Get fit without breaking the bank
The summer of sport is upon us. Not only is Euro 2012 in full swing and the Tour de France around the corner, but this week signalled the start of the strawberries and Pimm's season with the arrival of Wimbledon.
So has Andy Murray inspired you to dust off your tennis racket and don your tennis whites? Have you rooted through the drawer to find your lycra? Or does the mere mention of exercise fill you with dread as you consider the sheer expense of joining a gym to get fit?
If the latter applies to you, don't despair. We've hunted down the best ways to get fit without breaking the bank...
Ditch the gym
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Gym memberships can be steep and leave a considerable dent in your monthly bank balance. For example, a 12-month contract from Virginactive in Birmingham would cost £39.95 a month.
But if you were to embark on a cheaper form of exercise, such as those we list below, and instead pay this amount into a savings account, you would end up with enough to buy a holiday... surely a good incentive to start working on that beach body!
For example, paying £39.95 every month for a year into an easy access savings account, such as the market leading Santander eSaver Issue 5, would result in a tidy sum of £494.89.
Get free tennis coaching
Playing tennis regularly will get you in shape in no time. Not only is it a great calorie burner, it also can help improve balance, mobility, agility, strength and general overall fitness.
However, it has traditionally been viewed as an inaccessible sport, with costly membership and coaching fees putting many people off.
But a recent initiative plans to change all that. Tennisforfree aims to give everyone the opportunity to learn to play tennis for 50 weeks of the year at no cost, as well as raising awareness about local courts which are free of charge to use.
To find details of where you're nearest sessions are being held simply visit its website, type in your postcode and you'll be a match for Murray in no time!
On your bike!
Despite the initial outlay of buying a bike, once you have purchased it the running costs are usually minimal and the health benefits can make the expense worthwhile.
According to the NHS, an hour's cycling by someone weighing 80kg will burn a massive 650 calories. And the great thing about riding a bike is that you can incorporate it into your daily routine.
If you live within a reasonable distance of your work place, opting to take up the government's Cycle to Work initiative via your employer would allow you to buy a bike and cycling equipment tax-free - allowing you to make real savings.
You would need to check the company you work for is involved, but as long as you use your bike as your main form of transport to work, you will benefit from a tax break, meaning you can get a cheaper bike, get fit, and help the environment while you're at it.
And if riding your bike to work isn't enough, you might fancy checking out bike routes and trails in your area. By typing your postcode into the sustrans website you'll be able to discover paths and places you didn't even know existed.
The benefits of running
Running is another sport that is great for cardiovascular fitness and burning those calories. As it is a weight-bearing exercise, it can also help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis.
So why part with your cash to pound away on a treadmill in a gym when you can get out in the great outdoors for free? Aside from the physical benefits, research has shown that exercising outdoors can have great benefits on your mental health, releasing endorphins to lift your mood and increase self-esteem.
If you don't have the motivation to start running yourself, why not look into going to a local club for beginners?
Most won't cost more than a few pounds and, by typing your postcode into the runengland website, you'll be directed to your nearest groups.
But if joining a group isn't quite your thing, then the NHS website has its 'couch to 5krunning plan which is designed for novice runners. It's a nine-week programme that involves three runs a week - you simply download each podcast to your MP3 player and follow the instructions while you run.
Following the plan will reap big rewards, with the end goal being a 5k run.
Consider a 'Green Gym'
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a conservationist, consider attending a 'green' gym. Run by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, you'll be able to take part in various physical environmental projects while at the same time improving your strength, stamina and overall fitness.
There is no cost, and you'll benefit from knowing that you're doing your bit for the environment as well as getting fit. Visit its website for more information.
... or an 'outdoor gym'
The National Trust's 31-day 'outdoor gym' plan has been put together by personal trainers and Eco Fitness.
The plan is designed to make sure you reap the benefits of exercising outdoors and each day presents you with different activities and exercises to make sure you start shedding those pounds.
Just go to the National Trust website to download your plan for free.
App your abs!
There are a variety of apps that can be downloaded on smartphones and tablets which can help with your fitness regime.
For example, the Nike Training Club can be downloaded for free and gives you your own personal trainer.
You will be guided through full body workouts with detailed instructions and demonstrations and can even set your workout to your favourite playlist to help keep you motivated.
Or how about the daily ab workout app? For 69p, you'll have access to a number of 5 - 10 minute ab-sculpting workouts that could be incorporated into your daily routine. Follow this and you'll have a washboard stomach in no time!
So - if the summer sporting season is inspiring you to get fit, there really is no excuse. There are numerous free and low-cost opportunities to get out there and start shaping up.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.