Man in wheelchair using outdoor gym

Get Fit For Free

Keeping fit is something we all know we should do, but around 75% of us 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 412,000 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 major illness and early death of depression by a third (30%). If we up our daily steps to 1,000 (15 minutes of walking) we can reduce our risk of dying from any cause by 15%.  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 listed on Money Saving Expert (psst…don’t miss out on one month free trial through ClassPass!). 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 are 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.

An action plan can also helped us stay motivated. Josh Clark developed the ‘Couch to 5k’ Programme to help new runners like himself and his 50-something mum get off the couch and get fit. The programme starts off nice and steady with just a couple minutes of running at a time. By the end of the 9 weeks, we will have earned our 5k bragging rights. 

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.”

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.  Exercise equipment is often bought with the best intentions, but like gym memberships, they often go unused. 

All we need to do is use our household items, like a heavy rucksack or filled up water bottlers, and we’re on our way to having our own home gym. This article lays out twenty “no-weight no problem” routines that can be done in the comfort of our own living room.

YouTube has tones to offer at-home fitness enthusiasts. 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 twice a week, we could also save a small fortune. If a one-way ticket is £1.75, that’s £182 a year. Each time we choose exercise, put the saving away for something special. What better incentive?!

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Updated by Madeleine Caravaggio, 2024

Image: SeventyFour / Shutterstock

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