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How to build a home gym on a budget

If you're trying to get back into a workout routine, consider purchasing equipment for your home


If you’re still uncomfortable going to the gym, setting up a home gym can be a great way to work out without worrying about catching coronavirus. This option doesn’t need to be expensive. Here’s what you need to know

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The Bank of America content was last updated on May 3, 2021.

Between gym closings and spending more time at home, the COVID-19 pandemic has made sticking to a workout routine a challenge for many people.

According to a study recently published in JAMA Network Open, the average person gained an average 1.5 pounds during the first months of the pandemic. Aside from the physical impacts, 41% of adults reported increased anxiety as a result of the pandemic, according to a January 2021 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Incorporating exercise in daily routines can help combat some of the negative side effects associated with missing out on regular gym time. Building a home gym is one way you can reap the physical and mental benefits of regular workouts.

Measuring the pandemic’s impact on the gym industry

When many states started imposing stay-at-home orders, gyms became a major target for closures to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus. While many gyms have reopened as case counts have stabilized or declined, the industry as a whole has undergone some adaptations in the last year.

Gym membership numbers are down

One of the most obvious impacts of the pandemic has been a drop in gym memberships. According to a study published in November 2020 by ClubIntel, 54% of 2,000 surveyed gym members said they’d frozen or canceled their memberships since the beginning of the pandemic.

Around 34% of members say they did return eventually, though not always to their home gym. And 20% of those polled stopped working out altogether as a result of pandemic-related gym closures.

But this doesn’t mean gyms are likely to disappear altogether.

“I think people are still going to go to the gym post-pandemic, and we are seeing a rise in exercise classes as they offer a different experience than typical gyms,” said Don Sprouse, fitness advocate and founder of FitArchon.com. “However, more and more people are looking for a choice – a choice to stay home when they don’t feel safe, or workout without a mask, or feel more comfortable at their home gym.”

Social distancing and sanitation are the new norms

As gyms reopen, members often find themselves subject to new rules surrounding social distancing or sanitation. Some of the measures states have imposed include:

  • Face mask requirements
  • Social distancing of 6 feet or more between members and employees
  • Regular disinfecting of gym equipment and other surfaces
  • Limits on capacity
  • Hand sanitizer stations
  • Temperature checks for employees

While those restrictions help make gyms safer for members and staff, they may not be enough to convince people to return. The ClubIntel cited earlier found that even as the majority of gyms began reopening, 60% chose to stay away. The most cited reason for avoiding the gym was concerns over the continued spread of the coronavirus.

Virtual trainers, at-home workouts gain ground

The pandemic delivered a financial blow to many gym owners. One way some have tried to rebound is by offering virtual workouts to members. In the ClubIntel study, 58% of members polled said their gym offered virtual workouts and 44% used them at least once a week.

“Because the pandemic dramatically changed our routines, many people were forced to make the switch to at-home workouts and have realized the many benefits,” said Daniel Sullivan, certified personal trainer and founder of The Diesel Physique.

Those benefits include not having to worry about meeting social distancing or mask requirements in order to burn calories. Working out at home can also be more convenient than making time to drive to the gym.

Building an affordable home gym

If you’re ready to begin building a gym at home, it’s important to know what you spend to do it. It may be less than you think.

“Financially, it’s a lot less expensive to work out at home,” said Sprouse. “Most people don’t need much equipment to create an exercise routine and the bigger pieces like a treadmill or bike are optional as you can do both outside.”

Creating an affordable gym setup at home takes some planning, especially if you’re working with a limited budget. These tips can help you get started.

Weed out wants vs. needs

When creating a gym at home, it’s tempting to want to replicate exactly what you might have had access to at your regular gym. But that can easily come with a high price tag. Instead, start by figuring out what’s essential.

Sullivan said your choices may depend on what you want to achieve and what kind of workouts you’d like to pursue. For example, if losing weight is the goal you might focus on cardio equipment. But if you want to build strength, you might be more interested in buying weights or resistance bands.

New or used equipment: Which is better?

The next thing to consider when creating an at-home gym is whether to buy new or used equipment. Used equipment can be cheaper – but there are some trade-offs.

Sprouse said he prefers to buy equipment new as often as possible so there are no questions about what level of care it’s received. If you’re nervous about equipment having chips, cracks or odd smells from past use, then you may want to splurge on new pieces.

But don’t overlook gently or rarely used items that may be in brand-new condition without the brand-new price. Facebook Marketplace, local bargain groups or Craigslist could all be great places to pick up new-to-you equipment that’s still in good shape.

How to finance a home gym

Once you’ve decided what you want to include in your home gym, the next step is paying for it. Cash might be an option if you stashed your economic impact payments or tax refund in savings. But if not, a credit card can be a convenient way to buy the things you need to get your fitness routine started.

Sullivan said this could be a good option if you think your workout routine or equipment needs may change over time. “No need to be 100% out of pocket on certain pieces of equipment or weights when you can pay a little at a time and decide if it’s right for you or not,” he said.

The key to using a credit card to fund your home gym is choosing the right one.

Gabrielle Flowers Rader, a certified nutrition coach and founder of Gabe Fix Fitness, recently built a gym at home and used the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card to cover equipment purchases. This card offers 3% cash back in one category of your choice, including online shopping. Rader opted to make that her cash back category and bought her at-home gym must-haves online.

If you have a Chase Sapphire credit card, you could get a deal on Peloton membership if you’re interested in getting an exercise bike. Right now, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can get up to $120 in statement credits on Peloton Digital and All-Access Memberships through December 31, 2021. Cardholders with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can get up to $60 in statement credits.

Apple Card is also offering a deal for members who want to add wearables to their at-home workout routine. You can earn 3% daily cash back when you buy an Apple Watch with your card, then pay it off in installments.

When shopping around for the best cards to fund a home gym, be on the lookout for promotions like these but don’t forget about the big picture. Check the card’s regular purchase APR, annual fee and rewards to make sure it’s a good fit for your spending habits overall.

If you know it may take time to pay off equipment purchases, consider a card that has a 0% introductory APR for purchases. For example, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card currently offers a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months – followed by a regular variable APR of 13.74%-23.74%. You won’t earn rewards with that card, however, so you might want to check out something like the Citi® Double Cash Card instead.

The Citi Double Cash Card does not offer an introductory APR on purchases, however, it has a rewards component. Specifically, you earn 1% cash back on purchases as you make them and 1% cash back as you pay them off.

Bottom line

Funding a home gym can be within reach if you know what you need and what fits into your budget. Credit cards can come in handy for funding gym equipment purchases and potentially earning some rewards in the process. Just be sure to map out a plan for paying them off so you’re not getting bogged down by interest charges.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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