Nine reasons not to join a gym: How to get fit on the cheap

Published by James Poulter on 04 January 2019.
Last updated on 04 January 2019

Nine reasons not to join a gym: How to get fit on the cheap

If you’ve made getting fit one of your New Year resolutions or are just looking for ways to burn off some of the extra calories you’ve picked up over the festive period, there are plenty of things you can do that don’t break the bank, can save you money and don’t require a gym membership.

1. Walking

Walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to start getting fit, all you need to get started is a pair of comfortable shoes. Walking can build your stamina up, burn calories and make your heart healthier. You could add walking into journeys you already take by getting off public transport a stop earlier or parking further away than you would usually. Walking up stairs burns calories so swapping lifts for stairs is another easy way to start boosting your fitness.

Going on long walks at weekends is a good way of increasing the amount of walking you’re doing and gives you the opportunity to explore bits of the countryside, but it could require investing in some walking boots and waterproofs. Most local councils list walks on their websites and there are numerous websites listing walks across the UK. You could organise walks with groups of friends or join walks organised by clubs, such as the Metropolitan Walkers in London.

2. Running

Running is one of the best forms of exercise, particularly for your heart and lungs. All you need are some comfortable clothes and a decent pair of trainers. If you’ve not tried running before the Couch to 5k podcast available for free from the NHS is a popular way of getting started. Once you’re comfortable running five kilometres, Park Run organises free weekly timed 5k runs in parks across the UK. All you need to do to take part is register on its website and print off a barcode.

3. Cycling

Cycling is another excellent way to get fit, it gets you places and helps the environment. It’s a bit more expensive to get started, but if you’re in work and your employer offers a Cycle to Work scheme, you can borrow the money to cover the cost of buying a tax-free bike and all the accessories you need to cycle safely and secure your bike. Repayments are taken from your salary in the same way you would pay back a season ticket loan. If you’re able to cycle to work instead of driving or using public transport you could also save a lot of money on your commute.

4. Bodyweight exercises

You don’t need to join a gym if you want to build muscle or increase your strength. You can get started with just your bodyweight. Some bodyweight exercises will be familiar, such as press ups, pull ups and sit ups, but there are a whole range of exercises you can do without needing to buy anything. There are over a thousand free outdoor gyms across the UK that have equipment you can use for bodyweight exercises. You could also invest in a pull up bar or exercise mat to use at home if you’re getting more committed to working out.

5. Swimming

If you’re lucky enough to live near a river, lake or the sea where it's safe to swim, all you need to start swimming is some swimwear. This time of year is probably not the best to start outdoor swimming unless you know what you’re doing and can handle the cold. One option to make swimming more affordable is contacting your local council-run leisure centres and asking if they do discounted swim only memberships. Joining a local triathlon club can often give cheaper access to swimming sessions, although you may be expected to run and cycle as well as swimming.

6. Yoga

Yoga has surged in popularity in recent years and offers many of the same health benefits as bodyweight exercises. All you need is some comfortable clothing and some floor space, although an exercise mat or yoga mat could help. The popular YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene has over 400 free videos and classes showing you everything you need to know to get started.

7. Buy your own equipment

Instead of paying for a gym membership, you could buy some cheap equipment to keep at home. A skipping rope only costs a couple of pounds and using it for half an hour a day can burn hundreds of calories. Resistance bands cost a bit more but using them allows you to do many of the exercises you would do using free weights or equipment in a gym. If you’re prepared to invest a bit more and have the space to use them, you could even consider buying free weights to use at home.

8. Use apps and YouTube instead of a personal trainer

There are benefits to getting a personal trainer but if you’re able to motivate yourself to exercise and are prepared to put a bit of time into learning what works well for you, then there are masses of resources available online to help you plan workouts. Apps such as JEFIT let you choose a workout schedule which suits you and show you how to do the exercises. There are countless videos on YouTube which teach you how to do exercises and get the form right.

9. Healthy lifestyle

Getting fit isn’t just about doing exercise, if you want to reap the benefits of working out then you need to combine it with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating less meat, fatty food, sugar and salt are all part of having a healthy diet which can save you significant amounts of money. Cooking for yourself instead of getting takeaways can be a good way of saving and eating healthily. Reducing your alcohol intake can also make a big difference to your health and bank balance.

What tips have you got for people looking to get fit? Let us know in the comments below.

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Parkrun is not just for keen

Parkrun is not just for keen runners. About a quarter of parkrunners each week just walk ! Many volunteer as marshalls , time keepers, or numerous other roles. This is a nice way of giving something back to the parkrun community, and on a purely selfish note gives you a real 'feel good' buzz.