You don’t need to break the bank to have fun and get fit. Here are 15 healthy things to do this summer that are cheap—or free!

1. Take a yoga class

A yoga studio membership can often cost more than a monthy gym membership. But with a little research and creativity, you can enjoy all the benefits of yoga for a fraction of the cost (or no cost at all).

Many yoga studios follow the tradition of offering free or by-donation (“karma”) classes all year long. Check out local yoga studios in your area to see what’s available. And various cities across Canada now offer a Passport to Prana, which allows you to get one class each in multiple yoga studios—more than 50 in the GTA, for example—for $20-30.

Still not sure you can fit yoga into your budget? Lululemon stores across Canada offer complimentary weekly classes and even provide the mat. Various cities across Canada also offer free (or by-donation) yoga in the park during the summer months.

2. Try an outdoor workout

Forget expensive gym equipment or fitness classes. If you can find a local park or playground, you can get fit outdoors for free. Think of it as recess for grown-ups—you get a great full-body workout, while still having a whole lot of fun.

For a little outdoor workout inspiration, check out this phys-ed workout routine by Toronto fitness trainer, Rory Lindo.

3. Take a dance lesson

Looking for a fun way to de-stress and burn calories? Try a dance class! Many salsa clubs across Canada offer lessons for free—or for a small cover fee—and then you can dance the night away. The best part? You don’t have to be a dancing pro to get in on the fun—this activity is ideal for beginners and experienced dancers alike.

Not comfortable with the idea of dancing in front of strangers? Get your groove on in the privacy of your own living room with free dance workout videos on YouTube.
Give it 1/5

4. Go fly a kite

This is a fun outdoor activity the whole family can enjoy. Whether you purchase an inexpensive kite from the store or make your own (like this one from Instructables), flying a kite is not only a great family bonding experience, but also an ideal way to get outdoors this summer and enjoy a little stress-free play.

To take the fun up a notch, look for a kite festival in your area.

5. Camp out in your backyard

Camping can be an expensive venture by the time you add up travel costs, equipment and park fees. But if you’re a fan of the great outdoors, why not spend a fun-filled weekend with the kids camping in your own backyard? Play outdoor games, enjoy a healthy burger or two and top it off with some toasted marshmallows before you sleep under the stars—without spending a penny on gas.

6. Go for a hike

Follow a local hiking trail for a fun and free fitness activity. Want to see serious results? “Add sprint intervals” says Sara Celik, a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor and fitness trainer. “Go on a hike with friends and at random intervals yell out ‘Challenge!’ This is the signal for everyone to sprint for 45 seconds. Continue this throughout the hike,” says Celik.

7. Go for a swim

No, you don’t have to splurge on a pool for your backyard to stay cool in the summer months. Instead, check out the listings for community pools in your area. Most city-operated pools will offer leisure swimming hours either free of charge or for a nominal fee.

Swimming isn’t just a refreshing way to beat the heat—it’s also a great workout. It gets your heart pumping and helps to build your lung capacity, while also providing a low-impact workout that’s easy on your joints.

8. Plan a scavenger hunt

Whether you’re trying to entertain restless kids or looking for a cheap way to have fun with a group of friends, planning an outdoor scavenger hunt is the way to go. Head to a nearby park and hide clues or compile a list of specific items that your participants have to find. Not only is this an excellent social activity, you can sneak in some exercise by offering a reward to the team who finds everything in the shortest amount of time (that’ll get them running!) Then finish off the day with a healthy potluck picnic.

9. Have a DIY spa day

Who doesn’t love having soft, smooth skin from head to toe during the summer? After all, it is the season of sandals and shorts. But rather than spending a bundle at the spa, save money by hosting a spa day for friends (or enjoy one solo) in your own home. Whip up one of our natural (and cheap!) homemade scrubs, give yourself a pedicure, or try these tips from Best Health readers:

“Here’s an inexpensive face mask I’ve been using for more than 10 years: Whip together one egg with a tablespoon of honey. Apply to your face and throat, then wait 20 minutes before washing it off. My skin feels very smooth afterwards (but I still use moisturizer, too).” –Adriana Grillo, Boucherville, Que.

“For really soft skin, spread extra-virgin olive oil on your face one evening a week. Use a cosmetic sponge or a soft paint brush to coat your face lightly in the oil. Leave on for 15 to 20 minutes, and wash off with an unscented mild soap.” –Kristie Belanger, Peterborough, Ont.

10. Grow your own food

Gardening is an effective way to relieve stress and burn calories, but it can also help you eat healthy and save money, too. With a little hard work, you can enjoy fresh lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and other nutrient-packed foods right from your own backyard. If space is limited, you can also try growing your own herbs with an indoor herb garden—they’ll help punch up the flavour of any healthy meal.

Don’t have enough space to garden at home? Look for a community garden in your area.

11. Start a group or club

Whether you’re interested in reading, running or cooking, you can start a club for just about anything! Let your friends know that you’d like to get together for a regular book club meeting in the park or sweat session on the trails, and then have them spread the word. It won’t cost you anything, but the benefits—to your mental and physical health, as well as your friendships—will be priceless.

12. Act like a kid again

When’s the last time you played with a hula hoop, did a little skipping or tossed around a frisbee, just for fun? Each of these items can be purchased for $5 or less, and can be used alone or with a partner as an effective fitness tool.
Take skipping, for example. Not only is it an excellent cardio workout, but it can help you burn more than 700 calories an hour. If frisbee is your thing, look into joining a competitive league in your community. You’ll have the opportunity to make new friends, learn a new sport and stay active all summer long.

13. Host a summer potluck party

Summer and barbecues go hand in hand, but hosting a backyard shindig can get expensive depending the number of guests you invite. For a less costly option, try organizing a backyard potluck party with your friends and neighbours. Not only will you save money on groceries, but you’ll have a chance to enjoy each other’s cooking and swap healthy recipes. Need a little inspiration? Try our healthy summer meal plan and healthy summer cocktail recipes.

14. Embrace technology

Looking for some peace and quiet on a summer afternoon? If you’ve got a laptop and an internet connection, you can score plenty of free reading material from the Chapters website and kick back with a good e-book. Or if a little zen is what you need, you can find a free meditation podcast for your mp3 player online. And from yoga moves to healthy recipes, there is no shortage of health and fitness apps out there for your trusty smartphone.

15. Give yourself a massage

After a long day at the office, it’s nice to relax and unwind with a soothing massage. Rather than spending $100 on a visit to the massage therapist, keep your muscles loose with a self-massage. Learn the techniques with A Practical Guide to Self-Massage. The 10 basic techniques described in this handy guide are designed to have a beneficial effect not only on the area being massaged, but on the mind and body as a whole, leaving you feeling refreshed and ready to go.

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