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We all know how important exercise is if we want to stay fit and healthy – and many of us wouldn’t mind losing a couple of unwanted pounds too. However, gym memberships can be so expensive you may feel as though you’re stuck in a fitness rut you can’t afford to get out of.

There’s loads of ways to exercise without spending a penny though. Check out 12 of our favourite exercise tips – and they’re all free.

Always speak to your GP before embarking on a new exercise regime for the first time.

1) Walking

We’re so lucky to live in a country where there’s plenty of beautiful scenery, usually not too far from your front door. Whether it’s a park in the city or acres of woodland in the countryside, you’re spoilt for choice if you want to get out in the fresh air for a good hike. Even better, it doesn’t cost a thing.

However, you shouldn’t reserve walking for special occasions like this. Walking anywhere and for any distance counts as exercise and the more of it you can fit into your day, the better it is for your health. Consider parking your car further from your destination, walking to the coffee shop or getting off the bus early and covering the rest of the distance on foot. You may be surprised at the results.

2) Running

This is another exercise you can do totally for free (although it’s worth investing in a good pair of running shoes). Why limit yourself to a treadmill at the gym, when you could be out enjoying plenty of fresh air and beautiful scenery while you run in the great outdoors? If you need a little help getting started, the NHS has put together this useful podcast to get you going.

Just like with walking, you can run anywhere – even if it’s just around the streets that neighbour yours. Why not get together a group of friends to go running one or two nights a week too? That way you can spur each other on.

3) Cycling

This is another sport that lets you enjoy being outside for free – although, of course, you will need a bike. If you don’t have much spare time to dedicate to exercising, you could cycle to work or the shops instead so that you’re still fitting in some peddle power.

If you fancy a route that’s a little more scenic, check out the Sustrans National Cycle Network. There are routes all over the country – including both on- and off-road options – so you should find something suitable, whether you want a great afternoon’s ride or a cycling holiday.

4) Dance the pounds away

It’s not hard to feel as though your mood has lifted after a good boogie – and best of all, if you really get into it, dancing acts as a full-body workout. Plus, it doesn’t have to cost you a thing.

If you have a few minutes to spare, just put your headphones on and play your favourite upbeat songs then throw some shapes in the privacy of your own home. You could even set up a special dancing playlist to groove to.

5) YouTube workouts

You may feel a little embarrassed dancing around your living room – although there’s no reason why you should – so if you want an exercise plan that’s a little more structured, you could surf YouTube for a workout video that appeals to you. There’s plenty to choose from and they’re all free.

Whether you’re keen to try aerobics or yoga, there are loads of options on the video-sharing site. One popular choice is POP Pilates, which starts at beginner’s level and works up.

6) Take the stairs

Your own staircase at home or work can be transformed into an exercise machine if you want it to be. Not only is running up and down the stairs far more beneficial than taking the lift, but you could even do a quick step aerobics routine on it – just stick to the lowest step.

Step aerobics can put pressure on the knees, so if you have a problem with yours, you may wish to avoid this. However, choosing to take the stairs instead of the lift as often as you can will pay dividends.

7) Housework

No, we’re not joking. Housework really does help you work off the excess pounds. Think of all the effort you have to put into pushing a vacuum around your home, or moving everything off your shelves to dust them, only to have to put everything back again.

Doing the housework can help you stay fit and you won’t break the bank doing so. Plus, you’ll have a lovely shiny clean home at the end of it.

8) Gardening

This is another activity that has multiple benefits. Gardening can be really strenuous work, what with all the digging, chopping and hauling of bags of soil that’s involved.

While working in your garden or an allotment can help you stay in shape, it also lets you spend plenty of time outdoors in the fresh air. And we haven’t even mentioned the fact that you can grow your own fruits, vegetables, salads and flowers too – saving yourself even more cash.

9) Trampoline

Why should your kids have all the fun? If you have a trampoline you bought to keep the little ones entertained, you may be interested to learn that it’s a great way to stay fit too.

Sneak on for 10 minutes or so before they’re up in the morning or while they’re at school and bounce the excess weight away. Throw in a few star jumps and squats and you’ll have built up a sweat in no time.

10) Skipping

Another toy you can pinch from your kids, the humble skipping rope has long been a great tool for getting fit. Even two minutes of jumping rope and you’ll probably be left gasping for breath.

Remember, skipping is not reserved for little girls. Boxers are known to favour the exercise too and there’s a reason for this: it tests your endurance and teaches you to be fast and nimble on your feet.

11) Tennis

If you find exercising alone dull, there’s plenty you can do with other people. Tennis is one option, and you can pick up a racket without blowing too much of a hole in your budget.

Check out the Tennis for Free website where you can find information on courts and free tennis sessions happening in your area. The charity offers weekly coach-led family sessions for free, so this could be a great sport for you all to get into.

12) Sports in the park

Whatever age you are, it’s important to exercise if you want to avoid putting on too much weight and potentially experiencing health problems in the future. That’s why it’s just as important for you to encourage your partner and kids to get fit as it is for you to do it yourself.

One great – and free – way to do this is to simply round everyone up and head to your local park. You can play all manner of sports together here, from football or volley ball to roller-skating. And the best thing about this option is that you get to have fun AND get fit together.

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