6 Home Workout Essentials That Won’t Bust Your Budget

One reason many people skip out on joining the gym has to do with cost. A membership can be a monthly drain on your finances, but thanks to online and at-home workout videos, there are plenty of options for turning your house into your own workout studio. To get the most out of your home workouts while staying on budget, here are six wallet-friendly pieces of equipment to purchase.

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1. All Purpose: Yoga Mat

First things first, you’ll want a yoga mat, even if you don’t plan on practicing yoga or Pilates. When practicing yoga, the mat offers extra grip. Mats “tend to be made of slightly sticky synthetic materials, and help toes, fingers and hands grip better, which can help prevent slipping and lower risk of injury,” Ainslie Faust, executive director of U.S.A. Yoga, told Healthy Living. The same benefits can be applied to exercise in general. It will help neutralize whatever surface you are standing on at home — tile, carpet, hardwood — giving you balance and cushioning while making your workout safer.

Yoga mats can be costly, so shop around. Sporting goods stores like Dick’s have a variety of options — you can pick your yoga mat based on material and thickness. Entry-level prices start around $10 to $15, and if you are looking to score a deal on a higher-end mat, try a store like TJ Maxx or Overstock.com.

2. For Cardio: Jump Rope

The University of Rochester Medical Center explains the benefits of jumping rope and what to look for when purchasing one. Putting a little skip in your workout routine is a serious calorie burner, with a 150-pound person blasting as many as 750 calories in a hour. It also helps to improve balance and creates stronger bones.

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To pick the proper rope, make sure it is height appropriate. To do this, place one foot in the center and see how high up on your body the handles come — you want them to be at chest height. Don’t pick a rope with heavy handles, and be sure it is one you can hold easily.

At $4 on Amazon.com, few pieces of workout equipment are more affordable than a jump rope. Of course, if ordering online, you’ll need to know the length you need. To start skipping, try Real Simple‘s 15-minute routine.

3. For Cardio: Adjustable Workout Steps

Another way to get your heart pumping is with step aerobics. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) acknowledges the very 1980s origin of this workout but also points out that it is easily customizable to your workout level, and it has been shown to help with weight management and lung capacity.

If you’re just starting out, ACE says to set the steps to a 4-inch height. As you progress, this can increase to as high as 10 inches. Practice good posture while doing step aerobics and change your leading foot at least once every minute. When stepping up, you want the entire sole of your foot to make contact with the platform. When stepping down, keep your weight in the front of your feet, but be sure your heel makes contact with the ground, too.

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Although some options exist in the $20 to $30 range, workout steps tend to cost a little bit more than other pieces of equipment considered here. Many are close to $50 and can easily cost more than that. Shop around to try and find the best step for your budget and routine. To get started with step aerobics, here is a 12 minute workout from Fitness Blender.

4. Strength Training: Resistance Bands

The American College of Sports Medicine points out that resistance bands will benefit everyone, regardless of their level of fitness. This is because the bands can be stretched in a number of different directions, creating many moves as a person works out. Bands also come with different tension levels, so you can purchase them based on what your degree of strength is.

While you’re stretching the bands and completing moves during your workout, you’ll also be practicing stability and improving your coordination. It is important to start off with the basics, building your way up to more complex curls and routines later. A basic tube with long handles is suggested for beginners, and any level should make sure the bands are not showing signs of wear and tear.

On Amazon.com, there are multiple sets of resistance bands on sale, as well as single-band options. You can spend as little as $8 for a band, and many sets cost less than $50. Fitness Magazine has an entire page devoted to links to (and about) workouts using resistance bands that you can use if you need a place to start your exercise.

5. Strength Training: Stability Ball

With a stability ball, you’re not only toning your abdominals but enhancing your posture and flexibility, according to ACE. Many people have more strength in their abdominal muscles than in their lower back, but the stability ball builds both for an overall stronger core. The core is the building block for other activities — like running — and working out with a stability ball prepares the body for any other physical activity you engage in.

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With a firmer stability ball comes more difficult exercises, and a less firm one will yield an easier workout. Your height should also be a consideration when purchasing. For example, a person who is between 5-foot-1 and 5-foot-7 should buy a 55-centimeter/22-inch stability ball.

At Dick’s Sporting Goods stores, top-rated stability balls can be easily found in low- to mid-price ranges, such as between $10 and $30. WebMD has listed even more benefits of using a stability ball, including 10 moves to get your core in shape.

6. Strength Training: Free Weights

When it comes to lifting weights, the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center calls free weights – such as dumbbells — a more challenging way to work out than resistance machines. A free weight requires more coordination, and the moves are harder because there is no machine guidance. When using free weights, you’re increasing your heart rate by working out large muscle groups, and you can improve everyday activities through the functional moves. This is in contrast to machines, which will only work one muscle group at a time.

The center does say that if you are lifting heavy weights, having a spotter on hand is a good idea. It is also important to have knowledge of how to use free weights before you start to prevent injury.

At Walmart, dumbbells start for as little as $1 for ultra-light weights. Much pricier options exist too, but there are literally hundreds of options between $10 and $50. In addition to colorful choices, you can select from dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, and entire sets, all depending on how you work out. Heart Healthy Living‘s free weight moves are the perfect introduction for dumbbells, and Active has eight moves for anyone using kettlebells.

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