Want to do a sport or try a new discipline without totally blowing your budget? There are plenty of other more affordable ways to exercise.
1 - Badminton
When it comes to technique, badminton is generally seen as the most accessible racket sport. You don't need to spend years building your skills before you can enjoy it. While some clubs run regular competitions, there are plenty of others that have been set up simply to bring together badminton fans in the local area and have a friendly game. You'll not only establish a nice little routine, but all this regular practice will soon make you a real pro(!). Badminton can also be played outdoors. All you need is a net, a 13x6-metre space, and not too much wind. If the weather and your location allow, this could well be your cheapest way to play!
2 - Squash
Another sport that you can do without a whole load of coaching is squash. To begin with, you'll probably find yourself running around like a headless chicken and struggling each time the ball bounces a bit too close to the corners… But you'll pick it up quickly enough and it'll gradually become more fun. Squash is a brilliant sport for moving around, letting off steam and burning plenty of calories.
3 - Tennis
OK, so tennis needs a bit of practice before you really get the hang of things and can have fun knocking the ball back and forth. But even if you just start with simple rallies, you'll slowly but surely hone your skills. And if you can glean some technical tips from a pro or a friend there's no reason you won't have an absolute blast on the court. With tennis, too, court rental without the cost of coaching included is very affordable. And clubs aren't the only ones to hire out their space: your city may even run their own courts, so it's worth giving them or the local rec office a call to find out more. If you're really lucky, you'll live somewhere that offers free city-owned courts! Here's a handy tip: if one of the courts has a wall, you can use it to practice your skills and improve more quickly. It's always an education serving to yourself...
4 - Golf
Unlike what you might think, golf isn't just for the well-off. Lots of clubs run open days to shatter the stereotype of golf being unaffordable for the general public. Driving ranges can be found all over the place, and there are a whole host of tutorials available online to teach you useful drills or show you how to improve your swing. In general, the driving range will hire out buckets of around 40 balls. Take your time and properly polish your technique! If you want to take things further and actually use the golf course itself, it'll be a bit more costly as you'll need to pay a yearly subscription. It's still worth enquiring about the cost, though, as it might not be as much as you think. It'll give you unlimited access to the green, plus there are often discounts for certain people (students, under 18s, etc.).
5 - Climbing
We'll start with the caveat: we strongly advise against climbing in the great outdoors, on the side of a mountain, with rudimentary equipment - especially if you're a beginner. You may be super keen, confident and fighting fit, but dangling above a drop of even just a few feet with no experience and bare hands really isn't a great idea. Rather than taking on Mother Nature like a pro climber, we recommend heading to a club or association that lets non-members practice on its walls and holds. You can go at your own pace without feeling rushed. You might also find that there's a discount for multiple entries over the course of several weeks or months, so buying a bundle of 10 could save you some cash. Some climbing centers might even offer a happy hour. Shoe rental tends to be pretty cheap and might even be included in the cost of your entry ticket. What's not to like?!
6 - Volleyball and beach volleyball
Another sport that costs little but pays dividends when it comes to having fun and burning energy is volleyball. Again, clubs and local recreational departments often let you hire a court for a relatively modest price, or even completely free of charge. So all you need to do is bring a ball and some friends. Take a look online to see whether there are any courts near where you live. And don't forget about the summer season: it's common for there to be beach volleyball courts and even tournaments that are often open to anyone. Either way, it's not going to break the bank to have a quick match (just be careful not to break your knees and elbows when landing your dives).
7 - Basketball
Like with volleyball, basketball is something you can do even if you're not rolling in money. It's not at all unusual to find free community courts in your local area. So, cost-wise, dunking some baskets can be a great choice. But what can you do if you're all alone on the court? Here again, the internet is your friend: it's absolutely bursting with tutorials, exercises and training plans to help you progress. It's probably worth spending a bit of time planning which drills you're going to do before you head to the court. We can't guarantee that you'll one day be doing Tony Parker's signature teardrop shot, but you've got to start somewhere. And with a bit of blood, sweat and tears, your skills are bound to improve. Even better, if you can convince a few friends to join you each week for a quick throw-about, you've practically got your own club already.
8 - Hiking and the like
Want to enjoy nature, the great outdoors, wonderful views and shapely calves, all for next to no cost? Obviously, the views depend on where you live, and for everything else you may need to travel a short distance, but walking and hiking are activities that really don't have to cost the earth. All you need is a decent pair of walking boots that won't leave your poor little tootsies covered in blisters! Before you set off, take a quick look at the footpaths and trails nearby, plan a route and identify any points of interest. It's always wise to be prepared. There are plenty of apps out there to help you plan your hikes. If you're not keen on going solo, think about joining a club or association on one of their organized walks. Aside from keeping you nicely within budget, hiking can also be a chance to meet new people. If full-on hikes aren't your cup of tea, walking can be a great alternative: the equipment is affordable and there are tons of apps for tracking all your stats (distance, duration, route, elevation gain, calories burned) and building training plans. It's a great way to set goals and turn achieving them into a game.
9 - Trail biking
Want to get into mountain biking or road cycling without splashing out on a ridiculously fancy bike? Bike rental shops can be found all over the place and offer very attractive rates along with handy tips on the best routes to take and sites to discover. Renting a bike gets you out of your normal routine and off the beaten track, without the need to lug your own bike all over the country with you. It's generally fairly cheap to rent a "classic" bike. In hillier locations, you might also be able to rent an e-bike whose assistance will be very welcome when you hit some of the steeper sections… E-bikes also give you the extra energy you need to spend the whole day out and about getting to know a particular area. You don't have to look far to find websites offering advice on cycling-friendly areas, the best routes to explore, and where to hire bikes. Not only is bike rental cheap, it'll leave you with unforgettable memories, plus you've got the reassurance of knowing the equipment has been properly taken care of.
10 - Water sports
If you're lucky enough to live near the coast, you've got access to an enormous water-based playground. And some sports can be done completely free of charge or for just the cost of a rental. Sea swimming, for example, can be done alone or in a group and doesn't need a big financial investment, although we'd recommend wearing a wetsuit, especially if you live further north! Stand-up paddle is also very popular and relatively cheap. You sometimes find that individuals will rent out their equipment when they aren't using it, which may well work out cheaper. There are plenty of websites that will put you in touch! If you live further inland, swimming pools generally offer very reasonable rates (not so much if you go to a private spa) and don't have any limits on how long you can stay. Just try to avoid ending up in the same lane as that class of 30 rowdy kids!