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Cheap fitness: Ditch the gym membership and get fit for free

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You don’t need to join a gym to work up a sweat.

IT’S resolution time, and one of our top priorities is adopting a more active lifestyle. But gym memberships, personal trainers or protein shakes aren’t always the most budget-friendly solution.

Here are six ways to boost your fitness without spending a cent.

Almost anyone can do it: Whether that’s walking the dog or baby in the pram, walking is the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to access the benefits associated with a physically active lifestyle.

Besides the physical benefits such as heart health, research reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that walking 30 minutes a day boosted the moods in depressed patients faster than antidepressants.

To ramp up the benefits, take your walk outdoors to a green space. The Japanese even have a word for mindful walking in nature (‘shinrin-yoku’).

Using your own body weight to improve cardio fitness and strength is all the rage, so there’s no reason why you can’t create your own boot-camp-style workout without someone barking orders at you. Simply create a circuit, mixing up a series of exercises such as burpees, squats, lunges, running stairs, push-ups and planks.

Better still, transform your nearest park into a gym by using monkey bars and benches to supplement body-weight exercises. To avoid injury, do a bit of research online to make sure you’re doing each exercise with the correct technique.

Walk past those lifts and escalators and take the stairs because just two minutes of stair climbing a day is enough to stop average middle age spread. In fact, stair climbing is officially classed as a ‘vigorous’ form exercise and burns more calories per minute than jogging.

A well-known app like StepJockey lets you track the stairs climbs and record how many calories you’ve burnt. Start with just a few flights and build up over time, until it forms a daily habit.

Often thought of as playgrounds for adults, outdoor gyms offer a range of modern fitness equipment to help transform your workout with a little help from fresh air and vitamin D. Contact your local council to ask whether there’s one near you.

A lot of parks, like this one on the Cooks River Fitness Trail, have free gym equipment these days. Picture: Craig Wilson

A lot of parks, like this one on the Cooks River Fitness Trail, have free gym equipment these days. Picture: Craig WilsonSource:News Corp Australia

PLAY WITH YOUR KIDS (OR PETS)

Playing with kids and pets can burn serious calories, plus is a lot more fun than running on a treadmill. Simply head to a park and include some fun activity using basic equipment like a ball or frisbee — anything to make everyone smile, and run.

Once you’ve bought the rope, skipping is a zero-cost workout with everything going for it, including heart and lung fitness, strong bones, balance and flexibility. Skipping uses almost twice as much energy than walking, because you lift your body off the ground with each skip, and that burns more kilojoules and torches body fat. Best of all, it can be done anywhere at any time and is a good alternative to cardiovascular work when the weather turns foul.

Kathleen Alleaume is an exercise and nutrition scientist. Follow her @therightbalance

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