Can't afford a gym membership? Here are five free workout ideas

In 2022, we all know that exercise – whether it’s walking every day, hitting the gym three times a week or trying out new activities like pilates or pole dancing – is vital for our health.

But group classes, protein shakes and gym memberships can be expensive and, in a cost of living crisis, can’t always take priority.

In fact, research of 2,013 adults by Nutrimuscle found that Brits are expected to spend an average of £23.9 billion annually on things like supplements, gym clothing and accessories, gym memberships, online meal plans, nutritional advice and personal training in 2022. 

However, with costs of basic and essential goods like food and fuel constantly on the rise, one in five respondents said they’d recently cancelled their gym membership, with nearly half (49%) stating that it was too expensive, and they needed to save money.

The good news is exercise doesn’t need to be expensive. 

Although Instagram will have you believe otherwise, moving your body doesn’t require an expensive gym membership, an array of resistance bands or the latest workout gear and there are loads of ways to exercise without spending a penny.

We asked personal trainer Rachael Sacerdoti to share some of her favourite free workout ideas.

Five completely free workout ideas

Running

An obvious choice for getting your body moving is running. 

All you need is a pair of trainers, some comfy clothes and a water bottle and off you go.

If you’re completely new to running, trying out the Couch to 5K plan might be the ideal starting point. 

If you’re not a fan of distance running, have little time or are looking to build some explosivity and speed, Rachael recommends sprinting.

‘You can do this anywhere as long as the ground is fairly levelled,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Try out 30 seconds of sprints followed by 30 seconds of walking and repeat 20 times. 

‘Sprints will allow you to push your body to a maximum level and increase your overall endurance.’

For an extra challenge, try doing hill sprints, where you sprint as fast as you can uphill and jog or walk back to the bottom.  

Interval training

‘Interval training is my preferred style of exercise, particularly for the time-poor,’ says Rachael.

With interval training, you need to work for a certain amount of time – usually around 30 seconds – followed by a short rest of around 20 to 30 seconds. 

The best thing about interval training workouts is that there are thousands of them on the internet, particularly on YouTube and Instagram, that require absolutely no equipment and can be done from the comfort of your living room.

You can choose exercises like burpees, mountain climbers and jump rope to switch between – Rachael is a big fan of jump squats.

‘I love this as it’s a mix of resistance and cardio, therefore building muscle and escalating your heart rate all at once. 

‘This is great for a quick and effective fat burn and can be done anywhere with no equipment.’

Yoga

While heading mat-in-arm over to a yoga studio in a pair of expensive leggings might feel a bit intimidating, yoga has tons of health benefits and can be done from anywhere – you don’t even need a mat. 

‘In terms of poses, I love the upward-facing dog pose as it improves posture and strengthens your wrists, spine, and arms, along with firming the buttocks,’ says Rachael.

‘It also offers an excellent stretch for the chest and spine and has been credited to helping aid digestion. 

‘An excellent energising pose that helps rejuvenate and rebalance mind and body.’

Again, there are free follow-along yoga videos plastered all over YouTube. 

This one by Shona Vertue is the perfect no equipment yoga routine. 

Pilates

Similar to yoga, pilates offers a great stretch combined with some genuinely difficult (and sweaty) strengthening movements – especially for your core. 

While there are a number of free pilates videos on YouTube, Rachael recommends trying donkey kicks to fire hydrants.

She adds: ‘These are two simple exercises that can be linked in with each other and executed anywhere.

‘This combo is performed on all fours – for perfect form, keep your head neutral and ensure your hands are in line with and under the shoulders, with knees under the hips. 

‘This will activate your glutes [and core] and give them a good workout.’

Bodyweight training

‘Being at home and having no equipment doesn’t mean you can’t work on your resistance training, especially as resistance is important to fight the inevitable muscle loss that comes with age,’ says Rachael. 

Bodyweight training can be extremely difficult, even if you’re a regular squatter (have you tried to see how many pull ups you can do?). 

Push ups, single leg movements and core exercises are great for at-home bodyweight workouts and, if you can afford a pull up bar, incorporating some back work into your workouts will help mitigate any imbalances. 

Rachael recommends adding in planks: ‘The plank is one of the simplest and most effective exercises you can do, benefitting your entire body.

‘This will strengthen your core which is most important for posture and build a strong foundation that will help keep you injury-free. 

‘Do daily and hold for at least one minute to reap the rewards of this winning move.’

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