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With 36% of Brits giving up gym memberships due to cost-of-living worries, it’s clear that the way in which many of us exercise is set to change again.

It seems like every day we are waking up to news that the financial crisis is getting worse. Bills keep going up, interest rates keep rising and the cost of food isn’t slowing. These price hikes mean we all have to give up other aspects of our life, including the things we do to look after our health, wellbeing and longevity.

Back in May 2022, research by MyVitamins found that four in 10 women had cancelled wellness subscriptions because they can no longer afford them. Fast forward to January 2023, and nearly 40% of Brits are giving up gym memberships for the same reason. It’s no longer just little luxuries that we’re giving up — these cancellations include things we would have previously dubbed essential for our mental and physical health.

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The wellbeing industry is stereotypically expensive, and people have long felt priced out of health. But now, more than ever, we’re having to find ways to support our mind and body with movement that costs less – or nothing at all. 

To find ways to make fitness more affordable, we asked people on social media for their tips — and found some very useful advice. 

Head back to home workouts

“I’m planning on cancelling my gym membership so I can embrace home workouts. I think it’ll help me train better and I’d be more disciplined since I’ll have no one but myself to motivate me,” says Brenda Patrick.

For those who invested in their kit during lockdown, now is the time to blow off the cobwebs. “I spent a lot of money building my own gym during lockdown while I wasn’t going out spending. It’s going to become a real money saver long term,” says Dr David Honeywell. You don’t need to carve your entire garage into an iron room, but know you can do a lot with a pair of dumbbells and some resistance bands.

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“I now only spend money on self-care”

“I’ve quit my gym membership in favour of home workouts. I’m just as motivated to do HIIT and strength stuff at home as I am in the gym – maybe even more so as I can go as hard as I like without feeling judged. I’ve swapped that for investing in a MoreYoga membership that I couldn’t have afforded alongside the gym, but right now I’d rather spend money on the self-care and relaxing hobbies that I’m historically bad at prioritising but feel more benefit from,” says Annie Johnstone. 

Sign up for challenges

Rather than spending £50 a month on a membership, Bronte Culleton suggests signing up to challenges every few months. A half-marathon entry fee is usually under £60 – about the same price as many people pay monthly for a gym – but “I’m actually much more motivated to train for an event than I am when I’m just booking expensive classes online”. 

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No-frills fitness 

“I think my gym fee is probably my only non-negotiable, but I also have an online PT/class subscription that I may have to cancel just to save something,” says Natalie Corner.

Simone Maria agrees, saying: “I gave up a weekly ballet class I was attending as an active recovery day to do free YouTube yoga at home instead, because as much fun as it was, £85 a month is basically a week and a half’s worth of groceries.”

Join free clubs

“Our run club is free, so I don’t think we could save more ([but] we could ditch the pub afterwards),” says Deb Todd. 

Joanne Dewberry adds that she “started running last January with my partner. We go to Parkrun every Saturday which is a timed free 5k and we go to a local running club two times a week, [which is] also free. I think there are a lot of free exercise communities out there.” 

Ditch the supplements 

“I used to buy expensive protein powders, pre-workouts and other supplements that promised to help my fitness, but now the thought of spending hefty sums on things that I’m not even sure work isn’t an option,” says Juliette Wall. 

For a simple swap, you can make like Megan Capstick: “I’ve swapped pre-workout (that I took because I liked the taste) for a regular instant coffee. It’s not as nice, but I still get a good caffeinated buzz before the gym without spending extra.” 

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“I share a membership”

Alice Fuller* tells me she shares a gym membership with her housemate. As they both attend at different times, no one has ever noticed the same name being used multiple times a day (or if they have, they’ve just assumed that she’s a fanatic). This is obviously against company policy but shows that taking matters into our own hands is more necessary than ever. 

Don’t buy into trends

Kat Brown says she is “being very restrained on whether I actually need a summer pair of leggings rather than just sucking it up and wearing the winter pair I only bought a few months ago. I also have saved searches on eBay for specific sizes and types of secondhand workout clothes: being very tall, I need to get it right otherwise a secondhand bargain just ends up being another money fail.”

Pay in advance

“For the things I cannot budge on, like a physio and a personal trainer I visit once a week before my hip operation, I pay for 20 sessions in advance which cuts the price in half, and have a pot set up in my Monzo banking app so I’m saving towards the next 20,” says Brown. 

Be your own transport

Strong Women editor Miranda Larbi says that one of the things that’s made the biggest difference to her fitness is active commuting. “I cycle everywhere. It started as a money saving drive ahead of travelling a few years ago – instead of forking out £200 a month on a travel card, I cycled for free. Five years on and I’m far calmer and fitter than I was travelling underground – and I’m not hemorrhaging cash at the speed I used to.”

She says that much of the time, it’s takes the same amount of time – if not less – to travel by bike as Tube or bus.

Don’t beat yourself up

A final point from the Strong Woman team – you should never feel guilty for spending on your health, especially when it improves the quality of your life, reduces pain and increases happiness. If you’d rather save money in other aspects of your life while keeping your gym membership, that’s fine. But remember that things don’t have to be fancy to be good for you. 

Want an affordable fitness plan? The Strong Women Training Club has two new workout videos a week, plus exclusive fitness content, from £4.99 a month. Sign up now. 

Images: Getty

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