Get fit for free
The secret to getting fit for free is to use every opportunity to be active.
Walking is one of the easiest ways to get more activity into your day, lose weight and become healthier. Research shows people who fit moderate activity like walking into their daily life burn more energy than those who make weekly visits to the gym.
Try to fit walking into your routine by ditching the car for short journeys, walking all or part of your journey to work, getting off the bus or train one stop early, and planning longer walks at the weekends.
Couch to 5K
Couch to 5K (C25K) is a free running plan for absolute beginners. Running is great for weight loss, improving heart and lung function, strengthening bones, and giving you a general sense of wellbeing.
C25K involves 3 runs a week, with a day of rest between each and a different plan for each of the 9 weeks.
For graduates of C25K or regular runners, try 5K+, a running podcasts series designed to work on your technique, speed and stamina.
Strength and Flex workouts
Fancy a personal trainer, but can't afford one? Download our Strength and Flex podcasts, and get your fitness coach for free. Let our virtual trainer coach you through a series of equipment-free exercises designed to improve your strength and flexibility.
The workout instructions and pace are easy to follow to ensure you perform each exercise correctly and in time. The 5-week Strength and Flex plan consists of five 35- to 45-minute podcasts, which are available as a mobile download for MP3 players and smartphones.
Cycle to work
Whether you're cycling to work, school, the shops or just for fun, the humble bicycle is an easy way to get more active.
Cycling to work is one of the easiest ways of fitting exercise into your day. It'll also save you money on petrol or public transport costs. If you don't have a bike, you may be able to get a cheap bike through the Cycle to Work scheme.
If you're looking for an easy way to add more activity into your day, take the stairs. Stair climbing burns more calories per minute than jogging and counts towards your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise.
Research shows regularly taking the stairs is good for strong bones, cardiovascular fitness and weight management. It's also a safe, low-impact exercise that requires no equipment.
Remember the games you used to play in the playground? Games like "hide and seek", "it" and "stuck in the mud" are not only good fun, they're an excellent way for all the family to get active, too.
Denise Page, former YMCAfit director, says playground games are like the interval training athletes use. "These games involve short, sharp bursts of activity and periods of rest, which are very effective for improving fitness, especially if you're not usually very active," she says.
Burn calories, lose weight and feel great with our selection of equipment-free home workout routines:
- choose from six 10-minute home workouts to improve your general fitness and tone your tummy, legs, arms and buttocks
- take it up a notch with our selection of gym-free workouts to improve cardio, strength and general fitness
If you're looking for something less energetic, try:
An excellent way to keep fit, skipping can be done anywhere at any time.
Just a few minutes' skipping training brings a whole range of health benefits, including heart and lung fitness, strong bones, balance and flexibility. The average person will burn up to 200 calories during 15 minutes of skipping.
Skipping is a strenuous exercise, so start slowly. Try skipping for 20 to 30 seconds, marching on the spot for 30 seconds, and then repeat. As your fitness improves, you can increase the time you skip for.
Once you have perfected the basic moves, you can make your workout more interesting by trying different jumps.
Trim trails (outdoor gyms)
Trim trails – also known as outdoor gyms, fitness trails or activity trails – are made up of simple pieces of exercise equipment, such as parallel bars, leapfrog blocks, inclined press-ups and balance beams dotted around parks, recreation areas or alongside cycle routes.
The free equipment can be used to do various exercises, including step-ups, sit-ups, lunges and press-ups, to develop balance, strength and co-ordination.
Use the internet to learn how to do the exercises properly to get the most from them and avoid injury. Ask your local council if there's a trim trail in your area.
Improve your health and the environment at the same time with the outdoor alternative to the gym. Work up a sweat digging, planting, lopping and path-clearing at one of 95 free Green Gyms around the country run by The Conservation Volunteers.
Experienced leaders guide volunteers through a range of practical projects, giving you the opportunity to tackle physical jobs in the outdoors. This can improve your strength and stamina, and boost your practical skills and confidence.
There are sessions for all fitness levels, and no previous gardening or conservation experience is necessary.
Look around you: the world is your gym. With this in mind, the National Trust and outdoor exercise specialists Eco Fitness have produced a free outdoor fitness programme you can follow whatever the weather.
The 31-day plan has been designed to ease people into an outdoors regime where exercise is fun rather than a chore.
No equipment is needed. Exercises in the challenge include power walking, tree press-ups and "spotty dogs" (stepping backwards on the spot using opposite arms and legs).
Military-style fitness classes
Military-style fitness classes are happening in parks up and down the country. There's no reason why you can't create your own boot camp-style workout for free and without someone barking orders at you.
Just plan your routine, mixing running with a series of exercises like jumping jacks, squats, lunges, running up and down stairs, press-ups, bench dips and squat thrusts.
Do a bit of research online to make sure you're doing the exercises correctly before starting out. For extra motivation, try to enrol a friend to do the boot camp sessions with you.
People often give away fitness gear, such as weights, skipping ropes or exercise balls. They are the kind of things people buy with high hopes and the equipment then lies around gathering dust.
Another option is to swap your own unwanted exercise gear for some different sports equipment using websites like Swapz.
The idea of walking up to a group of strangers during a game of football and asking to join in may sound slightly unnerving but, provided you can work up the bottle, this is both an excellent way to get fit and make friends.
Choose a group of players of a similar age and ability who seem like they're just starting their game. If the game's already started, the goalkeeper is probably the best person to approach. More often than not, you'll be welcomed and it will open up the possibility of getting a regular game and a free workout.
Free gym passes
If you want to give the gym a go or you're developing withdrawal symptoms after cancelling your membership, take advantage of the free 1-day gym passes many chains offer.
Be advised that the gym will probably try their best to get you to sign up for paid membership afterwards, but there's no obligation whatsoever for you to do so.
Page last reviewed: 19 January 2017
Next review due: 19 January 2020