In these cash-strapped times, over two-thirds of people now see gym memberships as an unnecessary expense and will not be joining a health club or renewing their membership this year – but that doesn’t mean you can afford not to exercise.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, keeping yourself in shape can help you to save money on things like life insurance and critical illness insurance premiums.

This is because the best way to bring down the cost of cover is to live a healthy lifestyle as this will give insurers’ confidence that you are  a low risk and unlikely to make a claim.

Here, we take a look at some simple, cost-effective ways to shed those pounds so that you can keep protection costs to a minimum.

Get out and about

The first thing to consider is that, for general health alone, you will need to undertake around 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on at least five days of the week, so this should be your starting point.

The good news is that ‘moderate intensity exercise’ can be something as simple as going for a brisk walk, at a pace of around 4mph, or any form of exercise that raises your heart rate to a point whereby you feel that you’re working, yet you’re still able to comfortably carry on a conversation (the odd bead of sweat won’t go amiss at this point either).

If a brisk half hour walk each day is enough to maintain a general level of fitness then you can gradually step up the intensity to a jog and, eventually, a run for even greater health benefits.

You could also introduce other similar activities, such as cycling or rollerblading, to mix things up, maintain interest and work different body parts.

And, as being able to comfortably hold a conversation while exercising is all part of the fitness plan, you could get friends or family involved to help maintain your motivation.

Another slightly more off the wall idea, is to utilise some of the equipment found at your local park. A simple run around the park can be transformed into a full body work out by using low-level railings for incline/decline press-ups and children’s climbing frames can make for great pull-up bars.

Just make sure there are no children using the climbing frame at the same time!

Stay at home

If you’re the sort of person that doesn’t find the great outdoors quite so great then there are still a number of ways for you to keep fit without ever leaving the comfort of your living room.

One of the most effective, and cheapest ways to keep fit is to invest in a skipping rope as skipping is a high intensity, fat burning exercise that is great for anyone wanting to shape their legs, abdominals, arms and shoulders.

And the best thing is that you can do it while watching your favourite television programme and so that half an hour of exercise will fly by.

Workout DVDs are another good option as they are relatively cheap to buy and offer a range of workouts that will suit most people’s fitness levels and objectives.

The downside to this is that it’s easy to lose interest in these DVDs and training in this way can soon become monotonous. You also need to make sure you pick a DVD that doesn’t have a presenter who will just end up getting on your nerves.

After all, there’s no point in saving all that money on gym membership if you have to use it to buy a replacement TV after you put a training shoe through your old one!

Make your own gym

There is also a wide range of home fitness equipment available that can help turn that spare room into a home gym and MoneySupermarket Local Deals have some great deals on equipment that you can take advantage of if you move quickly.

However, if you are planning on investing in gym equipment for your home you need to be sure that you will stay motivated enough to use it regularly as you could find that your spare room is soon home to an expensive, hi-tech clothes horse.

New technology, such as Nintendo’s Wii Fit  is also a good way to keep fit, particularly if you need to add fun to your fitness regime.

And with Nintendo’s latest Zumba game  you can also use your Wii to try out the latest dance/fitness craze, without running the risk of looking like Russell Grant’s ‘Strictly’ stunt double at the local sports hall.

This is also a relatively cheap option if you already have the hardware and has the added benefit of getting the family involved.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.