Six ways to keep fit on a budget

Discover cheap ways to exercise and keep in shape

Rosie Murray-West – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Rosie Murray-West | Independent Money Mentor

Award-winning personal finance and news journalist


We’ve all done it: you make a resolution to get in shape and get the credit card out before you think about how you’ll sustain the routine. Several months later, the only thing that’s getting leaner is the bank balance, as we cough up for memberships of gyms and pools that we never use. But getting fit needn’t cost a fortune with the tips below.

1. Get a YouTube trainer

Video-sharing site YouTube is a treasure trove for would-be fitness addicts, featuring workouts from many popular trainers that can be done for nothing in the comfort of your own home. In some cases, you’ll have to pay up for the DVD if you want a full set of workouts, but it is a great place to try before you buy. Just ensure you’re at the right level of fitness before you attempt a workout, and see your GP if you aren’t sure.


2. Find a Green Gym 

If you’d rather exercise and do good at the same time, join the Conservation Volunteers at one of their Green Gym projects. The organisation claims you could burn a third more calories per session than in an aerobics class, and that’s before you count in the smug glow of virtue you’ll have all day. Expect to be involved in projects such as hauling logs around for pathways, digging ponds and planting trees, without it costing you a penny.


3. Contact your local authority

Many local authorities have special deals on classes and gym memberships, particularly for older and younger people, or for those on benefits. Ask your own local authority if it has any discounts or is running any free sessions. Even if it isn’t, local-authority-run gyms are usually cheaper than private rivals, and have less onerous contract terms.


4. Use an app for it

Your mobile phone can be your personal trainer, if you download the right app. Smartphones can count steps, deliver timed workouts (with or without music) and allow you to set goals. Wearable fitness trackers such as Fitbits could help you to monitor your goals, but even free apps can pack a powerful punch. Try the NHS Couch to 5k to teach you to run, or Google Fit to set fitness goals and monitor your progress in any activity.


5. Use free outdoor equipment

Many local parks now feature free outdoor gym equipment, with familiar machines such as cross trainers, static bicycles and shoulder presses available for free. If you aren’t sure where to find one or how to use them, this provider has a map, as well as videos on how to use its equipment, while Wicksteed, another provider, also has a map of its free gyms. Your local authority should also have a list of free outdoor gyms in the area.


6. Get the best-value gym membership

Finally, if you do want to pay out for a gym membership, make sure you get the right one. Do your research, working out which facilities you will really use and which are just ‘frills’, and ensure you’re clear on the contract terms. Most gyms will have free trial passes so you can check whether the gym is right for you before you commit.


Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.