You are here:

Make a home gym work for you

With the right props and advice, you can turn your living space into an efficient workout area.

Exercising at home may be more convenient and affordable than a gym membership, but you still need to muster up the movtivation to work out.
Image: littlebloke/iStock

Every year, thousands of people buy fitness club memberships, hoping that the bright lights, glitzy machines, and peppy instructors will propel them out of their exercise ennui. But sizable portions of new patrons fail to show up at the gym after a month or so, having slimmed their pocketbooks but not their waistlines.

Because aerobic exercise is crucial to heart health, it’s important to find another way to get motivated to move on a regular basis. For some people, setting up a home gym may be a more convenient and affordable option.

Plan your program

“An effective exercise routine has to be enjoyable as well as meet your basic fitness requirements,” says Dr. Elizabeth Frates, director of wellness programming at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. For optimal health, you need at least 150 minutes weekly of aerobic activity vigorous enough to speed up your heartbeat and bring out a light sweat. In addition, you should follow a strength-training program that works all your major muscle groups at least twice a week on nonconsecutive days. Finally, adding stretching and balance movements can help you stay flexible and prevent falls.

Pick your props

While there is nothing like a brisk walk in the outdoors for boosting your heart rate, the weather does not always cooperate. You can replicate the experience in your house by working your legs with a portable pedaling machine that fits neatly under a table or desk. Skipping rope, jumping on a mini trampoline, and swirling your hips with an old-fashioned hula hoop are other fun ways to break a sweat. Bouncing on a stability ball as you work at the computer or watch TV can reduce your sedentary time and boost your heart rate.

If you have more space in your house and room in your budget, you might consider a dedicated aerobics machine such as a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical stepper. Since these items are notorious for turning into idle dust catchers, Dr. Frates advises that you make sure you truly like an activity such as running or biking before investing in a large piece of equipment.

Start simple

The same wisdom applies when it comes to strength training. Start with simple, inexpensive items such as a couple of sets of small barbells in different weights. Strap on weight-filled ankle cuffs while doing leg lifts or step-ups to build lower body strength. “The trick to effective strength training using weights is to master the proper form,” says Dr. Frates. Therefore, she strongly suggests adding a how-to video to your workout kit. You can find many good options online from sources such as these:

  • •The American Council on Exercise (; click on “Exercise Library”)

  • •The Go4Life program at the National Institute on Aging ( ; click on “Get Free Stuff”)

Another handy item for resistance training is an elastic exercise band that harnesses your own body weight to build muscle strength. These bands often come in sets of four or five that range from very stretchy to heavy-duty resistance. For floor maneuvers, like push-ups or stretches, a foam pad or yoga mat will go a long way to increase your comfort level.

If you’re an experienced weight trainer with the money and the floor space to spare, a so-called home gym unit may be your choice. These compact machines offer a wide variety of upper- and lower-body strengthening exercises using a system of cables and stacked weights. If you go this route, it may be worthwhile to hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to help you design your workout and to learn the proper form and technique with each part of the machine.

Play your part

“Before launching into setting up your home gym, you first have to set up your mind,” says Dr. Frates. Knowing your personal goals—whether it is lowering your cholesterol, playing with your grandchildren, or improving your golf game—is the first step toward making your program successful. Ultimately, it’s your commitment to changing your behavior—not just your spiffy new exercise set-up—that will keep you going. “Just because you buy the latest and greatest piece of exercise equipment doesn’t mean you will use it.”

Exercise equipment price guide

Before you invest in a piece of exercise equipment, visit a sporting goods store to check out the durability and feel of the item you want. Be sure to “test drive” different machines to make sure you’re comfortable performing the exercise. Bargain hunters may be able to find second-hand exercise machines at a reasonable price.



Price range

Aerobic activity

Fitness jump rope

$6 to $15

Hula hoop

$6 to $40

Portable pedaler

$25 to $35

Mini trampoline

$30 to $100

Recumbent or folding bike

$80 to $165

Elliptical or stepper (compact, nonmotorized units designed for home use)

$100 to $700

Upright stationary bicycle

$150 to $1,000

Treadmill, elliptical, or stepper (motorized, electronically enabled machines, like those found in fitness centers)

$2,000 to $10,000

Strength training

Yoga-style floor mat

$7 to $40

Ankle weight set

$10 to $20

Resistance bands

$10 to $20

Stability ball

$12 to $40

Hand weights

$7 to $40 for one pair;

$25 to $75 for set of three graduated weights

Home gym system

$200 to over $1,000

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top