Exercise is vital for people of all ages, but particularly as we get older. Studies show that people who are lifelong exercisers remain independent longer, are less depressed, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and injuries from falls.

We are lucky to have a wide range of sporting options available in Canberra. However they can be quite expensive, not to mention that weekly sports leagues are not always easy to commit to as a time-poor parent.

If you are looking to get fit in Canberra, but don’t want (or can’t afford) to pay membership fees for the local gym or sports club, there are a range of great free and flexible options available – here are just a few:

The parkrun website organises timed 5km runs around the world, with 160 locations around Australia holding regular events. There are three events held weekly in Canberra at John Knight Park in BelconnenYerrabi Pond in Gungahlin, and at Lake Tuggeranong.

It’s free with an emphasis on fun and fitness. Events are open to parents with strollers and kids (under adult supervision). Everyone is encouraged to stay for a coffee and a chat at nearby cafés afterwards.

Outdoor fitness stations
There are 20 outdoor fitness stations located across Canberra that provide a range of fitness equipment. As well as simpler fixed equipment like pull up bars, sit up benches and step ups, you can also find aerobic walkers, leg presses, shoulder presses, chest presses, and trapeze rings. The ACT government has also posted a range of instructional videos for people wanting to learn how to use the equipment properly.

The ALP candidate for Murrumbidgee Mark Kulasingham was a key advocate for this program back in 2012 when he was looking for exercise options he could use while also caring for his kids as a stay at home dad. I always thought it was a great idea and a great example of community advocacy, so it’s great to see these up and running.

Skate parks
I won’t be grabbing a skateboard any time soon, but for the more adventurous Canberra has seven major skate parks and a dozen more minor facilities including the Belco Skate Park, recognised as one of the best in the country and the largest in Australia when first completed.

Centenary Trail
Opened as part of Canberra’s 100 year celebrations in 2013, the Centenary trail provides well-marked paths for those interested in seeing some great scenery with their walks and bike rides. While not all parts are paved, most of the sections are very friendly to people of all skill levels.

Even if you’re daunted by the thought of finishing all 145 kilometres, there are several recommended shorter walk and many loop walks marked on the map if you want ideas for scenic places to get out and about in Canberra.

Canberra Community Walks
You can still find signs for the Heart Foundation-sponsored Canberra Community Walks program in a number of suburbs across Canberra. Simply by following the signs, people can enjoy a 2-3km walk in around 30 minutes and are a great way to get active.

While the program is no longer advertised on ACT government websites, the signs are still in place and you can access maps through the amazingly useful Internet Archive:

The Heart Foundation now focuses on its Walking program, with more than 30 registered groups regularly meeting across Canberra to walk and talk.

Disc golf
Finally, if you are after something completely different, the 2.2km nine-hole disc golf course in Eddison Park in Phillip provides a fun and free way to spend an afternoon. While it is not as well-known as its cousin, it is much cheaper to play since you only need a $2 frisbee to get started.