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Low-cost ways to lose weight

Holly Olivia Braine 20th Mar 2020 5 Comments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you spend half of your time worrying about your weight 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 Money Magpie guide to losing weight and start saving money now.

The basics: work out what plan is right for you

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.scales
  • 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 as well as 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.

Run for it

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.Young woman running outdoor.

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 record your foot strokes to find what type of shoe works best.

You can also get some good deals from Sportshoes.com, plus Decathlon has some great own brand shoes that are affordable and good quality.

COST: Around £60 for a decent pair of fitted running shoes.

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Go to the park

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 sports 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.

COST: It costs nothing to enjoy being outdoors, but expect to pay around £13 for a new football or around £9 for a new Frisbee.

Go swimming

Dig out your costume and head out to the beach or your local pool. The experts agree that swimming is a fantastic all-over fat burning and muscle toning exercise suitable for pretty much everyone.swimming

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.

Whip your Wii out

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 has 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 release of the Wii U, these prices are probably going to go down. Be on the look out for pre-owned Wii consoles, and see if you can get a deal on eBay.

Work out at work


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.

COST: Nothing!

Housework is good for you

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 Spotify on for a bit of extra inspiration.

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.

COST: Free

Change your eating habits

Upping your daily physical activity is great, but you’ll feel much better if you eat well. All your hard work will be undone if you crack open the biscuits after 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.MoneyMagpie_Salad-Healthy-Green-Vitamins-Lettuce-Tomato-Side-Leaves-Fresh

Things like including ice in a glass of Coke cuts 70 calories, 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 hummus dip instead of crisps.

Fast food is also a big issue: the odd takeaway is fine as part of a balanced, healthy diet. However, 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 well-being by eating freshly prepared meals.

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!

Have a look at our article on making your lunch money go further for inspiration.

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4 years ago

Thanks for the advice. Need some of this post lock down…

4 years ago

Great ideas and cheaper than the gym – if you have one near you. Best for those who- like me have bno gym anywhere near

Mike Chirnside
Mike Chirnside
11 years ago

“Wii also have a game called Wii Fit…aimed at improving your…aerobatic capacity”. Pilots only need apply! 😉

11 years ago

If you have a BMI of 30+ /obese (I’m tall & curvy not huge, being classed medically obese was a shock!) I don’t know about everywhere else but at least in Essex your GP can refer you to Weight Watchers for 12 weeks free, you just have to achieve set targets. I’ve lost 9.5lbs in 3 weeks even though I was only given a target of losing 11lbs in 12 weeks. I love it! Because its from the doctor I’m working my butt off & have the determination to get healthy & do my best, like proving myself to the… Read more »

13 years ago

Has anyone had any positive weight loss experience using the Wii? If so, please do tell.

I just can’t imagine getting fit with a video game…

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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