, beach or field; swim at your local community pool or beach (if available) or perform bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and push-ups using park benches or equipment.

4. Exercise in a DIY home gym or workout space

Want to get active but don’t feel like leaving your home? Why not create your own home gym or workout space?

Getting active at home allows you to try many exercise formats and styles without feeling uncomfortable, judged or intimidated by others. It’s also convenient and time saving because you don’t have to travel anywhere. Plus, it can be easier on your budget because you don’t have to pay for gym membership fees, gas or public transit fares.

A smiling woman working out with resistance bands.

Setting up a home gym or workout space doesn’t have to be costly. Instead of free weights, use cans of food, or jugs or detergent bottles filled with water. You may even have old exercise equipment in your closet, garage, basement or storage locker, or your friends, family members or colleagues may have some they’re giving away — just make sure they’re still safe to use!

If you would prefer to buy exercise equipment, look for inexpensive or previously owned items such as resistance bands, yoga mats, kettlebells, dumbbells, jump ropes and exercise balls at online marketplaces, yard sales, discount stores and second-hand stores. To save money, time and space, buy multi-purpose exercise equipment such as an exercise ball or step that you can use to work multiple parts of your body.

5. Participate in community fitness classes

Many communities provide free or low-cost fitness classes at community centres and parks. They’re not just a great way to exercise on a budget, but they’re also an excellent way to meet and socialize with people who have similar interests. See if your local community centre has a fitness centre or classes you can register for, or check out your local YMCA for affordable fitness classes and facilities – they even provide financial assistance if you need it.

A group of people working out with dumbbells in a park.

As you can see, getting active doesn’t need to be expensive. Whether it’s performing bodyweight exercises, following along with free online workout videos, doing outdoor activities, exercising at your own home gym or workout space, or participating in community fitness classes, there are many ways to exercise on a budget. Remember that the key to keeping active is to be consistent and find activities you like and can stick to long term.