Fitness exercise is a popular reality in Seattle. The city consistently ranks as one of the healthiest places in the country, as reported by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) American Fitness Index. The report finds that we like fitness and exercise, evidenced by our overall health, walkable city, abundant parks, and locally grown food.
So, we’ve put some thought into some of the best free and cheap ways you can stay fit while living in the Puget Sound region, which quite frankly can take a big bite out of your budget. We include ideas for working out at home, incorporating more activity into your week, and saving money on fitness classes or at the gym.
Free fitness options
Most of these exercise methods require no equipment or training and can be done for free at home.
Calisthenics. An exercise method traditionally used by the military and other organizations to stay physically fit, many calisthenics are simple exercises that require no equipment. Which means, they can be done anywhere by anyone and—best of all—they work, whether you are already in shape or not and even if you have very little time for exercise. Popular calisthenics include push-ups, planks, sit-ups, crunches, squats, lunges, calf raises, leg raises, scissor kicks, burpees, shuttle runs, and jumping jacks. With just a few exercises you can get a full body workout in just minutes a day. For example, jumping jacks or jump rope (warm-up), push-ups or planks (upper, core), and squats or lunges (lower). Try up to 10 reps of each exercise, rest for one minute, then repeat the cycle 3 to 5 times. Most people can achieve good results in as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day.
Fitness apps: It’s easier to stay on track with fitness exercise if you simply commit to one routine a day. Smartphone apps make this easy and fun. Search for free exercise apps in the App Store on your iPhone or GooglePlay on your Android phone. One popular group of exercise apps are 30 Day Fitness Challenges–this is not one particular app, rather many different apps by many different providers. Each one will have a different focus, anything from general fitness to home workouts, or a particular exercise such as yoga, walking, or free weights. Other popular fitness apps include 7 Minute Workout (using a simple calisthenics routine) and Sworkit (workout plans designed for your fitness goals). Many free fitness apps also offer a paid version for more options such as customization and tracking.
Public library resources: One way to encourage a regular fitness practice is to change it up. The library offers dozens of free options. Search your library catalog for “exercise routine”, “cardio workout”, “dance workout” and related terms such as yoga, Pilates, or weight training. You’ll find books, ebooks, DVDs, and streaming videos that will provide you with a wide variety of interesting exercise routines. Just 30 minutes, five days a week can help you stay fit and healthy. Commit to one exercise routine five nights a week, just before you sit down for your favorite television sit-com or drama.
Desk exercises. The following simple chair exercises can be done by almost anyone, anywhere—during a meeting (but please stay focused), in a theater, or when seated in an airplane. If you can develop a habit of regular use, this is another small way to stay no matter where you are or what you are doing. Repeat each exercise up to 20 times and be sure to maintain good posture as you perform each one:
- Feet/toe raises: place feet flat on the floor, raise and lower heels, raise and lower toes; repeat.
- Feet circles: raise one foot off the floor, make clockwise circles, then counterclockwise circles, and repeat with the other foot.
- Lower body: squeeze knees and buttocks together for five seconds, relax.
- Core: suck in your gut, hold for five seconds, and then relax.
- Upper body: “hug” yourself for five seconds by placing your left hand on your right shoulder and right hand on your left shoulder, then relax your neck while you unwrap and shake out your wrists. Each time you repeat, alternate which arm is on top during the hug.
- Neck: drop your chin to your chest, then slowly and gently swing your chin from left to right and right to left.
Free senior gym membership: Obviously, this one isn’t for everyone. SilverSneakers is a fitness program for adults 65+ with a qualifying health plan. The program offers FREE access to thousands of participating gyms and fitness clubs nationwide. The program also includes free SilverSneakers FLEX fitness classes led by certified instructors at participating gyms, clubs, and community centers.
Add-a-walk. Find a way to add 20 minutes walking (or one mile) to your day. Here are some suggestions: If you currently get to work by driving or taking the bus, park or get off the bus 10 minutes away (about 1/2 mile or 10 blocks) and walk the rest of the way. Take stairs whenever possible, rather than ride escalators or elevators. At lunch time, choose an eatery 10 blocks away. Or simply take one or more short walk breaks throughout the day. Use an app to track distance, such as MapMyWalk or Accupedo.
Eat-your-vegetables. Eat more vegetables, but do it in a way that doesn’t eliminate much from your current routine. For example, eat the same foods you crave: salads, soups, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, fried rice, and pasta dishes. However, make choices that eliminate or at least reduce higher calorie ingredients, such as meat, cheese, avocado, nuts, and dried fruits, while loading up the dish with plenty of fresh vegetables.
Low cost fitness and exercise
Exercise groups and sports leagues: If your routine entertainment leans towards eating and drinking, then joining a group sport activity is a great way to increase your level of activity while also enjoying a social life. Join a running or walking group—find one (or start one) through an online community such as NextDoor.com or Meetup.com, or at a public recreation center, or perhaps at a store selling sports apparel and gear. Alternatively, sign-up for a sports league. During winter, play an indoor team sport such as basketball, bowling, or volleyball. In warmer months, switch to an outdoor sport such as soccer or softball. There are a lot of leagues in the Puget Sound region. To find one, start with your local city recreation center, or search online for adult sport leagues in your city, or for adult sports leagues for a specific sport.
Public recreation centers. Many recreation centers exist in cities throughout the Puget Sound region offering exercise rooms and gyms where you can take classes or drop-in, often for lower cost than joining a gym. The exercise rooms provide treadmills, rowing machines, free weights and other exercise equipment. Most centers offer a variety of fitness classes (yoga, Zumba, cardio, strength training, running, rowing, dancing, nutrition, etc.), as well as opportunities for drop-in hours for activities such as basketball, pickleball, volleyball, ping pong, and exercise in the fitness room. Swimming pools are also found throughout the region. We list a few of the major centers in the Seattle metro area, or search your local city government parks and recreation department. Look for community and recreation centers offering fitness programs, sports activities, and exercise classes. Most publish a seasonal brochure of programs and classes, and many offer the convenience to sign-up and pay for activities online.
- Find a Seattle community center
- Find a swimming pool at Seattle public recreation centers
- Find a swimming pool in King County
- Browse classes and drop-in programs at Seattle Parks and Recreation
- Everett Parks Community Services
- Bellevue Community Centers & Recreation facilities
- Bremerton Parks & Recreation
- Tacoma Community Centers
- Tacoma swimming pools
Open Gym: If you like exercising with machine circuits or free weights at a gym, then ask about an “open gym” option without any of the fitness or exercise classes that may be offered. Classes are usually an additional cost that many people like, because it provides structure, motivation, and support to stay with a regular exercise routine. However, if you have the knowledge and discipline to exercise on your own, then you can save money on gym membership by using a lower cost “open gym” membership. Of course, we prefer a no-cost gym, by exercising at home using any of the preceding ideas for calisthenics, fitness apps, public library resources, and other free exercise options.
Fitness classes: There is no end to the available exercise class options: Zumba, spin bike, swimming, indoor rock climbing, ice skating, boot camp, boxing, yoga, CrossFit, kettlebells, marital arts (judo, karate, tai chi, self-defense), and …the list goes on…. Fitness classes typically cost $15-$25 per session. However, you can drive down the cost in several ways. Gyms and fitness clubs may offer a discount for punch cards, autopay, packages, or membership. Public recreation centers usually have prices lower than gyms and fitness clubs (though not always, so compare costs carefully). Of course, we also recommend exercising at home using the preceding ideas for calisthenics, fitness apps, and public library resources.
Upcoming free fitness and exercise classes
(If nothing is listed below, there are no upcoming free fitness and exercise events in our calendar. We update these events on a rolling basis throughout the year and always try to have something for you to consider. The most opportunities to try a fitness class for free are in winter and summer.)
But wait, there’s more!
- For more options, check our Fitness & Exercise page.
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page.
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