So, Christmas is over and done with for another year and it’s likely you’ve set yourself a new year’s resolution or two. If like us you’ve over indulged just a little too much recently, you might be thinking about starting some kind of keep fit regime. The only downside to this health kick is that often you feel like you have to spend lots of money on expensive memberships or equipment to get the best results.
But that’s not the case!
No one wants the added expense right after the festive period, so we’ve come up with a list of ideas that will help you get fit on a budget. We wanted to make sure they’re as sustainable as possible too, because no one wants the added stress of giving up on something that you can’t maintain!
Staying fit and healthy shouldn’t cost the earth and there are loads of cheap or free ways to exercise out there, with plenty of free fitness apps and nutrition apps to help you along the way too. The best part of it is you can get fit without a gym too, so no feeling awkward or out of place when you can get fit in your own front room!
Eating for Fitness on a Budget
A big part of getting fit is what you eat. If you’re looking to lose weight, expelling more energy than you’re putting in is all it takes. No need for crazy diets or supplements, just healthy wholesome food in moderation.
High fibre foods such as leafy greens, and foods rich in proteins such as beans, pulses and lean meats, will help you feel fuller for longer while reducing the amount of calories you take in. These sorts of foods are also rich in iron which helps metabolise proteins, giving you the energy boost needed for any exercise you plan to do.
You might not think it but it’s good to have some fat in your diet… there, we said it! We aren’t talking about that kebab on a friday night though I’m afraid! There are however plenty of tasty alternatives out there that are rich in healthy fats such as salmon, avocado, nuts & seeds, eggs and many more; this article about the best healthy fats for your body could be quite useful.
To make sure your diet is balanced, you should also include a small amount of good carbohydrates. These will provide you with healthy sugars and the energy needed to sustain you throughout the day. All fruit and vegetables are a good source of carbohydrates, particularly whole fruits such as apples, bananas and strawberries. Whole grains are another great source; foods such as pure oats, quinoa and brown rice are great “slow release” foods, perfect for keeping you fuller for longer as well as energised throughout the day.
Not all carbs are created equal, so it’s best to keep an eye on which are whole foods and which are refined. Examples of whole carbs include: vegetables, whole fruit (not dried), legumes, potatoes and whole grains, generally all of these are perfectly healthy in considered amounts.
Refined carbs on the other hand are somewhat more troublesome as it tends to be that they’ve lost many of the beneficial properties needed by the body, such as fibre content. Examples of refined carbs include: fruit juices, pastries, bread, white pasta and white rice. Though you should never deprive yourself of any food, we would recommend opting for simple, wholesome carbs for the most part to help you on your fitness journey. This article about what carbohydrates are provides more in depth information should you need it.
Cooking wholesome food doesn’t have to be a costly exercise either, the upside to these foods is that you’ll often need less to satisfy you and basic wholefoods can be extremely versatile so getting creative with your meals shouldn’t be an issue. Below is a great example of a wholefoods shopping list that should see you through a week’s worth of meals and all for around £30 (standard pack sizes):
- 12 eggs
- Tinned fish such as tuna/mackerel
- Chicken thigh fillets
- Lean mince beef
- Lamb’s liver
- Cottage cheese
- Greek yoghurt
- Olive oil (add spices such as chili flakes to make a tasty salad dressing)
- Organic butter
- Sunflower/pumpkin seeds
- Mixed nuts
- Coconut milk
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
- Baby leaf spinach
- Cherry tomatoes
- Mixed peppers
- Frozen mixed berries
- 4 lemons
- 4 limes
There’s a good chance you could get all of this even cheaper by avoiding the supermarkets and shopping local instead. And don’t forget that your freezer is your best friend, don’t be afraid to prepare some foods and freeze them until you need them, chop and par-boil vegetables for convenience when prepping. The same goes for producing meals, use a slow cooker to batch cook and stockpile your homemade ready meals for when needed with minimal fuss.
Keeping Fit at Home
Just 10 minutes of extra activity a day could make all the difference; the idea that you need to take hours out your day to really commit yourself isn’t necessarily the case. If, however, you can commit to more time, that’s great but always make sure it’s something you can maintain going forward before jumping straight in.
One thing that the vast majority of us have in our home but which is often overlooked is stairs! Stairs are a great way to up your cardio game, start slowly and create yourself a “programme” this could be to challenge yourself on the number of steps you take within a set period, or the speed at which you take them. You could even use the bottom step for some aerobic exercises, turn that music up and get into the rhythm! Add some small dumbells to the mix to help with toning and upper body strength.
If you want to take it back to the good old days, dig out that skipping rope! Skipping is a great cardio exercise, helping to burn almost 200 calories in just 10 minutes on average. It can help in other ways too; such as improving heart and lung fitness, build strong bones as well as improving balance and flexibility.
If you’d prefer to try something at home that’s a little more rhythmic and mixes it up a bit, there are many great exercise videos out there that are available to buy, download and stream. This could be anything from yoga, to aerobics to Zumba. There’s so many to choose from, why not try something different each day to keep it interesting, that way you’ll soon discover which flavour you prefer!
If you’d fancy taking things on the road (so to speak), there are a huge range of free outdoor activities to help keep you fit that you can do too. If you’re a regular public transport user, why not off a couple of stops early and walk the rest of the way, not only will you up your activity levels but it will also give you the chance to check out things that you’d probably never noticed!
Walking in general is a fantastic and completely free way to improve fitness; changing your travel habits slightly can make significant differences to your general fitness levels. Instead of getting in the car to pop to the shops, take a steady walk. Not only will it keep you healthy, but you’ll also save money AND the environment!
If you want to step things up a gear and you’ve got a few hours spare, why not dig out that old mountain bike and take it for a spin? Bike riding is great if you want to explore larger areas and let’s not forget that going down a hill on a bike with your feet off the pedals is one of the most fun things you could possibly do! (but please check it’s safe to do so first!). Cycling is also a great alternative to using the car, particularly if the distance to travel is just that little too far to walk. If you’re new to cycling and aren’t really sure how you’ll take to it, these handy tips and cycling safety guides from the NHS should help.
If you live in area that’s close to parks or woodland areas, keep a lookout for many outdoor time trial gyms. Totally free to use, they often include equipment such as leapfrog blocks, parallel bars, monkey bars and balance beams. All of these are great fun and it’s something that you can do with all the family too.
If you don’t have anything like this in the parks close to you, just look around you for inspiration, even the trees around you can help with your fitness efforts. So much so, the National Trust have devised a 31 day fitness plan to give you tips on what exercises can be done in nature… all of which are absolutely free! Also consider contacting your local authority. They should be able to point you in the right direction for free-to-use sport amenities such as basketball courts and football pitches.
If you’re really keen to keep track of your efforts, a fitness tracker that can be worn on your wrist is a great way to monitor your activity. Often, they can be picked up for just a few pounds, and when connected up to a mobile phone or tablet, they’ll really help you keep an eye on what you’re doing each day. Some will even allow you to record sleep and eating activities should you wish to!
Keeping fit doesn’t have to cost a small fortune, there are a huge range of cheaper options out there to aid you in your goals. Hopefully we’ve been able to inspire you in some way but if you have any other tips for keeping fit on a budget, let us know!