Trying to get fit and healthy isn’t always as easy as it sounds. It does take time, patience and consistency, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot too. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love the gym. For me, I am investing in my health and wellbeing, and because I go virtually every day, I get my monies worth. However, the gym is not everyone’s cup of tea, or in everyone’s budget.
The good news is there are plenty of free, or very cheap ways to get fit, have fun and stay motivated without breaking the bank.
Firstly, the trick is to do something that makes your soul happy in order to make it a lifestyle choice. If it feels like a chore then you are going to give up pretty quickly. To see results you need to be exercising regularly. Use your imagination, take advantage of free resources, and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with little or no financial investment.
Here are my favourite ways to get fit and healthy without stepping foot in a gym.
The best thing is you don’t need any specialised equipment, heavy weights or training, just put on your favourite music and dance around the house.
Sometimes, we all need a break to just switch off, and science agrees. A 2014 study found positive changes in mood for recreational dancers. Participants had higher energy levels and were less tense compared with competition dancers, who had stress levels similar to those of other competitive athletes.
Not unlike a "runner's high," rhythmic movement has been shown to trigger the release of endorphins, which can boost your mood, and it’s also good for improving balance and coordination.
Finding your groove on the dancefloor has no age limits either. Whether you love the ‘Bridie Song’, ‘The time warp’ or ‘running man’, everyone can do something, even if its just tapping your foot.
One of the best forms of exercise, great cardiovascular and all over body workout for all ages and fitness levels. You can work around your local area, local park, or find walking groups and go rambling whilst taking in some of the break taking countryside.
If you don’t have one, you could always invest in a pedometer which measures the numbers of steps you walk each day. Aim for 10,000 steps a day to reap the benefits. Walking just 30 minutes a day can improve your mood, help you lose weight and tone those legs.
Also, little daily extras like parking in the furthest space from the doors at the supermarket or at work, to getting off the bus a stop early will add steps to your day with little or no effort.
This might take some time to build up if you are new to running, but basically all you need are some good running shoes and away you go. Running can help with cardiovascular fitness, strengthens your knees and other joints (yes, despite being told by your mates it ruins your knees, quite the opposite is true!), and can reduce your risk of cancer.
Don’t worry if you are a novice. Use apps like ‘map my run’ to find safe routes, get a running buddy/iPod to keep you motivated, and get a plan. The couch to 5k plan to show you exactly how to improve each week and will have you running 5km in just 9 weeks. Check it out here www.c25k.com
Sign up for community service and not only help the environment or local charities, but get fit too. You can do anything from clearing a local park space, to building a house, coaching a sport to planting trees. Check out your local wildlife trust, summer camps, sports groups or local community for more ideas on how you can get involved.
This will also help your confidence, stress levels and happiness. By using your time to help others, you’ll discover a sense of meaning and appreciation in the work you are doing, which can be very calming. Plus, you know that feel-good sense you experience after a good workout? Helping others have the same effect, so the more you volunteer, the happier you become!
Sounds like a chore, right? Well not if you switch your point of view. When you view your chores as a route to health and fitness, you’ll see it in a much more positive light. Plus, if you are a Feng Shui fan, the Chi (positive energy) of a clean house will create a positive ripple effect across all aspects of your life.
Put on some upbeat tunes and and hoover the entire house. This is great for ab muscles, and you can burn around 190 calories per hour of hoovering. If you add some single leg lunges every now and then, you’ll burn even more.
Do a squat between each piece of clothing when you are ironing, or when you are lifting objects like the washing basket. Do 10 press ups when you clean the bathroom, and try calf raises as you do the dishes.
Free Tennis courts
Unlike other sports, tennis is a great total body workout, it burns calories and fat, and enhances flexibility, balance and coordination due to the type of movement it takes to strike the ball and move across the court.
If you love tennis, have some rackets and a tennis buddy, then you won’t have to look far for a free tennis court at your local park. Some parks also offer free tennis lessons, so check out your local area and see what’s out there.
Stream your workouts
There are hundreds of free workouts posted online these days. You Tube has endless ideas including yoga, aerobics and boot camp style workouts, so whatever you’re into, you can watch and follow along.
Fitness Blender.com is a database of free workout videos which you can watch immediately. There are workouts that are under 10 minutes for those with busy lifestyles, or you can search by difficulty, target calories, training type or the body part you want to exercise. There are even meal plans, blogs and a community to share tips and offer encouragement.
Try 10 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) daily and you’ll look amazing in time for Summer.
One of the best cardio, HIIT, and full body workouts is skipping. 10 minutes of skipping burns more calories than 30 minutes of running, which is a result for those with little time. Studies also show it’s a low impact exercise, so better for the joints than running too.
Skipping ropes are fairly cheap to source, but you can use any rope you have lying around too, and you don’t even have to go outdoors, so the weather can’t hinder your exercise routine.
Another great free resource is stairs. If you have stairs at home, try to go up and down as many times as you can. It will burn around 500 calories per hour and work those legs and bums. In fact, just 2 minutes of stair climbing is enough to stop the average middle age weight gain.
It’s also really easy to build into your life as a healthy daily habit. Whenever you are out and about or at work, take the stairs instead of the lift, and if you find any stairs in the park, try sprinting up them for a super HIIT workout.
Join a sports team
Researchers from the London school of economics found that by playing in a team, people not only gain the health benefits of exercise, but also boost their long-term happiness. You’ll also be more likely to stick to a sport. When your team mates are relying on you to show up for practice and games, you’ll be more accountable to your fitness goals.
There are plenty of local teams around, from netball to football, tennis to rugby, and even rowing. Find your local club, and join a team.
Gardening has many benefits, from fresh air and exercise to being able to grow your own food. However, access to organic food isn’t the only reason gardening is good for you.
As well as burning 189 calories per hour, it reduces stress and anxiety, decreases your risk of heart disease and diabetes and makes you happy too. Gardening starves off those blues, provides an outlet for creativity and nurtures a sense of pride in growing your own produce.
Use your local park
Create your own boot camp style workout at your local park or open space. Kids playgrounds are great for bodyweight exercises and balance poses. Remember those monkey bars? Swinging across these is great for toning your arms, abs and back muscles. Use benches or curbs to do tricep dips. You can also try jumping jacks, lunges, high knees, sprints, squats, burpees, and push ups. Imagine each piece as a ‘workstation’ and do 30-60 seconds of work, followed by 30 seconds rest, and repeat the circuit 3 times.
Bodyweight exercise can easily be done anywhere, and it’s this boot camp style work out that I do when I am away from home and I don’t have access to a gym.
Yoga is another form of bodyweight exercise that’s easy to do anywhere, and really easy to do at home. All you need is you and a mat! There are tons of online workouts to demonstrate the poses, and is easily adapted to all levels of fitness. Yoga DVD’s and apps are also easy to get hold for very little cost, and will keep you inspired and motivated.
Use your phone
Talking of apps, there are plenty of free or cheap exercise apps around these days. Try Zombies Run! It costs £2.49 and encourages you to run by stimulating a zombie chase, very amusing! MyFitnessPal is another good app. It tracks your intake of calories as well as those from exercise, and posts some very informative and motivational blogs.
I also use my phone to load upbeat songs for running, interval apps for circuit training, and as a pedometer to measure my daily steps.
Your only limit is You.