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Saturday 3rd June 2023 celebrates World Bicycle Day.

For many of us, learning to ride a bike was an exhilarating part of our childhood. At the time, it felt as though nothing could compare to that feeling of your first scoot without stabilisers. That sudden, unrivalled flying sensation – wind in your hair – as Dad stood at the top of the road yelling, “BRAKE! BRAKE!”

The humble bike has remained a firm favourite for many beyond their younger years. Statistics recorded by Gov.uk in December 2022 suggest that cycling levels have increased by 23.7% since December 2013. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the interest in cycling skyrocket, and in April 2021, an incredible 63% rise was recorded since the previous study carried out eight years prior.

Gov.uk also revealed that in 2021, 47% of people aged five and over in the UK owned or had access to a bike.

What is about cycling that attracts such a huge fan-base?

Well, it could be attributable to a variety of factors. Cycling enthusiasts regularly cite their passion to the feeling of freedom that their hobby grants. The idea of whizzing down deserted country lanes without a care in the world as the day breaks certainly sound like a heavenly prospect!

In addition to the liberty it offers, cycling is a quick and low-cost way to get around. Whether you’re day tripping or commuting to work, cycling instead of taking the car or public transport could rake in the saved pennies.

Another reason that cycling is a much-loved hobby may be down to the health benefits it offers.

Cycling – like many other forms of exercise – has been proven to have a profound effect on both physical and mental wellbeing. The NHS website states that partaking in regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and clinical depression.

Exercise can regulate stress hormones and administer endorphins which, simply put, are the body’s ‘happy chemical!’Endorphins are released by the brain to promote joy and assist in alleviating pain.

The great news is that exercise is wonderfully inclusive, and you absolutely do not need fancy equipment and expensive gear to reap the rewards.

Low cost ways to enjoy exercise:

  • Invest in a bike and catch a ‘brake!’

    Or rather, let your savings catch a ‘brake,’ that is! Bikes often come with a hefty price tag, but if you’re committed to phasing out your car or reliance on public transport, you could save yourself hundreds of pounds (as well as helping the environment).

    A study by Cyclescheme found that the average annual cost of running a bicycle is a moderate £396, compared to a car, which could set you back £3,727 (a sum that – given the cost-of-living crisis – is surely enough to grind your gears!).

  • Some companies offer a Cycle2Work scheme, which operates via a ‘salary sacrifice.’ Those wishing to sign up can expect to save between 32% and 42% on a new bike and accessories. The cost is then deducted from your payslip over 12 or 18 months. For more information on the Cycle2Work scheme, check out https://www.cyclesolutions.info/

  • Fall into step with walking

    When it comes to exercise, walking is an ‘unsung hero!’ It is one of the best forms of physical activity out there, yet it often gets overlooked.

    Walking is totally free and can be done almost anywhere. A half-hour Work from home lunchtime brisk stroll with the dog, getting off the bus a couple of stops early, or pledging to ditch the car for journeys under three miles are all easy, quick-fix ways to up your daily dose of walking.

    The more you vow to make walking a part of your everyday routine, the more opportunities you will find to indulge in it. Before long, you could be saving money on fuel and public transport as you swap the car or bus pass for your own two feet!

  • Be ‘in it for the long run’

    … Or the short run! You needn’t sign yourself up for a marathon to become acquainted with the wonders of running. Pop in your headphones, hit the pavements and fall in love with this costless yet invaluable pursuit.

    There are a whole array of apps and plans to get you started. Couch to 5k is a popular, free programme designed to help running newbies build up to 5k in just nine weeks.

    If you’re a seasoned runner and wish to train in a group or compete in races without paying participation charges, Parkrun is a free weekly, timed event held all over the UK. We challenge you not to get competitive as you strive for a new PB!

    In order to help prevent pesky injuries, it’s important to wear a sturdy pair of trainers especially designed for running, but apart from that, don’t worry about what to wear: an old hoodie and a pair of leggings or shorts will do just fine!

  • Make the most of offers at local gyms

    Whether you’re into weightlifting or Zumba classes, there’s no denying that regularly hitting the gym can make a significant difference to your health.

    Membership fees may put some people off, but there are things you can do to ensure that you snatch up the best deal.

    It goes without saying that January tends to be the cheapest time to join the gym. A post-Christmas slump and a rise in New Year’s resolutions drive interest, and gyms often have special offers in place to entice new customers. This could include discounted fees for a set amount of time, or even a ‘free trail’ period.

    (Good to know: A lot of us sign up to the gym with good intent but fall out of love with it for one reason or another. Memberships can sometimes roll automatically, so it’s an idea to check that you’re not still paying for a service you’re not using.)

  • ‘Lift’ your spirits (and your savings) with a home gym

    If you’re dedicated to the gym but begrudge at paying the fees, why not consider setting up your own ‘home gym?’ The fantastic thing about this is that you don’t actually need access to a whole spare room: foldable gym equipment is a phenomenon that means they can be easily stored after use. You can forget all about the laborious task of converting the garage!

    While buying the equipment can be expensive, having constant access to it in your own home will eradicate the bind of membership fees.

    Treadmills can vary in cost, and you can expect to pay around £400 for a decent brand (although cheaper and higher priced options are available). The average gym membership in the UK costs £40 per month, meaning that a £400 treadmill will have paid for itself in just ten months.

    If gymming is your thing, it’s all about weighing up the overall costs to find the best solution for you.

  • WFH = Workout from Home

    Of course, you don’t even need to fork out on the apparatus – there are plenty of inventive ways that you can workout from home without spending a penny.
    Why not try running up and down the stairs as many times you as you can during the advert breaks of your favourite TV show?

    The internet is brimming with videos for home workouts of varying intensity, be it a chilled yoga ‘sesh, or a fast and furious virtual ‘dance fit’ class. You can find a whole host of freebie fitness vids’ on YouTube. Joe Wicks in particular offers a decent assortment of workouts, as well as ideas for healthy eat on a budget.

  • ‘Just keep swimming!’

    Swimming is a relatively low-impact sport and is notoriously kind to your joints. But don’t be fooled: this sensational staple of activity is laden with gains! Swimming gives your whole body a workout while gently strengthening your muscles and improving your endurance.

    A number of leisure centres offer discounted swimming tickets for students, families and over 60s, and opting to swim ‘off peak’ can sometimes work out cheaper.

    If you’re also an avid fan of the gym, it’s worth seeking one that has a pool onsite - some memberships include the combined usage of both, which will save you money long-term.

    Of course, if you’re an experienced swimmer and are lucky enough to live by the sea, you may be able to partake in this pastime for free!

  • Put on your dancing shoes

    What’s the one song that never fails to get you up on your feet? Uptown Funk? Livin’ on a Prayer? Bohemian Rhapsody? Whatever it is, hit it up on your speakers and get your groove on.

    Low-cost ways to enjoy dance include hosting your very own ‘kitchen disco,’ tearing up the dancefloor with friends on a night out, or following a free online tutorial.

  • Keep an eye on local community pages

    When it comes to exercise, you might be surprised by the content you can find on your local community pages.

    The local five-aside team might be seeking a stand-in player, someone may be making a plea for a dog walker, or a new resident in the town has asked if anyone fancies a running buddy.

  • With our top tips for exercising on a budget, there’s no reason for your finances to get caught up in a negative cycle!

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