If you spend half of your time worrying about your health and wishing you could get trim and toned, you’re not alone: it’s estimated that half of all adults in England and Wales are overweight, with a worrying increase in the number of children being classed as overweight and obese.
There are things that you can do to get fit and healthy though – and the really good news is that you can do it cheaply. Sometimes even for free! Read the Moneymagpie guide to losing weight and start saving money now.
- Find the right plan for you
- Run for it
- Go to the park
- Go swimming
- Whip your Wii out
- Work out at work
- Housework is good for you
- Change your eating habits
The first question to ask yourself is: are you a healthy weight? It’s important to realise that there isn’t an “ideal weight” and there are many different factors that determine your weight. There are two popular measures that can give you an idea of what kind of shape you’re in, although they’re no substitute for a medical check:
- You can check your body mass index (BMI) to assess your weight in relation to your height. You can use the NHS healthy weight calculator here.
- You can check your waist to hip ratio (WHR) by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement – women are looking for a figure under 0.8 and men under 0.9.
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 calculate your BMI index and body fat percentage, which will enable you to work out what you need to do next.
In some cases you may find you’re underweight and need to put on a bit of weight to achieve a healthy BMI, and sometimes you may be a healthy weight but not happy with the way you look, which could mean a specific exercise plan helping you to tone specific muscles.
It doesn’t matter if you run like Phoebe in Friends, the point is you can do it anywhere. You can run on paths in the city, in the country, on the beach or through national parks. You don’t need anything but a good pair of shoes – invest in footwear that is going to support you.
There are many shops 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 then get you on the treadmill and video your foot strokes to find what type of shoe works best.
COST: Around £60 for a decent pair of fitted running shoes.
You don’t have to go it alone. If you prefer exercising in a group, why not get your mates together at the park and take a Frisbee? It’s far cheaper than hitting the gym and will probably be more fun too. Playing Frisbee for an hour will help you to lose 200-300 calories depending on how much you run and jump. Or you could take a football and flaunt your Beckham-like ball skills.
The other option is to join a team for a bit of healthy competition. Your local newspapers and information centres will definitely have information on where you can sign up. Post an ad on Gumtree asking for teams, or check out TNTMagazine which has a section on finding and getting involved with social sport teams in London.
Swimming in the ocean is harder work and so will burn more calories, but your local pool will probably be your first port of call. It’s fun and you can do it on your own or take your mates – playing with a ball or Frisbee in the water is a great workout.
COST: The beach is free, but the local pool may cost you a pound or two for entry. If you end up going often see if you can get a weekly pass – it’ll work out cheaper.
If you’re one for sitting in front of the TV or computer whiling away the hours playing games, then get yourself some active Wii games like boxing, tennis, golf and bowling.
Wii also have a game called Wii Fit, which comes with a special balance board and four training categories aimed at improving your muscle condition, balance, flexibility and aerobatic capacity. The Times tested it out, and found that 12 hours of Wii usage a week can burn 1,830 calories – you can lose over 12kgs a year!
COST: A Nintendo Wii can cost from £90, although it should be noted that with the recent release of the Wii U, these prices are probably going to go down. Be on the look out for pre-owned Wiis, and see if you can get a deal on eBay.
If you sit at a desk for most of the day there’s still plenty you can do to get in shape. Try these little changes and see the difference:
- Get up once an hour and do two laps of the office or building
- Take the stairs instead of the lift
- Volunteer to do the tea or milk run
- Take a walk during your lunch hour
- Shoulder and leg exercises are also quite easy to do at your desk, as well as chair squats and abdominal stretching.
No, this isn’t a joke. Ever wonder why those 1950s housewives always seem so trim? Housework like weeding, hoovering, dusting and washing the car are all top calorie burners – and even an hour’s ironing will burn off about 113 calories. Put your radio or iPod on for a bit of extra oomph.
Don’t forget that when you are carrying the shopping home you can get some exercise in too. Hold your shopping 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. Walking to the shops instead of driving can burn 287 calories an hour, and is better for the environment too.
Upping your daily physical activity is a great start but you’ll look and feel much better if you also take a good look at what you eat – all your hard work will be undone if you constantly crack open the biscuits after a walk or a game of Frisbee.
It is NOT a matter of starving yourself, this actually makes the situation worse. When your stomach is not being fed properly, the fats you do eat will store themselves because your body doesn’t know when you will be fed next. If you eat 500 calories less than your recommended daily amount then you can lose a healthy 0.5kgs a week and you needn’t stop eating your favourite foods.
Things like including ice in a glass of coke cuts 70 calories out of it, and switching from a cream-filled doughnut to a chocolate-covered doughnut cuts 100 calories. Rather than having four scoops of ice cream, have two scoops with one banana. Once you get sick of those foods, start substituting the coke for water with ice, or eat sticks of celery and carrot with tzatziki dip instead of crisps.
Fast food is also a big issue: the odd takeaway is fine as part of a balanced, healthy diet but if you’re regularly calling into the burger bar, pizza place or kebab house you are hurting your health and your pocket. Everybody enjoys convenience but with a little forward planning you can boost your finances and your wellbeing by eating freshly prepared meals.
It is also important to remember that there are nutrients and vitamins essential to a healthy diet. For more information and supplement suggestions, have a look at Nature’s Own, a company dedicated to ‘nurturing and nourishing’.
SAVINGS: Coke, doughnuts and ice cream are more expensive than water and fruit, so the healthier your eating habits, the more money you’ll save!
For loads of cheap and healthy recipe ideas check out Sarah Lockett’s food column here. Remember that for the cost of one fast food meal you can afford to make sandwiches for an entire week of lunches with ingredients bought from a supermarket like Sainsbury’s. Have a look at our article on making your lunch money go further for inspiration.