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Health & Relationships

11 ways to get fit for free

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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 a pricey 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. There are 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 in shape for free.

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

How to get fit

Here are our top tips on how to keep fit for free (or for very little):

  1. Home workout YouTube tutorials

    woman exercising at home

    Credit: Fizkes – Shutterstock

    YouTube tutorials are some of the best ways to get fit at home. There are thousands of free-to-watch fitness routines to choose from on YouTube. Whatever difficulty and style of home workout you're looking for, there will be a video tutorial for you.

    Most YouTube workouts don't even require you to have any equipment or let you use household items like a bottle of water.

    If you're not sure where to look, here are some of our recommendations:

  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 a little bit too packed.

    Every university has an array of sports clubs, from the bog-standard (football) to the weird and wonderful (Quidditch). The best part is that 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. You can get involved with your favourite sporting society without stretching your student budget too far.

    Love watching live sports on TV? Discover the cheapest ways to get Sky Sports.

  3. Download free fitness apps

    Using free fitness apps is a great way to keep fit. These apps 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. You'll only need floor space and a pair of comfy joggers to get fit with their fantastic (and exhausting) workouts.

    Strava is a 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 see what others have been up to and give them 'Kudos' for their efforts.

    Plus, Instagram is full of fitness celebs who can make the hard task of getting fit enjoyable. If you haven't already, check out Kayla Itsines, Sydney Cassidy and, of course, Joe Wicks.

    Look 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.

    It's also worth remembering that lots of great free workout apps will appear in each app store's top picks in January (when lots are setting fitness goals as New Year's resolutions). Keep an eye out.

  4. Use home exercise equipment

    Ever dreamed of a home gym? If you take away the shiny and 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 around £50, and skipping ropes for around £5. Once you own the equipment, you can work out at home for no extra cost.

    If you're looking to save some money, check Freecycle and swapping sites. If you're lucky, you might find old gym equipment that you can pick up for free.

    Plus, check Facebook Marketplace for second-hand equipment.

    Want some more tips? We've got a whole guide with ideas for cheap home gyms.
  5. Stop eating junk food

    A cupboard full of crisps and a Domino's pizza delivered to your door might sound like the best option when you're on the sofa after a hard day. But, it's not the best for your health (or your wallet).

    On the other hand, having a healthy, balanced diet can help you feel much better. It can also improve your energy levels.

    Cut out the takeaway meals 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 need some guidance, our essential cooking tips will help.

    And for extra 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 very expensive.

    Switch to 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 help you be healthier.

    Experts recommend that we drink six to eight glasses 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 want to amp up on exercise, grab your running shoes or trainers and go for a jog around your local area.

    Parks are brilliant hubs for different ways of keeping fit.

    Find out whether there's a local parkrun near you (they usually happen on Saturdays at 9am and are completely free).

    Our Head of Editorial, Laura Brown, is a big fan of parkrun:

    Laura Brown

    Before I started parkrun, I genuinely didn't believe I was capable of running 5k. But the combination of the carefully planned route, the encouragement from volunteers and the chance to run alongside others makes it feel so much easier (and more fun).

    parkrun is open to everyone, whether you're a very fast runner, a slow jogger like me, or if you want to walk the entire route. I've been to several of them around the country and they've all had great atmospheres, so I definitely recommend it!

    Outdoor gyms are also great alternatives to splashing out on an actual (indoor) gym membership. Loads of the same equipment without the sweaty gym air! However, you'll need to use your body weight more and accept the 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 apps that pay you to walk.

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

    Don't have any shoes suitable for running? The schuh outlet store sells all the biggest brands at a HUGE discount.
  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 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 many fitness 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

    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. Have a look to see 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

    You can make your daily routine healthier with just a few small tweaks.

    Pop down to the shops for your weekly groceries instead of food shopping online and 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 uni instead of taking the bus. Or, you could simply get off a stop or two early.

    Make sure you take the stairs instead of the lift whenever possible – it's the easiest way to get fit for free!

    If you're keen to get some wheels but you're put off by the cost, our tips on cheap ways to buy and repair a bike could help.
  11. Get a free gym trial

    While the other tips on this list are good free alternatives to the gym, we understand that some of you will still be keen to If you're keen to join one. If so, try to get a free trial first. See our deals section for the latest offers.

    And then, when it comes to paying for a membership, save money further by getting the best gym membership deal possible.

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

    Not only will you start getting fit before you 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.

Jem Collins

WRITTEN BY Jem Collins

Jem Collins, founder of Journo Resources, is an experienced journalist who has written for the i, Metro and more. For Save the Student, she's shared tips on topics related to careers, health, saving money and more.
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