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Max Your Cash: In the gym

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:32 UK time, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Cast your mind back to that New Year's Resolution you made about getting into shape.

If you still haven't acted on your good intentions, it's not too late to start. Lucy finds out how to go for the burn, without burning a hole in your wallet.

Private gyms

Every year we Brits waste £200,000,000 in unused membership contracts with private gyms. So if you're tempted to join - make sure you're going to get value for money.

Most private gyms have a joining fee of up to £100. Add that to your monthly payments - on average £40 - and you're looking at nearly £600 a year.

If you go regularly, it's a bargain, but if you only go once a week it'll cost you around £10 per visit. So shop around and consider those new gyms which have done away with membership contracts.

Going to a gym regularly might be good for your health, but if you don't read the contract properly, it can be very bad for your finances. So before you sign on the dotted line - make sure you know exactly what you're agreeing to.

When you sign up to most gyms you're actually signing a credit agreement - a legal contract committing you to monthly payments. These agreements can sometimes be difficult to get out of - as Dean Yearsley found out.

When he got a job in Spain, he wrote to his gym to cancel his membership. But when he got back, he had a nasty surprise.

"When I got home, I had a letter from the gym I'd joined, saying I owed them £1,200," he said. It turned out Dean had signed an agreement locking him into a contract.

Like many of us, Dean believed the sales pitch instead of reading the small print - a potentially costly mistake. So, before you sign up to a gym, make sure you can get out if you need to.

Council gyms

If gyms are your thing, then going private isn't the only option. You could be better off paying for individual sessions at a local authority leisure centre.

Lucy visited a local authority gym in Neath, which proved this good-value option can still offer a first-class experience. Council gyms are often contract-free and a typical session will cost around £3-6.

Working-out from home

Even if you can't make it to the gym, there's no excuse for being a couch potato. Forget the fancy sports gear and look a bit closer to home.

Just 30 minutes of vacuuming or 50 minutes spent ironing will burn off 100 calories. They might not be your favourite activities - but will certainly keep you in trim.

And if all that housework gets too much, then take a break and enjoy a stroll. It's one of the best ways to keep fit and 50 minutes of gentle walking will burn around 100 calories.

Go green

Another way to save money on your keep-fit regime is by going green. There are lots of volunteer projects springing up across Wales where you can get involved in physical activities while contributing to community or conservation projects.

We visited Swansea Community Farm in Fforestfach, where wellies and a garden fork are all the kit you'll need for a full body workout.

Working outdoors is perfect for people who want to combine fresh air and exercise with doing their bit for the community. And the biggest advantage of volunteer work is that it's free. An hour's weeding burns up to 500 calories, so you might get more of a work-out than you expected.

There are 32 city farms and gardens running similar schemes across Wales.

There's also something called the Green Gym movement, run by the charity British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, where you can get fit by taking part in conservation projects. You could be doing anything from gardening work to clearing public footpaths or mending fencing.

Kari Lucas recruits the volunteers for the Swansea community farm and believes volunteering can be an easy step towards a healthier lifestyle.

"You get back and you think 'I've actually worked out really hard', and you haven't thought about it, and it's been an enjoyable experience," she said.

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