Despite popular belief, getting fit doesn’t have to cost a fortune – fitness doesn’t come at the cost of an expensive gym membership, designer Lycra and NASA accredited trainers. Fitness, in fact, doesn’t have to cost even a penny, which means savings in the bank for a glorious sunshine filled holiday – detox your life by reading our guide, shed the pounds without losing pennies.
If you can control what you eat, and get out of the office for a bit of exercise each day, you’ll lose weight and be healthier and happier.
The important thing is to work out what you want, and set a goal to help you achieve it. The first question to ask yourself is: are you a healthy weight? There is no ideal weight and there are many different factors that determine yours. You can check your body mass index (BMI) to assess your weight in relation to your height. Or you can check your waist circumference, which gives an indication of how much weight is stored around your middle (holding in your stomach doesn’t count!).
Do the calculations
Boots – and many gyms across the country – offer scales combined with BMI calculators, where you jump on for a basic or advanced reading. The advanced reading will include your BMI index and body fat percentage (as well as your height and weight), so it should enable you to sit down and work out what you need to do next. In some cases you may find you’re underweight and need to put a bit of weight on to get healthier. On the other hand, you may be a healthy weight but not happy with the way you look, which could mean a tailored exercise plan helping you to tone specific muscles.
When you decide to lose weight, it should be more than just a short term thing. It’s all about re-evaluating the way you live, what you eat and how you exercise. This is a total lifestyle change, and it has to be for good. Once you achieve your ideal weight, you still need to maintain it!
You need to work with goals, but “I’m going to starve myself and go to the gym every day to lose 20kgs” doesn’t really cut it – it’s not usually achievable or healthy. A better option is to have an overall goal (such as “I would like to lose 15kgs to become healthier and happier”) and lots of little baby goals. Concentrate on the first 5kgs, which should take about 4-5 weeks. After you lose the first 5kgs, reward yourself with a new item of clothing, a spa treatment or whatever appeals to you.
- It’s not healthy to lose more than 2kgs a week, so don’t go overboard.
- You also need to rest and give your body time to recover after exercise (especially after weights, which should only be done every other day at most).
We all love getting a new gym membership after all the turkey and pudding leftovers – but you really don’t need it. Enlist the help of a friend, or write up your own plan and stick it to the fridge. It’s amazing what exercises you can do in the comfort of your home with a few tins of baked beans, water bottles or elastic to help.
Work out at work
If you sit at a desk for most of the day, keep active by getting up at least once an hour and do two laps of the office or building, or walk up and down the stairs a couple of times. Go to the kitchen to fill up your water glass or bottle, and get out of the office during lunch time.
Physically leave your desk and have lunch for half the time, and then go for a walk during the other half. Shoulder and leg exercises are also quite easy to do at your desk, as well as chair squats and abdominal stretching. About.com have a great resource on exercising at work – everything from basic stretches to full office workouts. COST: Nothing!
Housework is good for you
Hate housework? Don’t. Combine housework with some loud rocking music and go crazy. You don’t have to dance around the house (although it is fun) but rocking music will help you put more effort and ‘umph’ into scrubbing/vacuuming/sweeping/wiping. You can pick up 101 Housework Songs for under nine quid – five CD’s of songs that are sure to pick you up when doing even the most tedious household chores!
Another great exercise: when you’re carrying the shopping home, hold the bags in both hands at a 90 degree angle and then slightly lift them in towards your chest, hold and release. This helps to tone your biceps. COST: Nothing!
Run for it
Running’s great, for the simple reason that you can do it anywhere: paths in the city, in the country, on the beach or through national parks. All you need is a good pair of shoes – so invest in trainers that are going to support you.
There are many stores across the country that have systems for finding out the right type of shoe for you. If you buy from Runnersworld they’ll do an analysis in-store to test your arches and flex. They’ll even get you on a treadmill and video your foot strokes to find what type of shoe works best. You can also get some good deals from Sportshoes.com. and Decathlon has some great own brand shoes that are affordable and good quality.
Check out the UK Running Track Directory for ideas on where you can run in your local area. In addition, Nike has a cool Run-mapper which lets you map your runs and see how many kilometres you’ve covered, as well as having pre-defined maps in different areas for you to check out. COST: Nothing to run, around £60 for a decent pair of fitted running shoes.
Go to the park
There’s strength in numbers. If you prefer exercising in a group, don’t think packed classes with lots of lycra, get your mates together at the park and take a Frisbee. Playing Frisbee for an hour will help you to lose 200-300 calories, depending on how much you run and jump.
Alternatively, you could take a football and flaunt your Beckham-like ball skills. The other option is to get a team together for a bit of healthy competition. Your local newspaper and notice boards at leisure centres will have information on where you can join. Post an ad on Gumtree asking for teams, or check out TNT Magazine, which has a section on getting into sport in London. COST: It costs nothing to enjoy nature, but you would pay around £10 for a new football or Frisbee.
Dump the car
Our car crazed culture means that we’re inclined to jump in the motor just to get a pint of milk from the corner shop – if this is the case, take a moment to think about how much money you’d save by using a bit of leg work. Short journeys are the least efficient journeys to make in a car, with high petrol usage and wear and tear – taking a bit of time to cycle, walk or run to the local shop is also a great way to squeeze a few extra fitness points into the daily routine.
Get on your bike
Most of us have a bike collecting dust at the back of the garage – get it out, dust it off and get on it. Cycling is a great way to get around and could even be a good option for the daily commute, especially for city dwellers. A cycle to work not only helps shed the pounds and save pennies on petrol or public transport costs, but it can also save time – the commute and the fitness regime are combined and whilst buses and cars sit in traffic, the bike is an independent beast.
Get your togs on and head out to the beach or your local pool. Kick your legs and swing your arms as much as possible to make it really effective. Swimming in the ocean is harder work and therefore better for you. It’s fun, and you can do it on your own or take your mates – playing ball or Frisbee in the water is an even better workout. COST: The beach is free, but the local pool may cost you a quid or two for entry. If you end up going often, see if you can get a weekly pass for cheaper travel.
Top five exercises at home
- Push ups: These can be done almost anywhere and help your stamina and upper body. The idea is to lie face down on the floor, with your palms about shoulder-width apart. Push your whole body up off the ground, with your back and legs in a straight line, and then lower yourself back down towards the floor. If it’s too much, rest on your knees rather than your toes.
- Sit ups: Work your abdominal and back muscles with sit ups, which can be done in many ways. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms across your chest and raise your body up to try and meet your knees. You can also crunch sideways by lifting your right arm to crunch into your left side and vice versa.
- Star jumps: Not just for the kids, these are great for your calf and thigh muscles. Quite literally, jump up and down – making sure you lift at least an inch off the ground. Land with your feet apart and arms out wide, and then on the second jump land with feet and arms together. Continue to make stars.
- Squats: Work those thighs and buttocks by standing up straight, bending your knees with your arms stretched outright parallel to the floor. Bend until your thighs are parallel to the floor then come back up.
- Back extension: Use your stomach and back muscles by lying on the floor, face down with your arms at your side. At the same time, lift your head toward the ceiling and look up as far as you can go, while lifting your legs.
Interested in learning more? Check out About.com’s total body workout at home section. Earn points for exercising! .
You’ll have a much easier time losing weight through exercise if you also watch what you eat. However, it’s NOT a matter of starving yourself – this actually makes the situation worse. When your stomach isn’t being fed properly the fats you do eat will store themselves, because your body doesn’t know when you’ll be fed next.
If you eat 500 calories less than your recommended daily amount, you can lose a healthy 0.5kgs a week. There are no ‘bad’ foods – just think of ways to cut down on the things that aren’t as healthy as others. For example, including ice in a glass of coke cuts out 70 calories, and switching from a cream-filled doughnut to a chocolate covered doughnut cuts 100 calories. Or, rather than having four scoops of ice cream, have two scoops with one banana. Once you’re on the right track, start substituting the coke for water with ice, or eat crudités (sticks of celery and carrot with tzatziki dip) instead of crisps.
There are always healthy alternatives. Check out some of the recipe books in your local library to find out how to make proper meals, and remember to eat a small portion of protein at least once a day. SAVINGS: Coke, doughnuts and ice cream are more expensive than water, bananas and crudités, especially if you shop at a farmer’s market.
To see more hints for saving money food shopping, check out our food blog, which is regularly updated with tasty recipe ideas.
Lay off the fast food; It’s so easy to pack a lunch or take a snack for in between meals – and it costs a hell of a lot less in the long run. If you find yourself craving fast food there are always better options. SAVINGS: For the cost of one fast food meal, you can afford to make sandwiches for an entire week of lunches. Have a look at our article on making your lunch money go further.