Young man exercising in outdoor gym

Get Fit For Free

Keeping fit is something we all know we should do, but around 20 million Brits are not getting enough exercise. As summer swings into gear, there’s never been a better time to get out there and get active. Here’s our guide to getting fit for free.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

“If exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented.”
Dr. Nick Cavill, Health Promotion Consultant.

In the UK, heart disease, cancer and complications from diabetes are killing 360,000 of us a year. Meanwhile, the mental health time bomb is already dragging 1 in 4 of us down. According to the NHS, regular exercise lowers the risk of depression by a third (30%). The risk of heart disease is cut by slightly more (35%) and the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 50 per cent. So, to say that exercise is a miracle cure is no over-statement.

The benefits of keeping fit are huge. So, what’s stopping us?

The Cost

With the average gym membership costing around £40 a month, some of us just can’t afford the luxury. There are not-for-profit gyms, such as the YMCA and Nuffield, who sometimes offer cheaper memberships for those on benefits. There’s plenty of advice on cheap gym membership over on the Money Advice Service here. For some, however, even a cheaper deal is still beyond the budget. The good news is that we can get fit for free.

Step Outside

There’s more to keeping fit than going to the gym. The NHS and the National Trust have teamed up on a scheme called Outdoor Gym. It’s a 31-day guide to getting fit for free using parks and public places, and this ‘How To’ guide walks us through it.

There are also hundreds of outdoor gyms in parks around the UK. With weather-proof weight and fitness training equipment on offer and free to use, all we need is to be determined.

Taking up exercise can be a chance to meet new people, we don’t need to push ourselves alone. There are loads of groups that we can get involved with. Quids in! reader Clare joined Park Run, a scheme that links people up with a local group to go running with.

She told us: “Park Run is for everyone and I love that. There are old, young, fast, slow, it’s all inclusive. No one judges. It’s such a friendly environment, people saying good morning, encouraging strangers who maybe struggling. It’s so inspiring.

“Yes it’s hard to get out when it’s muddy or raining, but it’s always worth it. As they say, five kilometres is still five kilometres, whether you do it in 15 minutes or 60 minutes.”

They run groups all over the country making use of under-used public parks. We can find our nearest by signing up (for free) here.

Free Gear

Many of us would prefer to get fit in the comfort of our own home. Gyms are not the poser palaces they used to be but it can still be a big step to reveal our out-of-shape bodies in public. Of course, it costs nothing to work out at home but we can even blag some kit if we want something to do it on. We might mean business about toning up but others fall out of the habit pretty fast. Exercise equipment is often bought with the best intentions, but like gym memberships, they often go unused. Next thing we know, it’s being given away on sites like freecyle or freegle. All we need to do is collect the items and we’re on our way to having our own home gym.

Even without any kit at all, we can work out at home. This article lays out two gear-free routines that can be done in the comfort of our own living room. There are also free and cheap apps that many people use to motivate and keep them moving. Reader Michelle is a big fan of home workout apps and told us:

“Using free apps on my phone for training at home saves around £600 a year. I don’t need any equipment, just a small space. I can even just do five minutes if I don’t have much time. Makes me feel more energised every day!”

Walk, Cycle, Run, Repeat

The beauty of exercise is that we can work it into our daily routines. The NHS guidance of 150 minutes a week splits exercise into two types: moderate activity and vigorous activity. For adults aged between 19-64, a mix of these is advised. The great news is that ‘moderate activity’ includes a brisk walk. That means that just three 25 minute walks a week adds up to half the target. That could be as simple as walking to work, the supermarket or dropping the kids off at school. Add in a couple of runs in the local park and a short bike ride or workout at home and we’re there.

Quids in! says: If we choose to walk when we usually take the bus just once a week, we could also save a small fortune. If a one-way ticket is £1.50, that’s £75 a year. Each time we choose exercise, put the saving away for something special. What better incentive?!

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