Whether you’re looking to start a new fitness habit or get back to the gym, London is full of great places to work out, break a sweat or do some gentle exercise. And just because it might hurt a bit after a session, it doesn’t mean it has to hurt your bank balance. There are plenty of low-cost ways to stay fit, and some are completely free. Whatever your budget or preference or fitness level, here’s our guide to free and cheap fitness in London.
Gyms with Cheap and Flexible Membership
One of the best value ways to work out and attend classes is by signing up for gym membership. But, while the commercial gyms cost around £40.00 and premium memberships from £80.00 per month, there are plenty of lower-cost and no contract gym memberships.
These types of gyms won’t necessarily offer premium amenities or options like saunas or personal training sessions, but if you’re just looking for a regular place to train or take a class or two, there are lots of options in the £15.00–£30.00 a month price range.
For maximum flexibility or to check out a couple of places before deciding, you can grab day passes or no-contract membership to Pure Gym, Easy Gym, The Gym Group and Fitness For Less. As with the larger chains, there are gyms at various locations across London. So it’s easy to access gym facilities near work as well as home.
If you have a flexible schedule, it might be worth getting an off peak membership, which will save you even more money. Off peak usually applied to weekdays between 9-5, but check with your gym for terms. Gyms usually charge a joining fee, regardless of contract type, which tends to be around £10.00–£20.00
Want to find more low-cost ways to hit the gym? Read our article on cheap and flexible gym memberships in London.
Free or Donation Based Fitness Classes and Groups
If training at the gym isn’t your thing, there are plenty of friendly, low-pressure ways to exercise at your own pace. Doing exercise with other people is also a sociable and low-cost way to stay fit. There are plenty of community groups and events to get you started. If you’re into group exercise and fancy volunteering, you can combine both with GoodGym. GoodGym is an independent group of runners (and now walkers and cyclists) who do tasks for community groups and older people. It’s free to join, but the suggested donation is £7.00 per month, although there is no commitment
Another community-focussed organisation offering free fitness is Our Parks, which was founded in 2014 by fitness coach Born Barikor. It’s based in boroughs across London to provide free exercise classes in local parts for all abilities. You can try anything from high-impact classes like Bootcamp and Box Fit to more gentle activities like Rise & Shine Yoga. Our Parks runs all year round (weather permitting), with some activities offered online too.
You can also join other runners at weekly 5k Park Run events, or join free or donation based community Yoga classes at spaces including North London Buddhist Centre.
Running Tracks and Outdoor Gyms
If you prefer to train solo or don’t want to commit to a glass or running schedule, no problem. There are running tracks and outdoor gyms available to use for free all over London. They have been installed in parks across London by companies like The Great Outdoor Gym Company.
In north London, Finsbury Park has something for everyone. The massive park has an outdoor gym, 400 metre running track and there is also a tennis court. Head to Primrose Hill to workout on the callisthenics equipment, then run up the hill for one of the best views in London. There is also an outdoor gym at Roundwood Park in Willesden, north west London.
Over in west London, there is an outdoor gym in the beautiful surroundings of Holland Park, where you’ll also find tennis courts, cricket pitches and of course, plenty of walking paths. Elsewhere in west London, you’ll also find outdoor gym equipment in Paddington Recreation Ground, which is actually in Maida Vale, just north of Paddington.
For outdoor fitness in south London, head to Clapham Common, for some hardcore training on its calisthenics equipment. Nearby Kennington Park also has calisthenics equipment, including high bars and parallel bars.
And east London is home to Queen Elizabeth Park, aka the Olympic Park. As well as the world-class indoor facilities and a massive stadium, the park is also home to a decent sized outdoor gym, as well as a 400 metre community running track.
Swimming Pools, Lidos and Open Water Swimming
Most local boroughs have a leisure centre with a pool, and a lot of them are run by Better. If you’re a regular swimmer, then it might be better value to sign up for a pay and play membership to get money off your sessions.
But, there are some great pools in central London that you can swim at for under a tenner as a drop-in swimmer, including the art deco Marshall Street Leisure in Soho and Spa and the Oasis Centre rooftop lido in Holborn, which is heated.
Cold Water Swimming in London
And if you’re brave enough to do cold-water or wild swimming, well good luck to you! You can take a chilly dip for a small fee in various places including: Tooting Bec Lido, Hampstead Swimming Ponds, Parliament Hill Lido and the West Reservoir in Stoke Newington.
Walking Groups and Tours
If you prefer something altogether more gentle and relaxed, then there’s no shortage of great walking trails in London. But if you don’t fancy going it alone, you can join a walking group or or guided walking tour. There are lots of groups listed on walking charity The Ramblers website including Metropolitan Walkers for people in their 20s and 30s.
And there are regular free or pay-what-you-feel tours run by companies like Strawberry Tours and Free Tours By Foot. Themes range from London landmarks to street art, film locations and even haunted pubs.
For more inspiration for interesting walks around London, read our articles on free, cheap and unusual and self-guided walking tours.