100 Free (or Cheap) Ways to Exercise

I look at the gym like I look at diets: I hate them both. They’re good to do if you need it (and I do), but I would much rather live an active lifestyle. Exercise doesn’t have to mean spending $50 a month at the gym or half of your day on the treadmill. For most of us that live a busy, sedentary life, any movement at ALL is better than sitting in our cube, car, or bed (which probably takes up most of our lives). The important thing to remember is just to keep moving, no matter what that looks like.

Here are some ways to get off the couch or chair without breaking the bank.

1.     TV exercise shows

You know you like it.



2.       Couch crunches

Don’t just sit there, look like a goofball.

3.       Floor exercises

Movies & TV is a great distraction while doing miserable crunches.

4.     Floor stretches

Stretching is good for you. See?

5.     Dance Dance Revolution

Or Wii Fit or In the Groove or Pump it Up or whatever floats your boat.

6.     Dance

Get down with ya’ bad self. It’s good for you. 

7.     Hand weights

Get online instructions if you don’t know where to start. And look for them at yard sales too.


8.     Fitness ball

Get instructions online, bounce around like a fool, or use it at your desk.



9.     Go outside and run

Like Phoebe, if you so choose.

10.   Community service

Here are some ideas. Help build a house or dig a ditch or something.

11.  Local farm or Crop Mob

“What the crap is a crop mob?”, you ask? This. There are lots of local farms & co-ops to get involved in too.

12.  Local park

I used to LOVE those work-out tour things at the park. Just go jump on stuff.

13. Part time job doing physical labor

Work in a cube like me? Consider getting a part time job doing something physical.

14.  Drop and give me 50

No, really. Anytime you get a burst of energy, drop and do 50 crunches or whatever you prefer.

15.  Walking lunges

Why walk to the kitchen like a normal person when you can look like an idiot? (and burn calories)

16.  High school pools

Believe it or not, some high schools allow the general public to swim in their pools.

17.  Corporate gyms

If you work at a place with a free gym, USE IT. If you’ve got a friend at a corporate gym, USE THEM. jk. sorta.

18.  Apartment complex pools. Shhh…

If you live at a complex with a free pool, use that sucker. And you didn’t hear this from me, but I’ve totally swam in apartment complex pools before (and I didn’t live there. Shhhh.)

19.  Friends pools

Buddy up with your friends who have pools!

20.  Get a dog

Dogs are a great excuse to get outside. Just don’t forget your mom jeans.

21.  Milk jug/water jug

Yep. There are even instructions.

22.   Clean your house really fast

Look skinny AND have a clean house!

23.  Wash your car really fast

Hey, I’m totally serious. You can really work up a sweat.

24.  Strech band

You can get a fancy one, or just get some stretchy fabric from Goodwill. Instructions? Oh, yes. 

25.  Free tennis courts

I can just about guarantee that you have free tennis courts within a few miles of you.

26.  Group jogging, or yogging

Might be a soft J. Apparently you just run for an extended period of time.  But with a group! See, it’s different.

27.  Hike!

28.  Video exercise libraries

There’s tons o’ good stuff in there.

29.  Youtube Workouts

There are probably millions of YouTube workout videos. Here’s one, for example.

30.  Babysit

Them kids will wear you OUT…AND ya get paid.

31.  Yardwork

Go make your lawn look awesome. Or, better yet, help out an old person around you.

32.  Buy a treadmill

Well that doesn’t sound cheap at all! It isn’t…but with all the YMCA payments I’ve made in the past 2 years (ya know, the one I never go to because I hate driving there), I could have bought a killer treadmill. Just sayin’….

33.  Chairs workouts

Everyone’s got a chair. 

34.  Lift heavy stuff

Ok, maybe not a car. But seriously. You don’t need a weight bench or dumbell set to “lift weights”.

35.  Jumprope

Who says you need to BUY a jump rope? Use any old rope. Or better yet, don’t use a rope at all, like this chic.

36.  Yard sale equipment

Most people give up on lifting weights. I bet ya’ you’ll find some good stuff in driveways on Saturday mornings.

37.  Netflix workout videos

What would we do without Netflix? There’s tons o’ workout videos there.

38.  Balance

No, really. If you’re a youngin’ like me, you might not see the benefits. But the older we get, the more challenging it gets (apparently). I balance on one leg or on hand weights all day in my cube.

39.  Door jam or tree branch pull-up

40.  Juggle

Maybe not chainsaws or cats, but it gets my heartbeat pumping when I get into it.

41.  Workout buddy

You don’t have to pay cash for a personal trainer. Find a workout buddy, or someone you could trade skills with. Trade training for babysitting, cooking, whatever.

42.  Drink free water

Unless you live in a craphole like Florida where the tap water is literally dangerous, don’t make a habit out of drinking bottled water. Seriously, stop being a weenie. Tap water is fine.

43.  Cartwheels & jump n’ jacks

You’re never too old.

44.  YMCA scholarship

If you really love gyms and really can’t afford it, ask about their scholarships. It’s cheap.

45.  Photo exploring

My personal favorite. Just take your camera and start walking.

46.  Urban Hiking

Another personal favorite. Put some water and snacks in your backpack and just walk around a downtown all day. I did that in Europe a lot.

47.  House stairs

Find excuses to go up and down the stairs, or just go up and down, and up and down.

48.  Bleachers

Most high schools are happy to let folks in to run up and down the steps.

49.  Join a sports team

Adult leagues are everywhere.

50.  Coach a team

You may not be into playing it, but coaching is an awesome way to give back and be active.

51.  Hotel gym

You didn’t hear this from me, but it may, or may not be possible to sneak in a hotel gym. OR if you’re traveling and actually staying AT the gym… yeah, that works too.

52.  Play games with friends

Community and fitness all rolled up into one. Love it.

53.  Take the stairs

At work or in public, say, at the mall, get in the habit of always taking the stairs. Eventually, it’ll be second nature and not a hassle.

54.  Go to the mall

You don’t have to be a total mall walker geek–just go there and walk briskly. No one will know you’re broke.

55.  Meetups

Meetup with people around the city for just about any kind of activity. Check out the site.

56.  Rollerblading

Maybe practice in your driveway first.

57.  Bike riding

A personal fond memory of mine. Take your kids bike-riding, parents!

58.  Trampoline!

Oh yeah, that is SO FUN.

59.  Ask to borrow P90x

I may not have the cash to buy P90X but I sure do have the guts to ask to borrow it.

60.  Negotiate gym rate

If you really do love the gym (I hate it), then negotiate the price- especially if you’re a student.

61.  University strolls

College campuses are usually beautiful. Try something new! Walk around campus for a while.

62.  Marathons/Couch to 5k

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to run a marathon. Couch to 5k just might be your style.

63.  Walk to grocery store

I had to do this all the time in Europe. Especially if you don’t need much, try taking a backpack and walking instead of driving.

64.  Rearrange your room

Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Get your feng shui on and move those couches!

65.  Climbing gym

Day passes are usually cheap, and it’s a ton of fun.

66.  Clean out garage/attic

I’d be willing to bet that 99% of you reading this have a cluttered garage or attic. Clean that puppy out.

67.  Yard sale

And after you’re done cleaning out the attic or garage, sell that junk you don’t need! I don’t care who ya’ are, I’ve been sore the day after my yard sales from all the moving.

68.  Standing desk

I’m a big standing desk fan. I stand all day at work, and although it’s hard some days, it’s awesome and you burn more calories standing. Article to come soon.

69.  Baby Yoga

Ok, I’m not talking about that crazy baby-swinging stuff. Just simple stretches & stuff, like this.

70.  Doga (Dog yoga)

Hey, whatever floats your boat. What the crap is doga?

Coga (Cat Yoga)

Just kidding. Couldn’t resist.

71.  Real yoga

I can do that.

72.  Climb a tree

You’re never too old. Well…ok, 70 is the cut off.

73.  Walk or stand on your tiptoes

No kidding. I do this at work. Here’s more. 

74.  Jump

No, really. It’s good for ya. And feels awesome. I jump several times a day in my cube.

75.  Cubicle stretches

Don’t just sit there… streeeeetch.

76.  Jump on the bed

You’re never too old. Look me in the eye and tell me you didn’t have a blast the last time you did it.

77.  Walk to a restaurant

I miss this about Europe…we had to walk just about everywhere we went. By the time we walked back from the restaurant, we didn’t have that “OMG I had a food baby” feeling.

78.  Transformational breathing

You may not lose weight doing this, per se, but trust me, it’s kind of amazing and SO GOOD for your body.

79.  Pedometer

Won’t lose the weight for you, but try having a contest with your friends. Who can get the most steps in a week?

80.  Gardening

Bend, squat, move, stretch–all while growing your own food. I like it.

81.  Fundraising walking

Burn calories and walk for a cause.

82.  RUN errands (fast)

Like Supermarket Sweep, try running your errands as fast as you can. (Don’t drive fast, though).

83.  Park at the back of the parking lot

You spend more time sitting in your car waiting for the slowpoke to back up. Just park in the back.

84.  Geo-caching

What the crap is Geo-caching? It’s like an outdoor treasure hunt. You AND your kids will love it.

85.  Get off at the wrong bus stop

Do it intentionally and force yourself to walk a bit more.

86.  Ice-skating

So fun.

87.  Dance class

If you can’t dance (ahem, white people), consider being awesome and taking a dance class.

88.  Batting range/golf range

Another personal favorite. It’s cheap too.

89.  Clench muscles

Yep. Like Nacho Libre, just do it. Oh, and it’s also apparently kinda good for ya.

90.  Gym trial memberships

If you’re interested in going to the gym but not sure if you’ll like it, try some trial memberships around town. Or… just do it for the fun of it. You didn’t hear that from me.

91.  Playing catch

Another personal favorite. If you have no one to play catch with, find a kid. 99% of them are just waiting for someone to ask them.

92.  Free clubs

I used to make fun of club-hoppers, but honestly, it’s kinda fun and you totally work up a sweat. Just don’t take drinks from strangers, ladies.

93.  Gold Panning

Don’t judge me, but I’ve done this recently. Nice for bending, squatting, and getting out there to enjoy nature (and maybe find a nugget). 

94.  Chop wood

Come on, be a man. Winter’s approaching and there are plenty of old people and single people like me just wishing someone would drop off a pile of wood for our fire pit. ::hint, hint::

95. Kayaking/Canoeing

Most parks with lakes have canoes or kayaks for rent. I used to own one. So fun.


96. School track

Most middle and high schools have tracks around the football field and welcome visitors to use it. An interesting change of scenery, for sure.

97. Crab walk around the house

Your kids will think you’re the coolest. Or, your roommates will finally understand why you’re still single.

98. Squats

While you’re sitting there at the microwave or stove or TV, just do a few squats.

99.  Massage

It’s good for ya. And you don’t have to spend a fortune either. Learn some self-massage techniques too.

100. Ankle weights

My boss used to wear ankle weights to the corporate office. Awesome. Wear them all day or just during your exercises and it makes a huge difference in calorie-burning

About Ande Truman

Ande has made mistakes in the kitchen since she could reach the countertop. From a restaurant head cook, to cooking meals for friends, to her own solo plate, experimenting & learning drives her. She's also a freelance graphic & web designer, photo/videographer, guitar player and wanderlust-er. In her spare time, she works a full-time 8 to 5 cubicle job. She's the creator of Broke & Healthy.

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  25. ive done the gym trials. There are 6 gyms in in immediate area that all have 7 day trials. And you can do a trial every 6 months… Just sayin..

  26. Ahh, you almost had me convinced with “juggle”. So close, so close!!! I used to be a big one for exercise, now, I’m just blah about it. Maybe some of these suggestions deserve another look (it’s only helping me, right?).

    • I think if most of us were honest with each other, we’d rather just sit on the couch and eat pizza and watch Netflix. Or is that just me? Regardless, I hate working out. But I also need to lose some weight, so I don’t really have a choice. I have personally found that forcing yourself through something, even if you hate it, can be good for you–because eventually you’ll start liking it. May take a lot of time. Just find a workout that is the least miserable and go from there 🙂

  27. those poodle muscles will haunt me in my dreams…