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Health & Relationships

11 ways to get fit for free

Hitting the gym requires more cash and commitment than we care for, but treadmills aren't the only way to stay in shape. Here are our top tips on how to get fit without joining the gym...

trainers water bottle and towel

Credit: Olga Niekrasova – Shutterstock

If you're looking to get or keep fit, there are loads of great ways to exercise, live healthily and get a fit body without going to the gym.

Getting fit for free is easier than you might think, and there are actually plenty of ways to become more active which (dare we say it) can be quite fun – not to mention effective for looking after your mental health.

To help, we've compiled a list of our favourite ways to get and stay fit on a budget.

If you are really set on joining a gym, just make sure you read our guide to getting the cheapest gym membership you can.

How to keep fit

Here are the best ways to keep fit without going to the gym:

  1. Home workout YouTube tutorials

    woman exercising at home

    Credit: Fizkes – Shutterstock

    There are thousands of free-to-watch fitness routine videos to choose from on YouTube. So, whatever difficulty and style of home workout you're looking for, there will be a video tutorial for you.

    If you're happy to spend a few quid, exercise tapes have come a long way since the leotards and headbands of the 80s VHS. Every celebrity who's worth their salt has a fitness DVD or two up their sleeve – even Cher and Lorraine Kelly.

    You can pick up cheap workout DVDs from 99p in most pound stores or, if you're looking for a specific exercise workout, you'll find a few for under a fiver on Amazon.

    There's no need to get bored of the routines, either – swap with your friends who also want to get fit at home or simply head down to your local library where you'll be able to rent a different DVD every week.

  2. Join university sports teams

    You don't need to be a pro athlete to get involved with sports clubs at university.

    Joining a sports club is a brilliant opportunity to stay active without going to the gym, especially if your timetable is just a little bit too packed.

    Every university has an array of sports clubs, from the bog-standard (football) to the weird and wonderful (Quidditch), and the best part is these club sports activities are usually free or cheap to do.

    Considering you're already paying a fair amount in uni fees and general living costs, society memberships are usually kept as affordable as possible, so you can get involved with your favourite sporting society without stretching your student budget too far.

  3. Download free fitness apps

    man with fitness app

    Credit: Rawpixel.com – Shutterstock

    There are so many great fitness apps that can help you track your progress and work towards different goals.

    Apps like Sworkit and 7 Minute Workout are great for squeezing in a quick session at home, and you'll only need floor space and a pair of comfy joggers to get fit with their fantastic (and exhausting) workouts.

    Strava is a particularly popular fitness app – it's essentially a social media platform that focuses on exercise, letting you share your runs, cycles and walks with your friends. You can also see what others have been up to, and give them 'Kudos' for their efforts.

    Plus, Instagram is full of its own fitness celebs with God-like status who can keep and make the hard task of getting fit for the summer actually enjoyable: check out Michelle Lewin, Kayla Itsines and Joe Wickes if you haven't already.

    Just a quick browse through the Google Play/App Store and you'll easily find free workout and fitness apps with diet plans, recipe tips, workouts and trackers to follow your running and cycling routes.

    Speaking of Christmas, it's worth mentioning that lots of great free workout apps will appear in top picks in January (when everyone's desperate to shed Christmas pounds), so keep an eye out.

  4. Use home exercise equipment

    Ever dreamed of a home gym? If you take away all of the shiny, expensive bits, you basically can have one (or near enough!).

    You can get cheap versions of gym equipment on Amazon, such as a rowing exerciser for less than £10, and skipping ropes are cheap as chips (but way less fatty).

    If you're really looking to save some money, keep an eye on Freecycle and swap shop sites, where you'll sometimes find old gym equipment that you can pick up for free.

  5. Stop eating junk food

    mcdonalds burgers

    Credit: Mohd Nasirruddin Yazid - Shutterstock

    A cupboard full of crisps and a Domino's pizza delivered to your door might sound like the best option when you flop on the sofa after a hard day, but it won't be doing your waistline – or your wallet – any good.

    Having a healthy, balanced diet can help you feel generally much better and improve your energy levels.

    Cut out the takeaway meals, fatty foods and snacks and not only will you see the difference in your fitness levels, but you might also lose weight and notice yourself feeling stronger as well.

    If you're in need of some guidance on how to become a master of your student kitchen and cook easy, healthy meals, our essential cooking tips will come in handy.

    For foodie inspiration, check out our student meal plan. Who knows, you could be the next Jamie Oliver (or not).

  6. Drink water instead of fizzy drinks

    You might be pretty on top of this healthy-eating business, but have you stopped to think about what else you're chucking down your throat?

    Fizzy drinks like Coke, Sprite or Fanta, along with highly sweetened or flavoured fruit juices, are only good for two things: rotting your teeth and piling on the pounds. They're also bloody expensive.

    Switch to plain old water and you'll find it's cheaper (even free!), much more refreshing and will help remove toxins from your body, speed up your metabolism and generally be healthier.

    Experts recommend that we drink eight to 10 glasses (equal to around two litres) of water every day to maintain proper hydration.

  7. Go to the park for exercise

    people jogging in park

    Even taking regular walks outside can be enough to improve your fitness levels. But if you really want to amp up on exercise, grab your running shoes or trainers and go for a jog around your local area – you might also be surprised at what you see.

    Parks are brilliant hubs for different ways of keeping fit. Find out whether there's a local park run going on near you (they usually happen on Saturday mornings and are completely free).

    Outdoor gyms that can usually be found next to the playgrounds are also great alternatives to splashing out on an actual (indoor) gym membership. Loads of the same equipment without the sweaty gym air!

    One thing you need to keep in mind, though, is that you'll need to use your body weight more and accept that fitness machines won't be adjustable for your personal body specifications.

    Not only is walking or running the cheapest option on the menu, but you can even download an app that will pay you for the steps you take.

    If you want to ease yourself into it, check out the NHS's Couch to 5k podcast that will help you run for longer distances, even if you start as a complete beginner.

  8. Do indoor workouts

    Despite what we said in the last tip, the great outdoors can be a massive deterrent to a generous bout of healthy exercise, especially when it's too cold, too hot, too rainy or too dry (or any other excuse you can possibly think of).

    But, don't let that put you off. As well as the workout videos we suggested earlier, there are lots of things you can do in your house, right now, without buying any gym equipment or having to pay for online fitness coaches.

    From running up and down the stairs (yes that is a legitimate exercise) to squats, press-ups and star jumps, you won't have to step a foot out the door to start feeling the benefits of your new health routine.

    Again, there are loads of apps to choose from that cater to those who want to tone up but can't bear to leave the house: no gym, no excuse!

  9. Use free sports facilities

    andy murray playing tennis

    Credit: Mirsasha - Flickr

    There's no denying that some sports can be costly and there are plenty that require you to join a team or the gym to take part (ugh, commitment). Luckily, this isn't the case for everything.

    Lots of councils and universities will offer free facilities, whether it's a field for a kickabout or some tennis courts, so check out what's available in your area.

    If you live near the sea you can also check out if there are any tidal swimming pools, which are almost always freezing, but free.

  10. Switch up your routine

    Even the laziest of people can start to burn off the calories by making a few simple tweaks to their daily routine.

    Pop down to the shops for your weekly groceries instead of buying online and make sure to use a basket instead of a trolley (work those biceps!).

    To burn some calories and get your cardio done early in the day, consider cycling or walking to university instead of taking the bus, or just simply get off a stop or two before your destination. Make sure you always take the stairs instead of the lift – it's the easiest free way to get fit!

  11. Last resort: join the gym

    man on treadmill

    Granted, this doesn't exactly fit the aim of this article, but we know some of you will ignore us and sign up for a gym membership anyway.

    If you are going to sign up to a gym, just make sure to get the best deal you can possibly get.

    Haggle your membership, ask for a student discount, take advantage of free gym trials and taster personal trainer sessions – do whatever you can to get the price down.

    Not only will you start getting fit before you actually spend any money, but it will also help you understand more about your fitness goals and what kind of exercise you enjoy.

It's so important to look after your mind as well as your body. To help you unwind, we've put together a list of the best self-care ideas that you can do on a budget.

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