From inner city runs to workout classes with a view of the Thames, London isn’t short of variety in exercise options. So what’s the catch? Many of the opportunities require memberships which can be expensive, which isn’t a feasible option within a University student’s budget. In addition to monthly memberships to gyms, exercise classes can also break the bank.
The truth is, it can be difficult to commit to monthly memberships as a student when rent, bills and your weekly food budget have to take priority. Exercise simply takes a back seat. But making movement habitual, and finding ways of bringing it into your routine is important not only for your personal health and fitness levels, but to boost your mood and improve your sense of wellbeing. Incorporating physical activity into your weekly routine can also give you a different structure to predominantly studying and socialising; it’s a great opportunity to branch out and meet new people.
So, how else do we stay motivated without the niggling knowledge of your £35 monthly gym membership, or the daily reminders of your subscription to daily workouts via an app? Here are our best finds for free or easily accessible spaces and activities throughout London all year round.
PARKS AND WALKING
Many people enjoy casual exercise and find the prospect of competitive sport or visiting a gym intimidating, but taking a gentle stroll can be a great way of including movement into your routine, and is a great way of getting around London without having to brave the underground at rush hour. The Royal Parks, scattered throughout central London, are accessible to everyone and perfect for a leisurely walk - having a wander amongst the trees whilst listening to a podcast can be a wonderful way to clear your head and appreciate the greener spots within the city. Hyde Park, for example, is a beautiful spot to go for a stroll, particularly for those studying at Imperial College or City University for something a bit more local. The Parkland Walk, for something less central and running from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace, is a beautiful option for a longer walk, particularly in Spring.
Will to Win, the sports centre in Hyde Park is also accessible to all with no membership required, and could be a perfect option for students with irregular schedules. They offer football and tennis clubs to get involved in if you’d like to try your hand at a new sport without undertaking a weekly financial commitment to a sports club. Regents Park also offers up a green space for anyone who is looking to be a bit more active to utilise, offering up a drop in and pay as you go scheme.
Running is free, it’s easy, and there are some fantastic running spots throughout London, whether you prefer something a bit greener, or if fancy an excuse to explore the inner city a bit more. It can also be a social activity and a way to connect with new people, or simply something to take up on your own to clear your head. London City Runners, the biggest running club in London, also happens to be completely free, welcoming all levels of fitness - give their ‘Couch to 5k’ programme
a go if you’re a first time runner.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer running on your own to set yourself individual goals, Strava is an app which is completely free, providing an easy means to track your progress. It’s also a means to connect and share new routes with other people whilst making friends along the way!
CYCLING AND SWIMMING
These activities can be expensive options for students who want to get active, but there are still some hidden gems - here are our top picks. Cycling to classes is a great way of avoiding overcrowded public transport and saving money, but getting hold of a bike on a student budget can be tricky. In recent years, however, huge measures have been put in place to improve general accessibility across the city - check out Santander Cycles or Uber’s JUMP Bikes for temporary access. If you’re lucky enough to already own a bike, Lee Valley Velopark is a great spot for cycling. If you enjoy a social cycle, try out the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Cycle Tour.
Another great option in East London is the London Aquatic Centre which is under £5 for an off peak ticket if you fancy taking the plunge in London’s Olympic pool during the week. From 24th March, you can also visit the Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds for just £2, for those out there who are keen to swim outdoors. Equally, for more outdoor swims, the West Reservoir Centre in Stoke Newington offers a ‘Pay and Play’ option, try out the day pass from £2.15 if you aren’t sure whether to commit to the membership.
Written by Ella,