Build a Full-Body Home Gym with These 5 Simple, Cheap Items

Don't want to schlep to the gym? A home workout center is within reach.

If you’re like me, you often don’t have it in you to get to the gym when you know you need to exercise. Sure, it’s just take a few minutes to drive or walk to the gym, but there’s also the planning (when will I have time to fit in the trip?), the packing (do I have street clothes, a workout outfit, a towel, a water bottle?), and the commitment (if I do all this to get to the gym, I should probably sweat a lot, right?).

I’m a big believer in the “anything is better than nothing” strategy, and so for those days when I don’t want to go to the gym, I keep a few items around the house that make up a bare-bones-but-pretty-effective home gym. Having these things means that I can always fit in a quick power-up even if I don’t want the hassle of a "real" work-out.

Here are the 5 simple, affordable pieces of workout equipment I recommend buying so that you can get a full-body workout in the convenience and comfort of your own home:

1. A Stationary Pedal Exerciser  

Many people prefer having a whole stationary bike, a treadmill, or an elliptical, but I find that the $30 pedal exerciser can be placed on a no-slip surface in front of a chair and you can get a good level of movement in for a very reasonable price. I love this when I know I need to move a little after work but I’m tired and don’t have any interest in working up a sweat. I can crochet or read or watch TV while still moving my legs!

2. A Pair of Variable Hand Weights 

When a friend was trying to offload a set of hand weights that allows you to adjust the same set from 3 pounds up to 15, I jumped at the offer! I’m not a great weightlifter, but having such a convenient pair of weights lets me squeeze in 5 minutes here or there, getting in a set or two while waiting for my husband to get ready. Every little bit helps me build muscle and keeps me from going stir-crazy!

3. An Exercise Ball  

There are a variety of core, lower body, and upper body exercises you can do with one of these balls, as well as some wonderful stretches. Plus if you use it to sit on, you’re bound to move around more and have better posture than if you’re using a standard chair!

4. A Yoga Mat 

Even if you don’t like yoga, you can do a lot of floor exercises and stretches on a yoga mat quite easily, and many workout videos, like Pilates, need a mat too. They are easy to clean, so it’s worth investing in one rather than just using a blanket or towel. It’s great for a post-workout stretch, too!

5. A Medicine Ball 

This round, bowling ball-shaped weight originally didn’t appeal to me, but it’s nice for balanced activities, like squats, or for adding some weight to things like sit-ups. Pick one that fits your level, and see how you can integrate it into your exercises to take things up a notch. I’ve found mine surprisingly useful, given that it was just part of the package when I got my hand weights from a friend.

Make it WayBetter

Do you ever think “if only I had… I would work out at home more!”? Try to find a gently-used version of the equipment you need, and see if it helps you fit more exercise in at home.