Get fit for free

Using the stairs

You don't necessarily need an expensive gym membership to keep active. Sarah Brealey gives you nine ways to shape up that will cost you (almost) nothing.

1. Use the stairs

If you have stairs, climb a flight then go back down. Repeat, gradually building up the number that you do. When out, take the stairs instead of the lift or walk up the escalator.

2. Become a tree

Regular balance exercises are important, especially as you get older. To do a yoga ‘tree’ pose, stand up straight, lift one foot and place its sole against your other leg. To start, just touch your foot to your other ankle for a second before putting it down. As you improve, hold it for longer and move your foot higher up your leg. If you have problems balancing, hold your arms out to either side in a T-shape or hold a wall. Don't forget to breathe! This pose can also be done by holding your hands together above your head, but if you've got high blood pressure, it's best not to keep your arms above your head for too long.

3. Find free swimming

Some local councils still let over-60s swim for free in their pools, while others give this age group a big discount. Check at your local pool or with your council.

A pair of trainers4. Try an outdoor ‘gym’

Check to see if your local park has a ‘trim trail’: an outdoor area with pieces of exercise equipment that you can use for free. Contact your local council to ask whether there’s one near you or type ‘trim trail’ and your area into your search engine.

5. Devise a routine

Play some lively music and create your own aerobic workout. You could dance, jog on the spot, do star jumps, skip or try a combination of these. Try to do ten minutes to start with and gradually increase the duration and intensity.

6. Play throw and catch

Stand outdoors with plenty of space and a ball or stick. Throw it as far as you can, then walk or run to fetch it. Repeat, changing your arm to see how far you can throw. It’s great fun with kids or grandchildren, too.

Arm exercises with tins

7. Improvise with tins

A good way to tone and strengthen your arms and shoulders is to use tins of soup or baked beans as weights. Hold a tin in each palm, stretch out your arms to each side and move them in circles, keeping them straight. Do ten clockwise circles, then ten anti-clockwise.

8. Visit your library

Check out your local library for fitness DVDs. Okay, so there might be a small charge for this one, but at least you’ll be motivated to use it before it’s due back!

9. Offer your services

Get active by volunteering for a local organisation such as a gardening project or sports club. Or try the Conservation Volunteers Green Gym – a voluntary scheme that combines exercise with public conservation projects.

If you’re not already active, get medical advice before starting a new exercise regime.

Read our feature about winter walking

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