LA Good Questions: Working Out at Home on a Budget?

LA Good Questions: Working Out at Home on a Budget?

Gregory Han
Jul 14, 2008

Dear AT,
I live in a studio apartment with the bare necessities and get by on a tight budget. I've recently decided to try to get into better shape after losing some weight after putting myself on a dine-in/cook at home only restriction (it's amazing what a difference eating at home makes). But my problem is I can't afford a gym membership, nor do I have the room or money for lots of exercise equipment in my apartment. Do you have any exercise tips for someone who lives in a small space? Sincerely, Small Space with High Hopes.

Dear High Hopes,

First off, congrats on the lifestyle change. Small is cool, including our own waistlines, and we certainly believe a happy home starts with our own bodies. Working out on a budget at home is a lot easier than people assume. We personally supplement our own gym workouts with budget solutions like walking/running, calisthenics and gardening...there are many ways to burn calories around the house. None of these cost a cent except for the cost of some good athletic shoes (splurge on these). But what about working out at home on a dime? Here's some ideas from our own personal workouts:

Here's what we call the soup can diet and workout. Partner up an extremely affordable chin-up bar with a backpack full of soup or vegetable cans and you've got one of the best exercises out there. Can pull yourself up? No worries. Start without the backpack, place a stool/chair underneath and start your workout doing negative reps (meaning you let yourself down slowly instead of pull yourself up). You'll be on your way to a stronger back, shoulders and arms. Best of all, once you're done, you can always have a can of soup (or baked beans, in our case) after for a healthy lunch.

When traveling, including our last time visiting the AT offices in NYC, we didn't have the time or access to a gym. So we resorted to filling up the backpack shown before, and would do bicep curls with it. You can also use a myriad of household items, like these kitty litter bins, that work great for arm raises and curls. Fill them up with water, feel the burn...but don't drink out of them until you clean them properly. Milk jugs are also a fine container to reuse for similar effect; here's a whole regimen of exercises using containers.

Tables and chairs are workout machines waiting to be taken advantage of. Use them for pushups, triceps dips, stepping up exercises, and for support while you use your homemade weights above.

Our better half is going to scold us for this last one, since she's a librarian, but if you've got an old, large book that you don't ever refer or read anymore, it can be reused for calve raises. Be sure to use one high enough for your heels to not touch the ground, and preferably not with a slippery-slick front cover (keep your fingers barely touching a wall or door).

Partner all these exercises with light to intense cardio everyday and you're sure to stay in shape without having to set foot inside a gym (though don't expect miracles). And don't forget, cleaning around the house, gardening, rearranging your furniture, helping a friend move...these are all workouts waiting to happen for free. Don't consider them chores...they're just part of your workout!

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