How to get fit without breaking the bank
Too broke to buy a gym membership? There's loads of ways to lose that spare tyre in 2010 and they can all start in your very own living room, writes Deirdre Reynolds
With the Big 'R' gripping the nation over the past 18 months, many of us have been forced to reconsider our once lavish lifestyles.
But never mind cigarettes and alcohol, it seems that keeping fit is the first casualty of domestic cutbacks.
A new report by the Irish Sports Council reveals that one in seven members of a gym let it lapse in 2008. And last year's headcount of those participating in individual sports is expected to be even worse -- as evidenced by the mass exodus from gyms across the country.
With Ireland's waistline swelling by the day -- almost 25pc of adults and 10pc of children aged five to 12 are obese -- there's never been a worse time for the nation to turn its back on the treadmill.
However, if you're still feeling the effects of the festive excesses but can't justify the cost of membership, health experts have issued a timely reminder that you don't need Gym to Fix It in 2010.
Why fork out fancy fitness club fees when running is free, asks Brian Downes, founder of weight management website Plan For Life.
"The number of people attending gyms has definitely dropped due to the recession," personal trainer Brian says.
"But the number of people who are out walking or running is up.
"There are so many resources out there for exercise that I don't think it matters if you go to the gym or not. The important thing is to get some kind of exercise."
And even if you are among the one in 10 Irish adults who is still members of the 600 gyms left operating here, the odds are that even you'll have flunked out by the end of this month.
A survey by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association shows that 50pc of wannabe gym bunnies never see the inside of a communal shower after the first flush of enthusiasm wears off.
"January is typically a time when people make resolutions to get fit and join the local gym," Brian adds.
"Unfortunately, many choose to go it alone without seeking support or advice and end up dropping out within a couple of months."
But with a third of women and almost a quarter of men trying to lose weight, according to SLÁN (Survey on Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition), the death of your gym days needn't derail your New Year fitness resolve.
Whether it's breaking a sweat with a games console or praying the neighbours don't catch you doing bicep curls with a tin of beans, it is possible to shape up without leaving the warmth of your sitting room.
Nintendo Wii Fit, hand-held weights and exercise DVDs are the top three choices for home exercise, a Mintel market research survey found.
"Home fitness equipment has improved vastly in recent years," says Brian.
"It's widely available and there's something to suit every budget. However, the problem remains that people either don't do enough or do too much."
And it'll be all fun and games until somebody pulls a hamstring -- safety is another big concern.
"Working out at home can be very beneficial but you need to know what you are doing. Getting a trainer to put together a training plan based on your specific circumstances is the ideal scenario -- and occasional sessions with them will keep you on track."
With the fridge just metres away, rewarding yourself for that sweaty workout with a slice of cake is also a real temptation.
"Nutrition is every bit as important as exercise," Brian adds. "You wouldn't put dirty petrol in your car, so why put dirty fuel in your body?"
It's with all these caveats in mind that a slew of new websites has been set up to aid Ireland's DIY slimmers.
Planforlifeonline.com, Weigh2live.eu, Littlesteps.eu and Getirelandactive.ie are just some of the online training forums designed to gee-up those trying to get fit outside of the gym.
"Getting fit is all about being realistic," says Dr Marian Faughnan of Weigh2live, "and joining a gym in January is a good example of being unrealistic.
"You can't expect to go from being totally inactive to being super-fit.
"Getting active for 30 minutes is a good starting point for someone who doesn't exercise already -- but that could be something as simple as doing your housework or going for a walk with the kids."
In the absence of a personal trainer to crack the whip, online training can help overcome the universal stumbling block to getting fit -- motivation.
"It's crucial to seek advice and support if you're planning on making changes to your lifestyle," adds Dr Faughnan. "Our website allows you to monitor your physical activity and track your progress towards your goals in a supportive environment."
For the ultimate fitness experience, why not lace-up and join the thousands already in training for marathon season later this year?
Last year, an unprecedented 12,500 runners took to the tarmac for the Lifestyle Sports-Adidas Dublin Marathon -- which has a nominal entry fee starting from €70.
"Marathon training is challenging, fun and enjoyable," reckons Race Director Jim Aughney.
"Finishing a marathon is an accomplishment that fewer than 1pc of people in the world can say they have achieved.
"Staying motivated is key to crossing the finish line with a smile on your face.
Visualise crossing that finish line next October when you are out for your runs to keep you on target."
See you at the starting line!