With gyms closed, 2020 is the year of working out at home. However, building a home gym isn’t easy. There are lots of considerations like budget, space, and your preferred activity type. Thankfully, fitness tech has come a long way in the past few years. You don’t have to shell out an absurd amount of money for a fancy pants piece of equipment—though you absolutely can if you want. And you’re not limited to treadmills and stationary bikes, either. With a little creativity, you can absolutely have an at-home fitness setup that fits your needs, goals, and budget.
So whether you’re a fitness nerd looking to build the ultimate at-home gym, a couch potato just starting out, or someone trying to find a cheap way to stay motivated until your gym reopens, Gizmodo’s got you covered.
Look man, you’re just trying to ride out the current economic climate and stay healthy without breaking the bank. A little motivation is all you want—you’re not looking to clutter up your home with a ton of equipment because once this is all over, you’re running back to your gym or fitness classes as fast as you possibly can.
Our Pick: Amazfit Bip S ($70)
Fitness trackers are hard to beat in terms of versatility, motivation, and affordability. For just $70, the Amazfit Bip S gets you continuous heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, 15-days of battery life, and built-in GPS. One thing we really like is how Amazfit measures your weekly activity via a PAI score. So instead of trying to hit an arbitrary number of steps, you’ll be given a goal that more directly corresponds to your actual activity level. You can also track multiple types of workouts, which lets you take advantage of free fitness resources like YouTube or outdoor running.
There’s a lot of ways to get creative when it comes to at-home workouts on a dime. If the Amazfit Bip S isn’t your cup of tea, we have a whole other Buyer’s Guide with recommendations for smartwatches and fitness trackers that might better suit your needs. If it’s motivation you’re after, Fitbit’s $100 Inspire 2 tracker gets you access to the Fitbit community, which includes some social media-esque features and challenges. Plus, you can sometimes find it on sale for $70—same as the Bip S.
But if you want to get super thrifty, consider taking advantage of free trials in fitness apps like Aaptiv, Peloton, and Alive by Whitney Simmons. Even if you end up subscribing, they’re often around $15 per month—which is either on par or cheaper than your average gym membership. There are even free versions like PopSugar’s app, which also lets you cast to your TV.
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA WORKING OUT. However, you’re not above tricking yourself into more activity via fun video games.
Our Pick: Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure ($80)
If you don’t mind the idea of working out with your Nintendo Switch, you’ll actually feel the burn with this game. The special Ring-Con is no joke when it comes to resistance, and you can also measure your heart rate with the infrared sensors on the Joy-Cons. You also have the option of playing story mode, surprisingly challenging minigames, or even just plain old workout sets. Nintendo’s also included a mode for apartment dwellers who are afraid of causing a ruckus for their downstairs neighbors. The whole thing is a bit corny, but the gameplay itself is actually pretty fun.
If you’ve got an Oculus Quest or Quest 2, you can get your sweat on in virtual reality. Supernatural is $20 a month and is sort of like Dance Dance Revolution meets Beat Saber meets Peloton. You will squat and squat and squat in beautiful, immersive surroundings and the next day feel inhuman pain in your quads. (Fitness video games can be good. I once knew someone who lost 40 pounds from obsessive DDR-ing.)
Like Genie in Aladdin, you have itty bitty living space. You have no idea where you’re going to stick a dumbbell rack, let alone a weight bench.
Our Pick: JaxJox KettlebellConnect 2.0 ($230)
This adjustable kettlebell is a great space-saving option. All you need is a place to put the dock, and about a yoga mat’s length of space. With a press of a button, you can adjust the weight from 12-42 pounds. The nice thing about kettlebells—smart or not—is that they’re a great way to get both strength and cardio exercise. The KettlebellConnect is just a good way to get several kettlebells in one form. When we reviewed the first iteration of the KettlebellConnect, our main gripe was the app. Well, JaxJox has since updated that app with a slicker redesign, and the KettlebellConnect 2.0 also supports real-time tracking so you don’t have to remember how many sets and reps you did.
BlazePods are kind of silly, but they’re a modular fitness gadget. Basically, they’re these small LED pods that you can use to set up a variety of training activities. A single pod starts at $80, so it’s kind of pricey and a full kit starts at $300. However, they are extremely adaptable to your space and can be taken outside to the backyard as well. This might be a fun option if you’ve got kids.
You don’t flinch at the idea of running a 5K several times per week, but you’re maybe not the fondest of running in rain, snow, or freezing temperatures.
Previously, we chose the Peloton Tread+ or Tread for this category. However, as of 05/05/2021, Peloton has recalled both products at the recommendation of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission due to serious safety concerns. While we hunt for our next pick for the best smart treadmill, you can peruse our Also Consider section for some alternative options.
Both Echelon and NordicTrack also offer smart treadmills for a more palatable price tag. The Echelon Stride is $1,340 and also offers on-demand classes for $40/month. Meanwhile, NordicTrack has several options ranging from $1,300 all the way up to $4,000. NordicTrack also offers on-demand streaming workouts for $40/month, though there are also yearly individual and family options for $180/year and $396/year, respectively.
If you’ve got a tablet, you can also hop on over to Amazon to find a non-smart treadmill, some of which are under $400. So long as you have a place to place your tablet, you could just get an app-only subscription—either Peloton, Aaptiv, or one of the many other options out there—and get your runs in for much less moolah.
If treadmills are not your bag, however, you can always invest in a Garmin or Polar smartwatch. Or, if you’re more into improving your running form, you can always invest in a pair of Under Armour’s HOVR smart sneakers. They range from $120-$160 and connect to the MapMyRun app to give you running insights, audio coaching, and tips on how to improve your cadence and stride.
You miss your spinning classes terribly but are a traffic hazard who should never be allowed to bike outside.
Our Pick: Peloton Bike ($1,895)
Are we surprised? Although plenty of alternatives have popped up, Peloton is still the best in the game. The original Peloton Bike has been permanently discounted to $1,895 with a $50 monthly subscription. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment, the touchscreen is excellent, and it’s hard to rival Peloton’s huge catalog of not only spinning classes (the interval workouts with arms are killer), but also bootcamp, stretching, and yoga. We’re in the middle of reviewing Peloton’s newly launched Bike+, which is a tad more expensive at $2,495 but adds four high-fidelity speakers, a rotating touchscreen, automatic resistance adjustment, and GymKit integration for the Apple Watch. However, even though it’s a bit fancier, the Bike+ doesn’t drastically change the overall Peloton experience, which means if you’re trying to stay on budget, the original Bike is the one to get.
Again, Echleon is out here making cheaper fitness dupes, with several bike options ranging from $1,000 to $2,000. Again you get on-demand classes here too. Also, if you absolutely love SoulCycle, it also has its own at-home bike available now for $2,500 with a $40 monthly subscription.
You do not, I repeat, do not have to spend thousands of dollars. As with treadmills, one hack is to find a much more affordable “dumb” stationary bike—you can find several options on Amazon for under $300—and use your iPad to stream workouts from any fitness app you like, including Peloton’s.
You want to sweat from a great workout, but you absolutely hate running or cycling.
Our Pick: Fight Camp ($1,220)
Boxing is a full-body workout that manages to squish cardio and strength into one. If you’ve got room in your home, basement, or garage for a punching bag, this is a relatively “affordable” at-home fitness option. You get tutorials if you’re a beginner, and there are Bluetooth trackers that fit inside your wraps and gloves to automatically count your punches. The only drawback is it’s iOS only.
If you’ve got extra wall space and not much else, the Mirror is a decent option. So long as you’ve got a good wifi connection, you get on-demand workouts for a variety of activities like yoga, boxing, and bootcamp. It’s significantly pricier at $1,495 and a $40/month subscription, but it’s also cheaper than similar at-home, on-demand fitness hardware like the Peloton Bike. There’s also a slightly cheaper dupe, the Echelon Reflect 40". It costs $1,040, not including a $40/month subscription.
Hydrow is also a good option if you want low-impact cardio. The machine itself retails for $2,245 and is relatively easy to set up, though it takes about as much space as a treadmill. Membership costs $456 per year ($38/month) and includes on-demand rowing workouts as well as yoga, pilates, and strength training.
05/05/2021: Because Peloton has recalled both the Tread and Tread+, we have removed it from the “Best Smart Treadmills for Runners” category.