12 Free (or Cheap) Ways to Exercise

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Getting into shape doesn’t have to mean hiring a personal trainer, paying for an expensive gym membership or spending 10-15$ for a single yoga class or CrossFit session.  If you genuinely want to exercise to get in shape or maintain your fitness level, there are many fun ways to do so without spending your hard earned cash.

Here is a list of different activities you can do for free (or almost) in any season, city or for any fitness level.  I mix many of these activities into my weekly fitness routine to stay in shape on the cheap!

1)     Walking

Some people will argue that walking is not an exercise.  That speaks volumes about how easy it is to fit into any routine. I strongly believe that walking is the easiest exercise to add to your lifestyle if fitness is your goal.  Not only can you walk anywhere, it doesn’t require any equipment and it doesn’t cost anything, but you can actually save money by walking places instead of driving or taking a taxi.  We’ve decided not to own a car and as such end up walking a lot to get to and from work, or to go shopping, etc.

Not only is walking a great way to get in shape and save money, it also allows you to take a break from your busy day, have a conversation to catch-up with a friend or loved one, or to take some time to reflect on your life.

2)     Jogging

Talking about free exercise, jogging is likely the first thing to come to people’s mind.  This is an extremely versatile activity as it only requires a pair of running shoes.  You can run anywhere and you can make your work-out as easy or as hard as you want by going faster or further.  Trust me, there are very few better feelings than going for an early morning jog on a fresh summer morning.  You get energized for your day and get to take in the fresh air and quiet atmosphere.

3)     Outdoor boot camp

When the weather is sunny and dry, I love going to the park for an outdoor boot camp type workout.  It is very easy to put together a series of body weight exercises and exercises using equipment found in the park.  I find these types of workouts work best with a partner or a group.  Each person can come up with a list of different exercises and you push yourselves to do a minute or so of each exercise with a 15 second break in between.  You can mix cardio (e.g. jumping jacks, sprint, etc.) with arms (e.g. push-ups, tricep dips), legs (e.g. squats, bench jumps), abs (e.g. plank, sit-ups) and back exercises (e.g. bar chin-ups, superman).

These workouts are a great way to enjoy the nice weather and motivate your partners to be creative with exercises and get in shape!

4)     Home workout

Similar to an outdoor boot camp, a cheap way to work-out year-round is to exercise alone or with a partner at home (or work).  With a few weights, some elastic bands and a yoga mat, you can do almost any exercise you would do at the gym.  If you lack inspiration for your at home workout, there are many resources online to help.  You can google at-home workout to find a multitude of different workouts or exercises for various moods or goals.  There are also many free apps to help with your workouts such as Workout Trainer, Nike+ Training Club, Jefit, Fitstar, Sworkit or Daily Workouts.

5)     Yoga

I’ve always been drawn to yoga, but never got into it because I couldn’t stomach the expensive course fees.  This is until I was introduced to the free Yoga with Adriene videos. Adriene’s videos make yoga fun and accessible to everyone regardless of your yoga experience.  All you need to enjoy these videos is a yoga mat and a positive attitude!  There are over 100 videos for any mood.  There are morning yoga videos and bedtime yoga videos, there is a yoga for when you’re in a bad mood or yoga for when you’re in love.  Regardless of how you’re feeling, whether you only have 5 minutes or if you want an extended relaxation period, there is a video for you!

Not only can you do yoga in the comfort of your own home, but you can take it anywhere you go as well.  I love bringing my yoga mat to the cottage for a morning yoga session by the lake.  You can even take your yoga mat to the park and follow your yoga videos on a tablet, or freestyle and go with the flow!

6)     Hiking

Hiking is another great exercise that is free and allows you to explore and get in touch with nature.  There are many hiking trails in and around the city.  For those relying on public transit, you may want to hike up Mount-Royal downtown, visit the Morgan Arboretum or Cap St-Jacques.  If you have access to a car, there are many other great hiking stops in the Laurentians, Eastern Townships or around Mont Saint-Bruno/Mont Saint-Hilaire on the south shore.

7)     Biking

Although biking is not technically free since you need to have a bike, I still included it in this list as I feel most people tend to have at least an old bike lying around.  If not, there is always the possibility to rent a bixi or use an other similar bike sharing service.  In Montreal, a 30 minute trip will cost you under 3$ and a one year membership goes for 89$, with many other prices in between.  If you already buy monthly bus passes, you can even save up to 60$ on a yearly bixi membership (20$ off the bixi pass and 40$ off a bus pass), which means it comes up to 30$ for a year of biking!  Not too bad a deal.

Not only is biking a great way to get around the city while also fitting in an exercise, it also allows you to visit different areas of the city.  Montreal has an extensive network of bike paths which you can easily search when using Google maps with the bicycling filter on.  These bike paths even extend off the island.  Last year I biked 100km from downtown Montreal to St-Zotique/Rivière-Beaudette all along beautiful bike paths!  I could’ve continued into Ontario if my legs weren’t so tired by that point!

8)     Swimming

Swimming is an other great free exercise.  Requiring only a bathing suit (and sometimes a bathing cap), swimming is a very low impact activity that targets the entire body.  It is an extremely efficient form of exercise providing a whole body workout in a short amount of time.  Of course, this assumes you are swimming laps and not sipping drinks in a swim-up bar!

Of course, swimming in a lake near a cottage is free, but this is not something that everyone has access to.  Fortunately, there is a large network of public pools in Montreal and other cities.  These pools offer free lane swimming periods for adults, multiple times per week.  I have often gone to these pools for early morning swims before work. I can get a great swim workout done in about 30 minutes, so not only is it a cheap workout, but its easy to fit into a busy day!

9)     Tennis

So what if you’re not into all of the individual sports listed above?  Tennis might be a great activity for you.  Although it requires a racquet and balls, you can get fully equipped for under 30$ (or less if you can borrow from a friend!).  Once equipped, there are many public tennis courts around the city that you can go challenge a friend on.  Tennis is an excellent cardio workout and a great way to enjoy the nice outdoor weather while spending time with a friend.  Some parks even allow you to reserve a court in advance for added convenience.

10) Team sports

If tennis is not a social enough activity for you, why not try getting a group of friends together for a pick-up game.  There are many sports fields in parks around the city.  You can use these fields for free when not in use, or pay a small fee to reserve them in advance.  Get your friends together for a friendly soccer pick-up game, flag football, volleyball, softball or even ultimate Frisbee.  Getting a group of friends together for a game is a great way to have a great day spending time with your friends while keeping active and saving money!

11) Cross-country skiing/snow shoeing

As the items above prove, it is much easier to exercise for free when the weather is nice and you can spend time outside.  Winter and snow, however, open up a whole new category of free activities.  Although once again cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing do require some equipment, if you don’t already have the equipment (or have a friend that does) it is often possible to rent it for a small fee. I often go to Cap St-Jacques for cross-country skiing in the winter.  If you have your equipment, you simply need to pay for parking or you can go for free if you take public transit (although taking the bus with skis can be tricky!)  There are many other cross-country skiing trails in and around the city including on Mount-Royal.

Having a winter activity that you can enjoy when the weather is cold will help the winter go by faster and help keep you in shape during a time where it is all too easy to go into hibernation mode!

12) Skating or Ice Hockey

An other winter activity that is nearly free is skating.  Most people have a pair or skates gathering dust somewhere, otherwise you can often find second hand skates for 20-25$ on Kijiji.  Once you have a pair of skates, you can head over to your local park.  Most parks will have one or two skating rinks where you can either practice your slapshot or your double Axel jump!


I hope this post has inspired you to get off your phone, tablet or computer and get active.  Getting or keeping in shape doesn’t have to break the bank and I hope this list will give you enough ideas to get creative and keep having fun exercising!

How do you exercise for cheap? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

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