Keeping fit shouldn’t be a drain on your budget. There’s plenty of ways to exercise that are free or at minimal cost.
Mr Hack and I previously had a gym membership at Anytime Fitness, yes, the both of us. If we joined from 2019 the cost would be (according to Finder): a joining fee of $99 and $69.95 for an access card; and then, membership from $67.95 per month EACH. With a 12-month contract.
And then get this, the gym was only 2km from home so we DROVE there, instead of walking, running or biking.
Any exercise done at the gym can be done at home at no cost using free weights; or by being outside walking, running or bike riding on local pathways; or, by using Apps or YouTube.
If you are currently stuck with a gym membership, seriously investigate and become familiar with their free weights training plans for when going it alone at home.
Some people join a gym or a group fitness class for motivation, yet find the motivation still slowly fades away and they are left paying for the membership in a locked in contract.
If this sounds like you, what you need is to build good habits for exercise, rather than get trapped in a contract.
If you do your weight training at a gym, it’s going to cost you.
A membership at Anytime Fitness will cost $984.35 for the year. CrossFit will set you back $60 per week – or $3,120 for the year.
And it’s not just the $3,120 gone, it’s also all the future earnings from that money from compounding interest. $3,120 invested every year for 10 years at 8% in an index fund in the stock market with the interest reinvested comes to $53,934!
There’s nothing sweeter than buying your freedom from work through investments so that you can do what you want all day every day.
So, how to get buff without the price tag?
Do your weight training at home for free. After the initial set up cost of purchasing free weights, there’s no further cost.
Weights are often sold second hand for a cheap price after people lose interest aka motivation and good habits.
Another place to look for discounted weight sets are sales at shops. We got ours for a great price reduction of 50%.
If you’re unsure about correct weight lifting technique or need a home program made up, even after doing your own research, you could always pay a personal trainer for a one off session. This is a lot cheaper than a 12 month membership contract with a gym.
Walking, Hiking, Running
Walking is one of the easiest free exercises you can do.
On average, one kilometre takes 10 minutes to walk at a brisk pace. When considering people are urged to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day (around 3km), are there times you could walk instead of driving a car?
Hiking is meditation while moving. What’s there not to love: trees, fresh air, nature and changing scenery. Add some geocaching into it to spice things up!
If you’re not familiar with geocaching, it’s a family friendly free treasure hunt. ‘There are more than 3 million active geocaches worldwide. Geocaches are hidden in 191 different countries on all seven continents (even Antarctica)!’: Geocaching Newsroom.
Running, now we’re getting into serious cardio exercise. If you haven’t tried running before, start with a short run of as little as 60 seconds, then walk to recover. Repeat alternating between running and walking for a total duration of 30 minutes. Gradually extend the amount of time you can run.
There’s a great free App to guide you through this process called C25K (Couch to Five Kms).
Once you’ve mastered running 5km, the same App developer has another freebie for learning to run 10km.
If you’re serious about improving your running look for a low-cost running club to coach you.
Parkrun is another free fitness activity.
It’s a timed 5km event on every Saturday morning at locations found all around the world.
You don’t need to be able to run to participate in parkrun. Many people walk parkrun. Of course, you can run as well. Or do a combination of walking and running.
Head on over to the parkrun website to register and find a location near you.
I know a family who leave the car at home and bike ride if the destination is 15km or less away. I’m not quite at that stage, although bike riding is something I’m beginning to love.
Personally, I’ve started riding to work when the location is nearby (up to 5km each way). I’m finding riding to work so refreshing and invigorating (and as another bonus I sometimes arrive faster than if I drove).
It’s taken a bit of organising to ride to work as after my job is done I need to pick up a 5 year old from childcare and an 8 year old from after school care. We’ve been able to manage this as my bike has a tag-along attachment for the 5 year old, whilst the older child takes his own bike.
The swooping magpies are a whole other story!
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to start bike riding. We got my bike from the waste transfer station (the tip) for free. The tag-along bike was found discarded in a paddock and after a polite request, we became the proud new owners.
We’re also investigating acquiring a secondhand bike carriage for doing the grocery shopping. To do this the tag-along would need to be disconnected and the bike carriage connected.
Grocery shopping in this way will only be practical for when our 5 year old is at school next year – she is so uncoordinated on a bike that she won’t be able to ride unassisted for a while yet.
Places to find a tag-along bargain are Facebook Buy Swap and Sell groups, garage sales and opportunity (thrift) shops.
Bike riding is a fantastic eco-friendly alternative to driving. As a bonus, you’ll also gain fitness and save money on car expenses all at the same time. Now that’s a win-win!
Do you think you could implement taking the bike for any distance under 15km?
You could even plan entire holidays around bike riding – but that would be a whole other blog article!
YouTube For Exercise
Yoga, pilates, meditation, core strengthening, stretching, weight training, cardio – you name it, YouTube has it for free.
YouTubers make their money from advertising, affiliate links, sponsored products and from selling merchandise. This is great news for you as you can access so much knowledge and skill without paying a cent.
My all-time favourite fitness YouTuber is Fitness Blender. At no cost, you can access ‘over 500 free workouts ranging from 10-85 minutes long, from beginner level to elite athlete, from HIIT to Pilates, and strength training to bodyweight’.
Ironically, the YMCA gym chain offers virtual classes as part of their membership fees/contract. Think YouTube at a paid venue. Huh? Makes sense to you? Me neither.
Incidental exercise is any exercise done as part of another activity. It’s also free, gratis.
Whilst incidental exercise isn’t a replacement for dedicated exercise, it’s still an important part of maintaining good health.
Examples of incidental exercise may include:
- Walking the dog
- Mowing the lawn
- Playing outdoors with kids rather than inside
- Taking the stairs instead of an elevator
- Standing rather than sitting
- Walk or bike ride, instead of driving a car
- Walk at a brisk pace instead of dawdling
- Activities such as geocaching
- Get up and walk to the TV rather than using a remote control
Opportunities for free exercise are all around us. We don’t need to waste money paying for expensive gym memberships, nor should people with a limited budget be excluded from an essential part of good health.
Walk more, go hiking, take up running, bike ride rather than driving, get buff at home, use YouTube and Apps, and get moving more often in your everyday life.
Fitness can be done without dollars.
Please comment below with your favourite type of free exercise.