Given the overindulgence of the festive holidays, it’s hardly surprising that getting back in shape is a priority for most people come January. Not only will exercise and a proper diet regime help you to lose that extra Christmas weight, but it can also be a great antidote to the lethargy and low moods we can sometimes feel during those dark, cold January days.

If your New Year’s resolution is to get fit but you can’t afford to splash out on a pricey gym membership, there are still plenty of ways you can get back in shape without one. Here, we’ve shared our top tips on how to have a fitter, happier, and healthier 2018 on a student budget.

1.      Prep meals in advance

After a long day, it can be tempting to reach for that takeaway menu because you’re simply too tired or hungry to cook a meal from scratch. Prepping a few balanced, nutritious meals in advance means you’ll always have a healthy dinner waiting for you when you get home from uni, without the need to spend time cooking each evening. This way, you can stay in control of your diet, and you can also take your prepped meals with you when you’re on the go. Plus, there are countless recipe combinations: if you need some inspiration, just take a look at these healthy meal prep ideas from GoodFood.

Not only will meal prepping help you to take control of your diet, but it’s also a great way to save money. A homemade lunch usually costs much less than a meal deal or sandwich bought from a shop, which means it’s a great way to tide yourself over if you’re still waiting for your next student loan payment.

2.      Have a dry January

Alcohol contains empty calories, meaning it can really cause you to pile on the pounds. And, with many boozy nights out ending in a takeaway or fast food binge, it can also tempt us to stray from our diet regimes. Taking a break from alcohol is a great way to lose weight and, without those late nights and sluggish hungover mornings, you’ll feel fresher and more energised, too. Plus, it’s a great way to save money, and will give you more time and energy to focus on those all-important January exams.

3.      Bring the gym home with you

You don’t need a full range of gym equipment to get fit. If a full gym membership is out of your budget, stocking up on a few essentials will mean you can get an effective workout without leaving the house.

A few key pieces of equipment, like dumbbells, kettlebells, and a rubber mat, are versatile enough to be incorporated into a whole variety of different workouts, making them a cost-effective alternative to a gym membership. A kettlebell from this selection at Powerhouse Fitness can be used to target different areas of the body: try using yours for kettlebell swings, squats, and lunges for an intense at-home workout.

4.      Walk instead of using public transport

If you take the bus to uni every day, try walking instead. Brisk walking is a great form of exercise that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine with minimum fuss, and it can help you to get some fresh air during a time of year when we tend to spend too much time indoors. If it’s too far to walk all the way, try getting off a couple of stops before your destination and walking the rest of the way. You could even try packing your running gear so you can jog home after lectures for an easy, cost-effective workout.

5.      Join a sports team or club

You don’t have to be a sporting star to join a university team or club. Many universities also have reserve teams or amateur leagues for those who are less experienced so, if there’s a sport you always wanted to try, uni is the perfect place to give it a go. Not only is this a great way to get fit, but you’ll make loads of new friends, too.

Society memberships also tend to be very low, because they’re often subsidised by the university, so see what activities are on offer at your uni. It doesn’t have to be a traditional team sport, either: you could try martial arts, dance, cheerleading, or even ultimate frisbee.

After the excesses of December, getting back in shape can feel like a challenge, especially when your budget won’t cover a gym membership. But, getting fit doesn’t have to be expensive. Just follow these cost-effective tips and you’ll be on track for a happy and healthy 2018.