Britons spend more than £4 billion a year on gym memberships, with the average gym goer paying £40 a month, whether they get round to using their gym or not. So don’t be tempted by the sales patter and keep up with the latest ways to get fit, whether it’s outdoors, at home or with a bit of online help.
“Walking is a great way to get fit, it’s free, needs no special equipment apart from a pair of comfortable shoes and is something almost anyone can do,” says Sophia Khan, a spokesperson for the Ramblers, a charity aiming to protect and expand areas where Brits can enjoy a walk.
“You can build your stamina up, burn calories and make your heart healthier. You could add walking into regular journeys 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,” she adds.
Going on long walks at weekends is a good way to increase the amount of walking you do and gives you the opportunity to explore the countryside. All you’ll need is a pair of walking boots and some waterproofs.
Numerous websites, including those from local councils, list walks across the UK. You could organise walks with groups of friends or join walks organised by clubs.
“Joining a local Ramblers group walk is an excellent way to get started. You’ll have a route all planned out for you, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost, and a friendly group of walkers to chat to along the way,” adds Ms Khan. “With walks ranging from short strolls around the park to 10-mile mountain hikes, there is something for everyone, no matter what your level of fitness. And if that’s not enough to tempt you, there’s all the wellbeing benefits of being out in the fresh air and close to nature too.”
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.
Team GB ultra-marathon runner Robbie Britton (pictured) told Moneywise: “Not only is running a great way to get fit and healthy without paying for a gym membership, running with others at initiatives such as parkrun [see below], or joining your local club, provides great social interaction too which has a significant impact on motivation to continuing training.”
If you haven’t tried running before, the Couch to 5k podcast available for free from the NHS (NHS.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week) is a popular way to get started. Once you’re comfortable running five kilometres, parkrun organises free weekly timed 5k runs in parks across the UK. All you need to do to take part is register on its website (Parkrun.org.uk) and print off a barcode.
“Running with others is sociable and helps motivate you”
Cycling is another excellent way to get fit, it gets you places and helps the environment. It is a bit more expensive to get started, but if you are working 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 can cycle to work instead of driving or using public transport, you could also save a lot of money on your commute.
Sam Jones, senior campaigns officer at charity Cycling UK, says: “Cycling fits into daily routines better than many other forms of exercise because it doubles up as transport to work, school or the shops. It’s easier than finding extra time to visit the gym and far less costly. Your mental health and wellbeing benefit, you reduce the risk of premature death and ill health, and studies have shown cyclists are less likely to get ill – and above all, it’s fun!”
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. You could invest in a pull-up bar or exercise mat to use at home if you’re committed to working out.
There are more than a thousand free outdoor gyms across the UK that have equipment you can use for bodyweight exercises. To find out your nearest, visit The Great Outdoor Gym Company (Tgogc.com/Gyms/) or Wicksteed (Wicksteed.co.uk), which both supply equipment to outdoor gyms, or contact your local council.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a river, lake or the sea where you can swim safely, all you need is your swimwear. However, this time of year, you may prefer an indoor pool. To make it more affordable, contact your local council-run leisure centres and ask if they offer 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 swim.
Yoga has surged in popularity 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 will help. The popular YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene (Youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene) has more than 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 few pounds and using it for half an hour a day can burn hundreds of calories.
Resistance bands cost a bit more but these allow you to perform many of the exercises you would do using free weights or equipment in a gym. If you are prepared to spend more and have the space at home, you could even consider buying weights. Just be careful you don’t damage your home – or yourself – when using them as dropping heavy weights can take its toll.
8. Use a ‘virtual’ personal trainer
There are benefits to getting a personal trainer, but if you can motivate yourself to exercise and are prepared to put a bit of time into learning what works well for you, then there are online resources to help you plan your workouts. Apps such as JEFIT (available on iOS and Android) let you choose a workout schedule that suits you and features more than 1,300 demonstrations of how to do exercises.
Keen gym-goer Matt, 31, from London told Moneywise how he uses JEFIT to add more structure to his workout.
“The only way to get results is to track your progress”
“The tracking feature is nice because seeing your progress in encouraging. It’s mainly good for people who want to lift. It’s no substitute for a human personal trainer, but most of us can’t afford that. If anything, it complements what a personal trainer would do, by timing and structuring your workouts. I’ve found over the years that the only way to actually get results in the gym is to be consistent and track your progress.”
There are also plenty of videos on YouTube designed to teach you how to do exercises and get your form right. All you need to do to get started is search for them.
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 that can save you significant amounts of money.
Dr Stacey Lockyer, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, says: “Being more active, along with consuming a healthy, balanced diet, not smoking and limiting alcohol intake reduces our risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.”
“Yoga calms the mind”
Natasha Kerry from London is an experienced yoga teacher, running classes across London and a YouTube channel (Youtube.com/natashakerryyoga) with free yoga practices.
“When I first got into yoga, I immediately found it a lot more exciting, fun, varied and inspiring than my gym membership and I promptly quit the gym,” she says.
She found yoga so useful, she quit her corporate job and has now been teaching it for a decade.
Over the years, Natasha has seen the impact Yoga has on her students.
“I have seen incredible change in my students. Yoga postures are so powerful at creating change. Yoga calms the mind, improves the mind-body connection, increases focus, improves circulation, digestion and respiration, improves coordination, regulates metabolism to aid weight loss, increases energy levels and I’ve seen massive changes to my students’ happiness, health and wellbeing,” she says.
What tips have you got for people looking to get fit? Let us know in the comments below.
I will waste my money on a…
I will waste my money on a gym membership because i'm lazy as fuck.