Question: when you envisage incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine, do you also wince at the thought of spending loads of your hard-earned cash on chia seeds, avocados, and protein powders in order to do so?
News flash: it doesn't need to cost the earth to get fit. Quite the opposite, actually: staying healthy on a budget is totally doable and, actually, really rather simple, once you put your mind to it.
Sadly, the simplest ways to stay healthy on a budget often aren't publicised because, well, they don't make any profit. But once you've clocked the simple daily habits - most of which are free - that can genuinely make a difference to your life, you'll never look back.
Like? Meditation. Yoga. Getting your daily steps in with a morning walk or hike. Drinking your eight glasses of water a day. For more simple and easy-to-implement tips, we spoke to three personal trainers from PureGym - Sally Smith from Telford, Emma Ford from Aylesbury, and James Lee from Finsbury Park - to get their top tips for how to stay healthy on a budget.
How to stay healthy on a budget: 14 top tips
1. Prep, prep, prep
You know the old saying - fail to prepare, prepare to fail. As Smith explains, planning ahead can make all the difference when faced with difficult decisions.
“Plan ahead," she recommends. "Things like planning meals means you’re less likely to splurge on pricey sandwiches at lunch, plus you'll enjoy a healthier option, too."
2. Get walking
Whether that's an early morning walk or a mid-day stroll around the block to break up your desk time, hitting your 10,000 steps a day is a cheap and easy way to boost your cardiovascular health.
Top tip: "When catching up with friends, keep the cost low by suggesting a walk instead of a meal or cinema trip. That way. you get active, too," shares Smith.
Our guide to the benefits of walking might inspire you.
A simple, free and effective way to boost your health is to drink more water. One way of making sure you do this is by getting yourself a reusable water bottle - it'll act as a visual reminder to drink water even when you've forgotten.
"Plus, you'll then avoid paying for bottled drinks that may be costly or high in sugars or additives, stay hydrated, and reduce your plastic use at the same time," explains Smith.
4. Keep an eye out for bargains
This one's a good one. If you're keen to start cooking lots of healthy meals with a combination of protein, healthy fats, and carbs but normally find produce like chicken, tofu, and fresh veg a little on the pricey side, keep your eye on the reduced section at your local supermarket, advises Smith.
"You'll normally find some great bargains and, if you're mindful of what you can freeze or cook in batch, really save yourself some cash and time," she adds.
5. Lace up
Sure, you might feel gym anxiety or think that a gym may feel out of your price range right now, but not all exercise needs to take place in a gym. Far from it, actually - there are a whole range of free home workouts you can do, ranging from high-intensity sessions, like spin and Zumba, to low impact workouts, like Pilates and barre.
Running is also a great free way to get fit for free. "It's a great place to start as there are loads of free apps to help get you going and keep you engaged as you try to beat your times and more," shares Smith.
Yep, you read that right. Dancing is actually one of the PT's favourite ways of keeping fit and, fun fact, it's also totally free.
"Simply put on some music you can dance to - or follow along with one of many YouTube videos - and away you go," she shares.
7. Get adventurous with your movement
Things like putting the shopping away, walking downstairs to greet the postman or folding the washing are all physical activities that can count towards your daily movement.
Try being more active in your day-to-day will only boost how much you're doing, for less ££, says Smith."Things like deliberately making extra trips during chores or opting to hang the washing up all count," she shares. "You're moving more, for less."
Not sure what we mean? Our guide to mindful movement might help.
8. Check out YouTube
Enjoyed the dance tutorial above? Us too. YouTube is a great option for low-cost fitness options as it's jampacked with free yoga classes, HIIT workouts (we love the Joe Wicks YouTube workouts), weight training sessions, and more.
"This makes working out from home less daunting, as you've got a qualified professional guiding you through a pre-recorded fitness class totally for free," she explains.
9. Choose your supermarket carefully
Sure, eating healthily can add up, but so can buying the not-so-nutritionally-dense options. It all depends on where you shop, shares Ford, who advises you to try cheaper supermarket options.
"I love buying my groceries from more affordable retailers such as Lidl and Aldi. I save loads of money and am constantly stocking up on bargains," she shares.
10. Bulk buy
And on that note - buying the larger packs of items, such as meats and veg, is a sure-fire way to save money.
"The bigger the bag, the more money you save in the long run," shares Ford. Just make sure you're using the food up and storing well - aka batch cooking or freezing - before it goes off.
11. Meal prep
You've heard the likes of health gurus Joe Wicks, Kayla Itsines and Jillian Michaels bang on about how batch cooking can be a great affordable way of eating well, and there's a reason why.
Batch cooking healthy meals not only saves you time, but reduces any chance of decision fatigue when it comes to cooking. Think about it - opening the fridge after a long day, you can make a healthy, nutritious meal (that'll take double the amount of time) or... fish and chips. Anyone would be tempted. Prep meals in advance and said tricky decisions will be pre-determined.
"You can always freeze the meals and defrost when ready to eat," advises Ford.
12. Don’t overcomplicate it
This one's important. Stick to simple meals: a source of protein, carbs, healthy fats, and a few portions of fruit or vegetables for each meal.
"You don’t need to go out and buy fancy extras if you want to stick to a budget," shares Ford. "Stick to the basic whole foods and then mix and match the ingredients for multiple meals."
13. Up your sleep
Getting good quality sleep is one of the simplest - and cheapest - things you can do to boost your overall health, with studies showing it boosts recovery, lowers your risk of heart disease, and reduces your blood pressure. .
"Focus on getting sufficient, good quality sleep where possible," advises Lee. "It can have a huge impact on pretty much all aspects of your health."
14. Kit swap
One of the biggest barriers - and expenses - when it comes to getting fit is workout gear.
But know this - you don't need the latest trainers or kit. Lots of charity shops or secondhand retailers like Depop sell workout gear, or, failing that, ask a sporty friend if they have any old kit they wouldn't mind sending your way. You'll likely be really touched by their generosity.
How to stay healthy on a budget? Sorted.
Why is fitness so expensive?
As Smith explains, because many of us are starting a new hobby or way of life totally from scratch, which can seem costly.
“Many tend to not prioritise their health and fitness with other expenses taking precedence, and as a result, see a gym membership as a huge expense," Smith shares.
Ford goes on to add that really, staying healthy can be as expensive or as affordable as you make it. "In reality, all you need is a comfortable outfit, a sprinkling of exercise motivation, and a whole food diet and you are good to go," she shares.
Finally, Lee agrees, adding that you can get fitter, stronger and build muscle using just your body weight. "This means without having to spend a penny," he stresses. "Everyone can improve and maintain their health and fitness without breaking the bank."
You need never Google "how to stay healthy on a budget" again.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.