8 Exercise Routines That Don't Involve a Gym

  • senior woman working out at home
    Skip the Gym and Get Fit at Home
    You want to exercise, you really do, but it's tough to fit a trip to the gym into your jam-packed daily schedule. Not to mention gym memberships can be expensive. Or it may be intimidating to think about working out next to pumped-up hard bodies if you’re just looking to stay fit. Whatever your reason, avoiding the gym doesn’t have to mean giving up exercise. Try these tips to reach your 30 minutes of daily activity outside of a fitness center.

  • Home exercise
    1. Video Workouts
    Want to avoid spending money on fitness DVDs? Many local libraries have collections of workout videos you can check out for free. You can also buy used copies through online classifieds or garage sales. Streaming sites like YouTube or your cable’s on-demand service can also be budget-friendly sources of video workouts. Government agencies like the American Council on Exercise and the Centers for Disease Control also offer free online exercise videos. Seniors can get a free exercise DVD tailored to older participants from the National Institutes of Health.

  • Exercise game
    2. Exercise Videogames
    Videogame platforms like the popular Wii Fit for Nintendo use technology to track your body’s movements, so you can play games like tennis or golf virtually, as well as ride bikes, box, and dance. One study showed that participants burned more calories playing Wii’s boxing module for 30 minutes than through brisk walking. Exer-games can be a fun way to stay fit at home, though you will need to use them regularly and with intensity. Along with the Nintendo Wii, you can find exer-games for PlayStation and Xbox, too.

  • Man exercising
    3. Home Gyms
    These days, it’s possible to build your own home gym on any size budget. You can buy firsthand from sporting goods and fitness stores or score used equipment from garage sales, resale shops, or online resources like Craigslist. Friends or relatives also may want to find a new home for the treadmill that’s taking up dust in their basement, so let them know you’re looking. Many discount stores carry small exercise items, such as fitness balls, jump ropes, and resistance bands, making it convenient to complete your home gym on your weekly shopping runs.

  • Woman exercising at home
    4. DIY Equipment at Home
    You don't even necessarily have to buy equipment to exercise at home. Do you have stairs? Voila! You have a StairMaster. Want to do step training? You can swap out a pricey exercise step for a stepstool or sturdy chair. Large cans of food or 12 packs of soda make effective hand weights. Finally, use your own body as a weight, doing planks, push-ups, lunges, jumping jacks, and balancing poses to increase strength and tone muscle.


  • Mall walker
    5. Mall Walking
    Walking is the easiest, least expensive activity to fit into your day. If you want to get out of the house but don’t have anywhere outside that you’d like to walk, or if the weather is bad, consider becoming a mall walker. Some malls even open early to allow mall walkers to make their way through the halls, which is especially good if you want to avoid slower-moving crowds of shoppers. Keep in mind that for a workout, mall walking is more than just an excuse to window shop. Walk fast enough that singing would be difficult, but not so fast that you can’t talk.

  • closeup of mop
    6. Household Chores
    It can be hard to get to chores when you think of them as, well, chores. But as fitness boosters, they’re a sure thing. Vacuuming, scrubbing floors and walls, and many other household tasks can rev up your cardio system or challenge your muscles enough to help you get fit. Outdoor chores like gardening or sweeping the garage count, too. Just keep your mind open to possibilities as you go about your daily tasks and remember to do them energetically enough to break a sweat and get your heart pumping.

  • group-of-senior-women-friends-hiking
    7. Outdoor Clubs
    Community clubs and activity groups offer a fun and social alternative to the gym. The Sierra Club, for example, has lists of local hikes, bicycling trips, and other outdoor activities you can join. Search online social sites like Meetup.com for groups and people near you who are interested in outdoor activities like walking, hiking and other outside-the-gym fitness pursuits. For a more intense outdoor workout, try boot camp programs in local parks run by trainers who can provide a gym-level workout outside a traditional gym.


  • couple-exercising-on-mats
    8. At-Home Personal Trainers
    Certified personal trainers don't only work with clients at gyms. They also make home visits and can design personal workout routines for you in the environment you prefer. You can check with your local fitness club for referrals, or visit personal training professional associations like the American Council on Exercise to find qualified trainers in your area.

Home Workouts | Exercise at Home | Workout Routines Without a Gym

About The Author

Lorna Collier has been reporting on health topics—especially mental health and women’s health—as well as technology and education for more than 25 years. Her work has appeared in the AARP Bulletin, Chicago Tribune, U.S. News, CNN.com, the APA’s Monitor on Psychology, and many others. She’s a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Association of Health Care Journalists.
  1. Outdoor fitness routine. MedlinePlus, National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000891.htm
  2. Exercising on a budget. MedlinePlus, National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000762.htm
  3. Gym-free exercises. National Health Service. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Getfitwithoutgym.aspx
  4. How to Start a Walking Club. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Start-or-Join-a-Walking-Club_UCM_460019_Article.jsp#.WPJwQVPyurY
  5. As Good as The Real Thing? American Council on Exercise. https://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/WiiStudy.pdf
  6. Mall Walking: A Program Resource Guide. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/downloads/mallwalking-guide.pdf
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 May 8
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