We all know there are many benefits to being fitter. It can help you live longer, stop you getting ill and even improve your mood and prevent stress. However, there are so many reasons people don't join and go to the gym.


Excuses, excuses...

Let's start by looking at common barriers to fitness and how you can overcome them.

I can't afford a gym membership

Firstly, you don't need a gym membership. Later in the article I will show you how easily you can get fit at home. However, if you really want to go to a gym, why not enquire about special offers. Many gyms have reduced off-peak memberships, where you can only go at certain times, or discounts for students or employees of certain companies.

I don't have the time

Pretty much everyone has some free time. Even if you work all day, could you get up a bit earlier and work out before work? If not, could you work out after work or during your lunch break. Make a plan at the start of the week and decide when you're going to do your workout. Make it a part of your routine. Bear in mind that many people find it better t0 exercise before work, as you might be tired after work and less motivated, though some people hate early mornings and find they feel much more energetic and active in the evenings! Just find a time that suits you.

I hate exercise

Do you really hate ALL exercise? Many people try running, for example, and hate it, so decide they hate all exercise. There are so many things you can do to keep fit. Try as many as you can and you will eventually find something you enjoy, and therefore be motivated to keep going with it. Ideas include:

  • Join a walking club. If you do some long walks you'll get a good cardiovascular workout and you can also meet and talk to new people and admire some great scenery.
  • Go for walks on your own. Load up an mp3 player with music, podcasts or audio books and buy a book of walk routes or search the internet for walks in your area, then get out there.
  • Run. You can search the internet for routes or use a website like map my run to map out a route. You could go on your own, find a friend to take along 0r join a local club and train with them. See if there are some informal races, such as Park Runs, in your area and give it a try.
  • Try a dance class. Use the internet to search for classes in your local area. There are so many, including ballroom, salsa, Bollywood, Latin and even pole dancing and line dancing. You will learn a new skill and hopefully have so much fun you'll forget you're exercising.
  • Try a fitness class. You don't have to join a gym - there are lots of good value classes in village halls and local sports centres.
  • Try a new sport. Join a local football, cricket or rugby team. If there isn't one in your area, why not organise your own.
  • Go swimming
  • Join a boot camp. Many of these are held in local parks, so you get out in the fresh air. The group really motivates each other and you have the advantage of a professional instructor to guide you and make sure the exercises are safe and effective.


Get a home workout

There are loads of ways you can work out at home.

  • Buy some gym equipment. You can get yourself a treadmill or cross trainer and set it up at home. This means you don't have the time spent travelling to and from the gym to worry about and, compared to a year's gym membership, isn't actually bad as far as value goes. It's worth searching the internet or asking stores if they have ex-display items, which are often discounted. You could even set it up in front of the TV to take your mind off the workout! If this is a bit pricey, why not buy yourself some dumbbells or weights and a bar? These can be bought relatively cheaply and there are often second hand sets on internet auction sites.
  • Find a routine. If you use an internet search engine, it's really easy to find great exercise videos. The exercise tv site is particularly good, or just try YouTube. There are literally thousands of videos, from strength training circuits to dance workouts. Save some to the favourites on your web browser and give them a go! If you're willing to spend some money, you could buy some fitness DVDs. You can often get second hand ones from internet auction sites and car boot sales, or ask your friends as lots of people have them at home but never get motivated enough to use them!
  • Do some body weight exercises. You don't even need to buy any equipment. Use the web to find advice on technique if you aren't sure. Legs can be worked with squats and lunges, whilst push ups are fantastic for the chest and triceps. Again, the internet is full of ideas for exercises you can do.
  • Find a personal trainer. Many of them will come to your home at a time that suits you. This can be pricey but it means you can be sure you're performing exercises with perfect technique and they can build a programme personalised to your goals.
  • Get some kettlebells. These are a really popular piece of equipment and usually come with a booklet giving you suggestions of exercises to perform with them. If not, the internet is full of ideas. 
  • Switch on the TV (but get off the sofa!) Look at your electronic programme guide to see if you have any fitness channels on your TV. Examples are body in balance, the active channel and fitness TV. These have a wide range of programmes covering all aspects of fitness, from yoga classes to step aerobics. If you have a recorder on your TV, why not record the programmes so you can build up a routine?

Top tips to ensure success

There are disadvantages of working out at home. Here are my top tips to make sure you get the results you want.

  • Have a plan.Set yourself long term goals, such as a certain amount of weight to lose or a race you want to run, and short term goals, such as doing 3 exercise DVDs in the week. Keep these written down and cross them off as they are achieved. This will help you to motivate yourself and feel a sense of achievement. It also helps you make sure your exercise is appropriate to your goals as you constantly remind yourself what you are working towards.
  • Fit exercise into your daily routine. It's so easy to get to the end of the working day feeling tired and fed up and decide to skip that workout session. At the start of the week, plan exactly when you will do your workouts and stick to this! Make it just another part of the day. If you decide you are definitely exercising on Monday evening, you don't have to spend the whole day debating with yourself about whether to do it that day or leave it until tomorrow, or the day after...
  • Get rid of distractions. This can be a major problem when working out at home. Before you start your workout, make sure you won't be distracted. Put the answer phone on and give the kids a DVD to watch. Decide how long you will spend on the workout and stick to it. If you choose an hour, do an hour. If your kids are the distraction, why not let them join in? Go for a family walk or have a game of rounders in a park?
  • Make small changes. If you never exercise, going straight into a routine of doing 5 high intensity hour long workouts every week might work fine, but chances are you will be tired, unhappy and unmotivated. Gradually build exercise into your life with small changes like walking to work, using the stairs, getting off the bus one stop early or doing some more active things at the weekend, like swapping the cinema for a shopping trip.
  • Do some good. Why not offer to walk dogs for a local rescue home or deliver charity leaflets? These activities get you on your feet but also helping people in need.

I hope this article has helped to show you that you don't need a gym to become healthier and fitter.