Creative ways to exercise in Manchester without hitting the gym

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Featured image: Kieron Hoysted

With the first sign of blue skies and budding flowers, it’s safe to say that spring is on its way. Whether you spent the winter months braving the cold and hitting the gym, or resigned to the warm embrace of your duvet, we can all agree that the sun’s anticipated return means we can finally enjoy outdoor creative activities again.

In light of this, here is a list of alternative activities that will get you outside into sunny – let’s be honest, sometimes rainy – Manchester.

Running at Parkrun 

On Saturday mornings, runners invade Platt Fields Parks, taking it back from the geese. If you can stomach waking up at 9am, Parkrun is a great way to exercise and meet local Mancunians. In parks all around the city (and the world), early birds gather to take part in the 5K run. The route is free and non-competitive, with some participants running and others walking. There is also the option to volunteer, helping to organise the event and hand out supplies like water. Great Manchester’s 10K Run also takes place on Sunday, May 26, 2024. Join MMU’s Team Orange.

Price: Free!
Place: Platt Fields Park, Fletcher Moss Park, Heaton Park, Alexander Park, more

Yoga and volunteering at Platt Fields Market Garden

After a run in the park, you can head to Platt Fields Market Garden to stretch down. Usually on Fridays and Sundays at 9AM to 10AM, a free outdoors yoga session takes place: just bring your mat along! Afterwards on Fridays and Saturdays you can participate in open volunteering, helping to maintain the market garden. This activity includes a free organic lunch from the MUD Café, described as ‘seasonal comfort food’. Follow Platt Fields Market Garden on Instagram for each week’s events and activities.

Price: Free!
Place: Platt Fields Market Garden

Basketball at Hulme Park

As the day cools down, an orange hue lands on Hulme Park and the echoes of basketballs and footsteps fill the air. A speaker, pumping hip-hop, might also join the symphony. These basketball courts are a social and inclusive space, where you can play a game with mates or even join a communal game with strangers. Be warned, it can get competitive, but is still perfectly unorganised and always fun.

Price: Free!
Place: Hulme Park, Platt Fields Park

Hiking on the GM Ringway

While Manchester’s parks can offer a bite-sized respite from the city, sometimes you need a bit more immersion in nature. The GM Ringway is a trail that loops around Greater Manchester and showcases a range of natural northern beauty. The Southern Start-up goes through the city, but uses ‘waterways and green spaces’ to leave the headache of traffic behind.

Price: Free!
Place: Centre, Greater Manchester

Dance Societies and Active Campus

There are a range of societies at both Manchester Met and UOM. Dance societies such as breakdancing, salsa and bachata, and pole dancing can be found at MMU. However, if dancing’s not your thing, there are also other sports societies like the Running Society. On the Active Campus digital timetable there are a range of free activities available to MMU students.

Price: Free!
Place: MMU Facilities

Project Z’s Parkour Class

Every Monday evening, a group of free runners meet to practise parkour. The class has been described as a low pressure but rewarding environment, where free runners meet and set challenges for each other. The Monday class sometimes takes place inside the parkour gym on a rainy day, but mostly outdoors in the concrete playground of urban Manchester.

Price: £8
Place: M12 6JL (centre)

Climbing gyms

This creative alternative to the traditional gym can require some travelling and extra change. If the rain and cold are getting to you, a climbing gym offers physical and mental challenges in a relaxed, social environment. Climbing gyms also sell chalk and offer a shoe rental service.

Price: £6-10 per 3-hour session or £40 monthly
Place: Rocking Over Climbing in Cheetham Hill, Depot Climbing in Stretford, Parthian Climbing in West Gorton


Manchester’s positive and welcoming skateboarding community has outdoor spots all over the city centre. However, for the damp majority of the year, Manchester has a few places of refuge for winter skaters. Projekts MCR is located under a bridge near Piccadilly Station. Graystone Action Sports is located in a large warehouse in Salford, which also houses trampolines, climbing walls and a parkour gym.

Price: Free! (street), £8-10 for three hours, £30-40 a month (indoor park)
Place: Centre, Salford

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Kieron Hoysted

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