Exercise for Less

People are ditching their expensive gym memberships in droves. They're tightening their belts while enjoying a wealth of free and inexpensive fitness opportunities.

Check out these ideas for how to find cheap or free exercise opportunities in your community:

At Home

The cheapest gym in town is right in your own living room. No fancy equipment is needed. Pop in a DVD or download any of a thousand or more exercise programs on your computer. If you need weights—pull out a couple gallons of milk or cans of tomatoes. For cardio inspiration, turn on the radio and start dancing. Twirl a hula-hoop or jump rope. For strength training, do pull-ups in a doorway, pushups on the rug, or drop on all fours for a couple of downward dogs.

In Your Neighborhood

An excellent cardio workout is available right outside your door. Hop on your bike, take a jog, walk, or skate to the park or your local high school. Then, use the playground equipment or hit the bleachers for a cross training workout. Jump up on benches, down off the monkey bars, do pull-ups, squats, and lunges, then run back home.


Find workout buddies and free fitness events online with groups like Meetup.com and enjoy biking, walking, hiking, yoga, running, and other activities with like-minded people.

Fitness Stores

Many stores that sell fitness equipment, shoes, and clothes organize group events like neighborhood runs, half-day and all-day biking events, and other activities related to their products. Check out their bulletin boards for other opportunities and for people looking for workout buddies.

Parks and Recreation

These departments offer hundreds of opportunities to get in shape at very reasonable prices. Many have full-service gyms with weight and cardio machines, swimming pools, saunas, spas, showers, and a wide range of classes. Prices vary, but are generally kept low so most community members can participate. Many also offer free and reduced services to qualifying members.

Public Pools

Whether they're associated with your city's parks and recreation department, local high school, or community college, many pools are open to the public for classes, lessons, and lap swimming. Fees vary but are generally quite reasonable. Patrons who purchase season passes or pay for several swim sessions in advance may enjoy better prices and special deals.


Jazzercise, Zumba, and aerobics classes are frequently offered for free or for very reduced prices at churches that are eager to get their congregations in shape and attract new church members. Contact churches in your area and ask what classes they offer.

Community Centers

They often offer fitness classes and exercise opportunities custom designed for seniors, youth, or targeting the general public. Some even offer full gym services. Start with your city's web page and find out what's available at your community center.

Community Colleges

If they have a physical education department or a student fitness center, most community colleges also offer inexpensive exercise and dance classes for non-college students and community members. Log on to your local community college website and find out what extended education opportunities are available.