Frugal Fitness in London

Joe Baylis

London is generally seen as the most verdant city in the world. But what, you may ask, is ‘verdant’? Well, from the Oxford English Dictionary we have this definition: ‘(Of countryside) green with grass or other rich vegetation’

That means that the UK’s capital is the city with the most publicly available green space on this planet. And it’s right on your doorstep.

fitness London
A perfect running trail – Green Park Avenue | Photo by Garry Knight used under CC

Sounds ideal, no?

Well almost.

There’s just the small matter of dodging those money grabbing fitness freaks who promise to keep you fit in exchange for half your salary. Sport is expensive in London. From ticket prices to the cost of replica kits and from buying the best tennis racket to forking out for gym membership, your bank account constantly takes a battering.

But fear not, my fellow Cheapos, while catching a Premiership game may require an additional mortgage (only joking—there’s no chance you’ve got a mortgage in this city!), London gives you plenty of opportunities to take part and get fit for next to nothing. And I am here to enlighten you.

London’s Parks

Around 40% of London is made up of parkland, so wherever you live, you ain’t too far away from a free workout space. Plug in your music, get your trainers on and go for a run—simple. Here are 5 of our favourite London parks to do just that.

Many of these parks have outdoor gyms, or fitness trails for you to discover. A quick Google search will reveal where these are, or check out this website for a handy map.

In my book, there’s no substitute for a nice run or cycle in the open air. Why get on the treadmill and stare at a wall when you can actually run for real, with changing scenery and people-watching to keep you entertained? I would choose as large a park as possible, y’know, to reduce the amount of lovely London pollution seeping into your lungs. Richmond or Greenwich parks are ideal.

fitness London exercise workout
Cycling in Richmond | Photo by Steve Cadman used under CC

The brand new Queen Elizabeth Park is another great example. Lap up the legacy and inspiration of the Olympics and exercise your way around the dedicated running and cycling trails that wind their way around the beautifully sculpted landscape, slap bang in the middle of East London (Stratford would be the nearest station). And why not check out the awesome and affordable views from the Orbit sculpture while you’re at it.

Organised work out sessions

The organisation called ‘Our Parks’ is pretty much made for this article. Their slogan is ‘Get fit for free!’ and they provide their services across a huge number of locations all over London. All you have to do is register on their website, book a class and turn up! All classes are delivered by a fully qualified professional, and cater for many levels and types of fitness through varied classes, from seated fitness to street dance to yoga. If you are strapped for cash and want to improve your fitness in a social atmosphere, this is exactly what you need.

fitness London exercise workout
Yoga anyone? | Photo by Global Panorama used under CC

Sports shops across the Capital also provide a similar service, although you may have to nod and smile your way through a sales talk at some point. Examples include LuluLemon yoga classes, every Sunday, and the Nike+ run club. For all you East Londoners out there, there’s also a great little drop in centre on Old Ford Road (in Bethnal Green) called the YogaNest, which organises drop in yoga, fitness and dance classes, 7 days a week. There are a plethora of these little independent centres around London, just have a quick search on Google and you’ll find them.


Now this is a superb idea. Combine your desire to get fit with doing good in your local community. Simply turn up for the group run and get sent on missions that could include anything from checking in on isolated people to painting a room to regenerating a local park.

fitness London exercise workout
GoodGymers doing good | Photo by Neil Cummings used under CC

Trial gym memberships

One of my pet hates is expensive gyms. Why pay £60 a month to jump on a fake bike or run on a treadmill a couple of times a week? It’s a con.

But! If you want to experience what it’s like to exercise around rich fitness freaks taking selfies in front of mirrors, and maybe take a dip in a heated pool and sweat in the sauna once in a while, then take advantage of the introductory offers that these large gyms offer. I won’t name any in particular, but take a look at this link just as an example. It’s worth rotating around for a few free top-of-the-range work out sessions. Stay there all day and that’s great value.

Be aware though that you’ll have to remain steel faced and immune to their inevitable sales interrogation. And they might make you pay for a locker/towels.

Boris bikes

If all of the above isn’t enough for you then here’s a quick something extra for the cyclists out there. It costs a measly £2 to hire a Boris bike for 24 hours, with each separate 30 minute journey being free of extra charge. Any additional continuous half hour is then charged at £2 each. So keep your workouts short and intensive! Check this link for a detailed price guide.

fitness London exercise workout
Boris bikes | Photo by Davide D'Amico used under CC

These are the rental bikes that are parked all around the city (currently emblazoned with red Santander logos). You can hop on and hop off as many times as you like within that 24 hour period – just stay within those separate half hour periods to keep it at £2 (and make sure you dock them in their stations properly!).

Be safe, brush up on the highway code and wear a helmet! I speak from experience people!

Now get up, go outside and get fit frugally!

And now that you’re all set with a sweet new bod, take care of the rest of you! Here are some handy tips on free and cheap hair, beauty and grooming treatments around London.

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Filed under: Lifestyle, Things to Do
Tags: Exercise, Featured, Fitness, London Parks, Park, Running, Sport, Workout, Yoga
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