For many students, staying fit while gyms are closed is a major challenge. If you live on campus or in downtown Toronto, chances are you don’t have access to a backyard to run circles in to burn off a few calories. 

However, I’m a firm believer in the phrase, “Where there’s a will, there is a way,” especially when it comes to fitness. We can keep telling ourselves that the gyms are closed so we can’t workout, or that it’s getting too cold outside, but if you truly want to get in shape, there are many ways to build a home gym without a lot of equipment — even on a budget. 

Here are some of my favourite pieces of workout equipment — that are much cheaper than the alternatives — to keep you healthy while we are still hunkered down. 


Bags of rice — the perfect replacement for kettlebells

Kettlebells are expensive! However, anything kettlebells can do, rice can do too — and at a much lower price. You can use rice to do kettlebell exercises such as squats, press ups, rows, weighted sit ups, weighted pushups, twists, farmer carries, and much, much more. Your imagination really is the limit here. 


Resistance bands — substitutes for free weights

Bands offer resistance that replicates free weights and can even generate the same progress if you train with them consistently. I’ve also found that using bands is easier on the joints than weights, so you can train more frequently as a result. As a bonus, because bands are cheap and portable, they offer a great alternative for at-home training.  



Rucking, or load-bearing marching, is the go-to cardio for people who hate running. This is the best way to burn some calories and build strong shoulders and thigh muscles on a budget. All you have to do is grab a large backpack and fill it with any heavy objects you have around the house.

I usually fill mine with bags of rice, but flour, sugar, or old textbooks that you never read could also work. Try to start with 20 per cent of your body weight and walk around your neighbourhood for half an hour. Then, you can progressively build up the time and weight. Make sure to only do this once a week at most, or you could seriously mess up your knees. 

I recommend doing rucking with a friend or while listening to a podcast or audiobook. It’s a great way to get your steps in, burn some calories, and do some sightseeing while you’re at it. 



Contrary to popular belief, calisthenics can give you the same results as most gym equipment. These are exercises that work large muscle groups, often performed rhythmically and with minimal equipment. All it requires is consistency and a willingness to stick to a plan. You can also use chairs and couches to do dips, elevated pushups, or “box” jumps. 

YouTube channels like Chloe Ting, Bullyjuice, and Natasha Oceane offer great calisthenic workouts for free! They all offer workouts that range from 15–60 minutes, focusing on core, glute, arm, and leg workouts. With so many great at-home workout options, there’s no excuse to not get sweating.