Gym-free exercises

Try these cheap and fun gym-free activities to improve your health and fitness.

Getting health benefits from physical activity is easier than you think, and it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.

Doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity is enough to keep you feeling fit and healthy.

If the gym is not your thing, there are many low-cost activities you can do on your own that can get you in shape.

Find something you enjoy that you can easily build into your lifestyle, or build on something that's already part of your routine.

Here are some tips for getting active the cheap and easy way.


Walking is one of the best forms of exercise because it's cheap and accessible to everyone. Increasing the amount you walk is easier than you think. You can make it a social affair by walking with a friend or joining a local walking group.

Walking stimulates the cardiovascular system – the heart, lungs, and circulation. It also boosts the endurance of the lower muscles, including the legs and hips.

The average person can burn up to 400 calories by walking 10,000 steps in a single day. Get yourself a pedometer and give it a go. 

For tips on walking to boost your health, making walks fun and staying motivated, check out our getting started guide to walking.

Home exercises

Burn calories, lose weight, and feel great with our 10-minute home workout routines:

If you're looking for something less energetic, these gentle exercises are ideal if you want to improve your health and lift your mood. 

Running and jogging

Running makes more demands on your body than walking, so if you're just starting out, you should build up the speed and duration of your runs gradually. 

If you're thinking of taking up running for the first time or you've been inactive for a while, read our getting started guide to running.

Thousands of people have learned to run using the NHS Couch to 5K podcast. The plan is designed to get complete beginners running 5km in nine weeks.


Cycling is an aerobic exercise, and works your lower body and cardiovascular system. If you plan to cycle regularly, make sure your bike is the right size and the saddle and handle bars are adjusted to suit your height. 

As with jogging or walking, you can make it a social activity by riding with friends, family, or a cycling group. For tips for complete beginners, see our getting started guide to cycling.


Swimming is the third most popular type of exercise in the UK after walking and running. Most pools offer lessons if you're a beginner or you want to improve.

Swimming exercises the whole body, and is a great way to tone up and get trim. Doing a few lengths involves most of the muscle groups. If you increase the pace, you'll get an aerobic workout, too.

Swimming can also help you lose weight if you swim at a steady and continuous pace throughout the session.

You could join a swimming club or sign up for pool workout sessions, such as aqua aerobics. For tips for complete beginners, read our getting started guide to swimming.


Dance is popular among all age groups. It's a skilled activity, but most studios offer classes for all levels of ability.

Dancing is an aerobic activity, and improves your balance and co-ordination. It's suitable for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Find out more about dancing for fitness.


Badminton is one of the most accessible racquet sports. The shuttlecock travels at a relatively low speed, so you don't need a high degree of skill and fitness to begin with.

Badminton is an aerobic activitywhich works on your lower and upper body. It will develop your balance, co-ordination, stamina, power, and reflexes. Racquet games can be quite strenuous, so warm up before playing.

More ideas:

Page last reviewed: 11/03/2016

Next review due: 02/03/2019


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