How to keep fit for FREE

Including outdoor gyms, YouTube/Netflix workouts, gym passes, tennis, weekly timed 5k & more

Getting something totally free is likely to get a true MoneySaver's heart pumping faster than any cardio workout ever could. But, if that's not enough, I've rounded up 20 ways you can exercise and get fit without spending a penny, both outdoors and at home.

Find a free outdoor gym

Gym memberships typically cost £180 to £720 a year, but before locking yourself into a costly fee, or if you can't afford it, consider giving free outdoor gyms a try – plus it's one way to warm yourself up while out in the winter cold.

There are over 1,000 across the UK, mainly found in local parks or open recreation areas. To find your nearest, check your local council's website, or enter your postcode at two of the biggest outdoor gym providers – The Great Outdoor Gym Company, and Fresh Air Fitness (check it says it's open to the public as some are installed at schools or businesses).

Expect to see around 10 to 20 pieces of equipment per gym with the majority being similar or the same as the equipment you'd find indoors – cross trainers, seated rowers, pull up bars and suchlike. It's worth pointing out these machines don't usually have adjustable weights as they're resistance-based, so if you want to really work on your strength this may not be the most fulfilling workout.

Get fit while helping others with Goodgym

If you enjoy group exercise, and also like to do your bit for the community, consider GoodGym. This non-profit organisation pairs fitness with philanthropy – your workout will benefit local people by doing practical activities such as gardening, moving heavy furniture for an elderly person, picking up litter or sorting cans at a foodbank (you usually run to and from the activity).

Goodgym currently operates in over 60 areas in England and Wales. While it is completely free to join, it's also a registered charity, so you can make donations to help its running costs.

If you find doing 'traditional' exercise boring and repetitive, this could be a good way to shift your focus onto helping others, while still getting in a workout. 

Download a free fitness app

Apps are a super convenient way to access a whole world of different workouts quickly and easily from your phone. There are too many to list them all, but here are a couple of my favourites:

  • Strava (on Apple and Android) allows you to track and log your fitness efforts via GPS and stores it in one place. No matter your preferred form of exercise – walking, cycling, running (and over 30 other types of sport) – you can see your progress as well as share with friends. Plus, you can give 'kudos' to others for their workout. 

  • Seven (on Apple and Android) is good if you're pushed for time but still want to fit in some solid exercise. Seven, as the name suggests, provides you with a workout that takes as little as – you guessed it – seven minutes! It's like an at-home circuits class where you'll be doing moves such as squats, crunches, and lunges.

Claim free day passes at gyms

It's totally possible to use the gym without paying a penny. All you need to do is look for gyms that offer free day passes – some will even give you up to a week for free to try out the facilities. Our Cheap gyms guide has a full list with extra info, but here are a few of the top picks:

  • Nuffield Health free seven-day pass for two people via the M&S Sparks app (for Apple and Android) until Sunday 11 February. It has 112 branches across England, Wales and Scotland.
  • Anytime Fitness free three-day pass. It has 185 branches across the UK.
  • Énergie Fitness free one-day pass. It has about 80 branches across the UK.
  • Fitness First free one-day pass. It has about 30 branches across the UK.

Another option is to buddy-up with a friend as some gyms and leisure centres offer paying members free guest passes. Of course, neither of these options will work long-term, but are a good way to figure out if you enjoy going to the gym before committing to a pricey membership.

Do workout videos on YouTube and Netflix

Home workouts have come into their own since the days of lockdown, especially as there are thousands of totally free workout videos available on YouTube. Some tried and tested favourites include:

  • The Body Coach – Otherwise known as Joe Wicks, The Body Coach's efforts to help people stay fit over lockdown, as well as his charity work, earned him an MBE. And he's still dedicated to the cause with hundreds of free home workouts available on his YouTube channel. They're typically 20 minutes long and simple to follow. There are chair workouts for those with limited mobility.

  • Yoga with Adriene  This is a popular one with MoneySavers. If you want to slow down and try a more gentle form of exercise, yoga is great for both the body and mind. Head to Adriene's YouTube channel where you can choose from a variety of yoga practices, varying in length and ability level.

  • Emkfit – For the days when you just don't fancy doing the typical exercises of squats or lunges but want to move your body, have a dance! Emily Thorne, known as emkfit on YouTube takes inspiration from HIIT workouts but disguises them as dance moves making for a great way to get sweating and have fun. Some of these are themed on different types of music too – special mention goes to the Taylor Swift dedicated workout.

Embedded YouTube Video

Speaking of popular music, MoneySaver Lorna H has an interesting way she keeps fit with the kids:

A good, fun one to do with the kids is put some music videos on the telly and copy exactly what they're doing, not just the dancing, everything! Very silly and gets the heart rate up!

How about some Netflix and workout? Though not technically free, if you've a Netflix account (plans start from £4.99 a month), there are Nike Training Club workouts you can stream which are led by Nike’s certified trainers. There are a variety of workouts from yoga to HIIT, so this could be a great way to utilise your subscription, getting both entertainment and exercise from one source.

To find them, search 'Nike training club' in the Netflix app on your phone, tablet or smart TV.

Play free tennis or get free lessons

Tennis for Free is an organisation that does exactly what it says on the tin – serving up tennis for absolutely nada! Ace. Tennis For Free says almost 20,000 people attended one of its courts last year.

You've two options here – if you just to want to play on a court and have some fun, check the Tennis For Free website to find courts available for recreational use in your local area. There are currently 55 sites across England, Scotland and Wales, though many are only open from March to November.

Alternatively, if you'd prefer to have some coaching, you can book a free session online for those aged 12+. They're usually an hour to 90 minutes, and include a mix of coaching and open play. All equipment is free and included as part of the session.

Kids get free tennis lessons via the Lawn Tennis Assocation

During the summer months (usually from May to September), kids can get free tennis sessions or coaching as part of Big Tennis Weekends, organised by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). It suggests to book online in advance, but in some cases it's fine to turn up on the day as long as there's room, so it's worth keeping an eye out for this come the warmer months.

You can also book a tennis court via LTA, though this does cost. The cheapest session I found was £2.50 for an hour – which seems reasonable, especially if you split it with who you're playing with. You can book online or by scanning a QR code (similar to that pictured) at your local tennis court.

Go running

Running man

Perhaps a no-brainer, but running is a great way to get fit at zero cost. All you need is a good pair of trainers and a bit of willpower. Plus, there are a variety of free ways to keep you motivated when pounding the pavements. 

Free weekly timed 5k

Parkrun is a free, community event where you can walk, jog, run, (or even volunteer or spectate) your way through a 5k every Saturday morning. You just need to sign up once and you’ll be given a barcode to print out and bring with you to the park. Once you've finished the 5k, this is scanned to give you an accurate time. It has 816 locations worldwide (find your nearest) and the community is very friendly  my local Parkrunners like to grab a coffee in the park café post-run. MoneySaver Mandy W says:

Parkrun has amazing free events all over the country, entirely run by volunteers. The camaraderie and sense of community is amazing, with involvement at all levels from elite runner to walker.

Couch to 5k

If you're new to running, Couch to 5k is an app (free to download on Apple and Android) that guides you from being a complete beginner to eventually running a 5k over a nine-week programme. It combines bursts of walking and running, gradually increasing as the weeks go on until you're running non-stop for 30 minutes. 

You don't need to buy a fitness tracker – use free fitness apps on your phone

You don't need to get a fitness tracker or watch if you want to run. The best part about running is that it is totally free, you can go wherever you want and as far as you want. But if you want to track your fitness and you've got a smartphone, chances are it already has a free fitness app installed on it, or that you can download for free. The main ones are Apple HealthSamsung Health and Google Fit. It's worth trying these to track your fitness before committing to buying a fitness watch as although they may not be as sophisticated as a dedicated tracker, they still cover the basics such as step counting, heart rate and calories burnt.

  • If you're already planning on buying a fitness tracker, we've a few ways to get one for less

    • Look out for discount codes and vouchers. Often retailers will offer a new customer discount between 10%-20% if you've never shopped with them before.

    • Downshift your fitness watch. The new Apple Watch Ultra 2 has an RRP of £799 which is definitely not MoneySaving. If you're not set on a big brand name, try downshifting to a lesser-known brand. We found a watch from Reflex Active at Argos on sale for £27.99 – a saving of £771 compared to the Apple Watch.

    • Get a refurbished model. If you're not fussed about having the latest model, a refurbished model not only breathes new life into an existing pre-owned watch, but it's also a lot kinder to your wallet. For example, we found a refurbished Apple Watch Series 3 for £99.99.

If running isn't your thing, try walking – and getting PAID for it

If you're a total newbie to all things fitness, the best way to get started (and without paying for an expensive gym membership) is to simply walk. It's a low-impact form of exercise, so is gentle on your joints and of course, you set the pace and length of time you go for.

Some apps will even pay you to walk – so instead of saving money, you're making it, too. Sweatcoin, Win Walk, Charity Miles and Vitality Rewards are all apps that have an incentive – be it vouchers, donations to charity or rewards such as a free coffee – to get you outside and walking.

And if making money wasn't enough to encourage you, our Martin is very vocal about his love for getting his steps in. Find out how he averaged 25,142 steps a day in 2023 and learn how to do the same yourself.

Get free swimming if you're aged over 60

Age should never be a barrier to exercise. In fact, I will tell anyone that will listen about my incredible late grandma who took up running in her late 50s – and then completed marathons in her 60s – so don't let your age put you off. Some local councils let those aged 60+ swim for free in their pools, or at least give you discount if you're around this age. Check with your local pool or council.

If you don't like swimming, but are within this age category, Action for Elders is a charity that provides totally free exercise classes (both online and in person), videos and ideas aimed at getting you healthier and fitter.

Nuffield Health fitness classes for girls aged 11-16

And, at the other end of the age scale, girls aged 11-16 years old can get totally free fitness classes at Nuffield Health clubs (find your nearest). It has a Move Together scheme which is aimed at getting teenagers enjoying physical activity. 

There are over 100 sessions per week and typically, classes are between 45 minutes to one hour long, varying from circuits to Zumba, and yoga to HIIT. Head to Nuffield Health online to find classes nearby, then sign up or log in to book a free class. It doesn't matter if parents are members of Nuffield Health or not – any girl can take part in the free sessions, although parents will need to consent to participation for girls aged 11 and 12 years old.

If you're a confident swimmer, brave wild water swimming

Not for the faint-hearted, wild swimming sees those who can stand it take a dip in lakes, ponds, rivers or the sea – though it's incredibly important to always swim responsibly and safely – take a friend to keep an eye on each other, and go during daylight. Of course, it goes without saying that you'll need to wear appropriate clothing as it will be cold.

If you aren't a confident swimmer, or just want to go open water swimming with like-minded folk, there are special locations across the UK that you can go to, though you'll often need to pay. MSE Kelvin recently took the plunge at Beckenham Place Park, which cost £6.20 for an hour's session. While it'll set you back a little bit, this may be a more favourable option if you're new to outdoor swimming as usually there are lifeguards about, and you're required to wear a Baywatch-style float.

You can find your local open water swimming at Swim England, Scottish Swimming, Visit Wales, and Discover Northern Ireland but as mentioned above, bear in mind some locations may charge.

Litter-picking, volunteering at the dog rescue & more – here's what fellow MoneySavers do to keep fit for free

We asked MoneySavers on Facebook and Twitter (X) what free things they do to keep fit. Here are some of our favourite suggestions:

  • Litter-picking: A multi-faceted workout as you can combine a walk with keeping your local area clean of rubbish. MSE Rhiannon does this once a week, and recently even found 46p!

  • Walk to the shops: One MoneySaver commented that they live over a mile away from the nearest shop and if they just need to get a few bits rather than a big weekly shop, they'll walk instead of drive.

  • Housework: Yes, you may groan at this one, but dusting, mopping, vacuuming and suchlike does get the heart pumping. As MoneySaver Helen C says: "Housework, that's free and knackering!".

  • Volunteer at the local dog rescue: Give a dog a walk and get a workout in while you're at it! This one gets extra points for the feel-good factor of spending time with man's best friend too.