Updated: Feb 21
As the days get colder and the cost of living soars, it’s vital we look after our health and wellbeing. Here’s how to do it for free.
Budgets might be getting smaller as the cost-of-living crisis bites, but your fitness goals and overall wellbeing shouldn’t have to suffer.
With the increasing costs of rent, mortgages, energy and food, you might be tempted to let your health priorities slide – especially when gym memberships and classes, pricey kit or team sports feel like an extra expense.
But there is a way of keeping on track this autumn – for absolutely nothing.
1. Get into ParkRun
Ladies Who Crunch (ladieswhocrunch.co.uk) founder and personal trainer Nancy Best is a fan of ParkRun (parkrun.org.uk).
“ParkRun is a fantastic way to start your weekend, surrounded by the energy of your local community, with a five-kilometre run or walk,” she explains.
“It happens all over the UK at nine in the morning on a Saturday – just use Google to find one near you. You can run, jog or walk. It’s a really social environment and a lovely way to meet new people.”
2. Dip your toe into wild swimming
Personal trainer Chris Ruxton from muscle and joint care specialists Deep Freeze and Deep Heat says: “Wild swimming is a great immune health booster, helps with low mood and depression and is a stress reliever. It’s also a great workout and boosts your metabolism. Wild swimming gives you an endorphin rush and can help to relieve pain.
“You can start at any time. Check out a convenient stretch of water, but not a canal, reservoir, river in flood or a beach where riptides threaten. You don’t need much kit – a swimming costume and a pair of water shoes or old trainers, but in the colder months you may benefit from a wetsuit. For safety’s sake go with a friend. Enter the water slowly and get used to the temperature before immersing your whole body.”
3. Get together for rounders or football
Competitive social exercise like football or rounders “develops everyone’s confidence,” Ruxton says, as well as helping people to get to know one another. “It gets your friends interested in engaging with physical activity.”
Check with your local park before assembling your team, as some places require pitches to be booked in advance.
4. Give at-home circuits a try
Best is a huge fan of bodyweight work.
“Bodyweight strength training is often overlooked in favour of resistance training, but it’s a hugely versatile and effective way to exercise,” she says.
“Here’s a short, simple full-body circuit you can do anywhere:
“Start with plank walk-outs. Push your hips backwards (as if you’re opening a door with your bum!), bring your hands to your feet on the floor and walk your palms forward, keeping your legs as straight as possible. When you get to a plank, squeeze your glutes, keeping your tailbone tucked and core engaged. Walk your hands back to your feet. Stand and roll your shoulders. Repeat for 10 reps.
“Now stand with your feet just wider than hip-width apart. Sit in a deep squat, keeping your arms straight and hanging by your sides. Try to touch your fingers to the floor. Exhale and sweep your arms overhead as you stand, so you finish with your arms above you. Squeeze your glutes and pull your navel in towards your spine. Repeat for 12 reps.
“Next, stand tall and cross the opposite hand to opposite shoulder, with your elbows at shoulder height. Tuck your chin into your chest and push your hips backwards, until you feel your hamstrings engage. Your spine is long; your shoulders should always be diagonally above your hips. Hold this position for three counts, and then exhale and stand tall, squeezing your glutes throughout. Repeat 10 times.”
Best also recommends trying dead bugs – and don’t be put off by the name. “Lie on your back with your fingers interlaced behind your head. Bend your knees and take your feet off the floor, so your knees are directly above your hips. Gently lift your head off the ground, keeping your head supported. Be mindful of your lower back staying glued to the floor – you don’t want to arch your back. Extend your left leg away from your body on your exhale. Keep your right knee hovering above the hip. Now bring your left knee in and swap to your right leg extending. Repeat for 12 alternating reps.”
She suggests completing the full circuit three times.
5. Try online yoga videos
“Improving your mobility is one of the most powerful ways to future-proof your body’s functional strength. YouTube is a fantastic resource for follow-along sequences that will release tension in your muscles, lubricate your joints and help soothe your central nervous system,” says Best.
The ever-popular Yoga With Adriene (yogawithadriene.com) has over 11 million subscribers stretching away their stress for free, so why not join them?