22 Free & Cheap Exercise Options To Manage Stress

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 It’s been a long two years! The pandemic, inflation, supply chain problems – who wouldn’t have high levels of stress? And the global situation is showing no sign of letting up. This seems to be a slow-burning world, and we’re nowhere near the end of our current problems. The only thing we can be sure of is that no one is returning to normalcy any time soon.

So what can we do in terms of healthy coping strategies?

This article will focus specifically on exercise. Exercise of any & all kinds is beneficial, preferably if performed outdoors. Physical activity has an incredible number of benefits. Obesity tends to include hypertension and diabetes, among its other joys, and medicines are both expensive and may become difficult to find.

So why not get fit? It’s been shown that the body stores stress in much the same way a computer stores things in memory, and this is toxic. Those mysterious aches & pains may be feelings we’ve repressed so we can deal with our new reality. Fear, anxiety, anger, and loss of control are all stored in the body. Exercise can help relieve that stress, allowing us to function in a healthy way.

As one translation of the Heart Sutra teaches us: the world is always falling apart. Hallelujah! So open your mind to the opportunities and read on. Many of these exercises teach good skills, are family-friendly, and can be done either free or on the cheap.


This family-friendly activity is free and can even be profitable. Walk in the park. Many cities have walking trails. If a National Park isn’t an option, go urban foraging. Bring some extra food home while getting to know your neighborhood better, including your neighbors. Walk to and through a museum, the grocery store, or any number of places. Leaving the car at home will save you gas money too!


This is similar to the above, only a bit faster. Bring a wagon and “shop” the move-out sales that landlords leave on the curb. I once scored a decent dresser in this way, and a faster neighbor got the TV! Join a local bicycle club and meet your neighbors. I’ve found bicycling to be a whole-body workout and a great way to scope out the neighborhood. Don’t believe what’s being said on (anti-)social media! Go see for yourself. The fresh air alone is worth it!


This is a wonderful skill to have and very good exercise! Water is also very grounding. Just let that stress fade into the waves! Or the pool. What a great way to beat the heat! Swim at a beach or a lake, and bring a picnic lunch. The city pool is certainly better than nothing!


Keeping the spine supple and the muscles limber has many benefits. The focus & breathing opens up the energetic field and relaxes the muscles in a very gentle way. 10-30 minutes can make a huge difference in your day! There are many free videos on YouTube, and Y360, through the YMCA, offers thousands of videos for a very low fee, including yoga.

Tai chi

This gentle martial art is deceptively good exercise! You may have to pay a teacher to learn the form, but it’s a wonderful investment. It’s very grounding and helps the practitioner develop internal chi, the strength necessary to endure and thrive. Over time, it also teaches how to properly apply a fist to an offending nose and win.


The sun that helps the body manufacture vitamin D, the antidepressant microbes in the soil, and the self-reliant feeling that comes from growing your own food! What’s not to love?

Well, weeds.

But pulling them is great exercise. You’ll work more muscles in the garden than just about any other place, and the kids can learn much here too. Working as a team teaches many prosocial behaviors. You can also grow herbs, both culinary and medicinal. This may help you if your regular medicines become too expensive or unavailable.

(Don’t know how to make your own medicine? Consider the Herbal Skills Intensive, where you’ll learn hands-on how to make a wide variety of herbal medicines.

Weight lifting/strength training

Resistance training develops muscles and helps the body drop the tension of stress. This does require weights and a bench, but those can be obtained cheaply with a bit of effort. Look for gyms closing or just upgrading equipment, the classifieds, Craig’s list, even eBay. Buy the extra from a friend.

Even if you have to pay retail, it’s still a great investment that both relieves stress and heals the body. And with some creativity, you won’t have to pay retail! Two-gallon jugs filled with water or two big cans of soup are a great start.


This is a mind-body exercise similar in concept to tai chi and yoga. While treating lower back pain in this way is not supported by evidence, Pilates does improve both balance and muscle conditioning. It’s fairly popular globally, so a gym might offer classes cheaply. Of course, there’s always YouTube!


This is another great way to build endurance while getting to know the neighborhood! See for yourself how the neighbors are doing while building stamina and working for several muscle groups. And if that protest you just had to attend turns bad or you’re stuck in an active shooter situation, running skills might come in handy!

Sword/staff kata

These are martial forms best learned from a teacher, similar to tai chi. There are, however, many free videos available on YouTube, and Y360, mentioned above, has some as well.

Try this: if you don’t have a bokken, grab a sword-sized piece of PVC and find a friendly tree. Focus on hitting a single leaf, then do so consistently. This exercise will develop mental clarity, strength, and concentration. Try this on a breezy day for an extra challenge.


This form of exercise will combine lifts, squats, curls, calf raises, and deep breathing. Cleaning out a drawer or a closet can contribute to a sense of control over your life, with the added benefit of helping you de-clutter. You may even find a few things you can sell! Extra money is always good.

Standard workout routines

Planks, sit-ups, push-ups, stretches, squats, lunges, pull-ups, leg stands, pelvic tilts, and cardio are all individual parts of a great weekly routine. All are free and can be done at home, in your yard, or in a public park. Join a group to meet new friends!

Use this link below to see how these exercises are correctly done. Do some research to see what’s offered in your area on the cheap. You may be surprised at how well it gels!

Exercise is a wonderful way to manage stress.

Since our bodies store stress and tend to express repressed feelings in the form of aches and pains, why not take care of ourselves by helping our bodies clear those memory clusters in a healthy way? Exercise can be done cheaply and even free, and I find that I sleep better when I exercise regularly. A good sweat removes many chemical toxins from the body as well.

What are your top ways of dealing with stress? Do you have particular forms of exercise that you prefer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

About Amy Allen

Amy Allen is a professional bookworm and student of Life, the Universe, and Everything. She’s also a Master Gardener with a BS in biology, and has been growing food on her small urban lot since 2010.

22 Free & Cheap Exercise Options To Manage Stress

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