What to look for in a gym membership

January 3, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK: A gym membership is a good investment if you use it
SHUTTERSTOCK: A gym membership is a good investment if you use it

In the aftermath of the excesses of the holiday season, January is prime time for gyms seeking new members. People who have resolved to lose weight and get fit in the New Year sign up in droves. But by the end of February most of these “resolutionists” are rarely seen and regulars no longer have to contend with line ups for classes and cardio equipment.

Committing to regular exercise at gym is only one way to get fit in 2013. Local recreation centres and schools offer a myriad of reasonably priced activities. For example, you can purchase an annual pass to the 100 metre indoor walking track at the Arcola East Community Association in Regina for $80/year or just $25 for the winter season.

However, if you decide that this is the year to join a gym, there are some basic things to remember that will increase the odds that you will actually stick with the program and get value for the money you spend.

First of all, find a gym that is close by with free parking and hours that fit into your schedule. A referral from a friend or listings in the online yellow pages are good places to start.

Also check out the equipment and classes included in at no extra charge by the gyms you are considering. Most gyms will give you a courtesy pass to try out the facilities before you actually become a member.

If you will never take a yoga class, swim laps or need childcare you may decide to join a more bare bones facility that costs less. However, the advantage of a full service gym with a broader range of fitness options is that trying new activities can keep you from getting bored over time and giving up.

Cost and the method of payment are important considerations. Beware of new member specials where you get a reduced rate for several months but have to sign up for a year and provide a credit card or bank account information to get the deal. You may get a better price if your employer has a corporate rate or if there are enough interested people to negotiate one.

And don’t forget to check out the company’s business track record.  A good place to start is the Better Business Bureau in your province.  If you choose to sign up for a year in advance, you’d like the gym to stay in business for at least that long.

Finally, remember that when you join a gym, you are signing a contract. As a consumer you need to ask yourself what your fitness goals are and what medical issues you should consider prior to entering into any contractual arrangement for a gym membership.

The Saskatchewan Better Business Bureau gets frequent complaints from consumers who want to cancel their gym contracts but are unable to do so. They suggest you ask the following questions before signing on the bottom line:

  1. What are the terms of any introductory offers? Gyms use special introductory offers to entice new members. Ensure you understand the terms and the cost once the introductory period is over. Many gyms require multi-year contracts and don’t offer month-to-month arrangements, which for most consumers are probably preferable.
  2. Will my membership renew automatically? The BBB receives frequent complaints from people who joined a gym and didn’t realize that their contract would renew automatically and specific steps must be followed to cancel the contracts.  Early or mid-term cancellations may carry financial costs. Early or mid-term cancellations may carry financial costs.
  3. How can I get out of my contract?   Getting out of a gym contact isn’t as easy as getting into one, so ensure you understand what steps the gym requires to cancel your membership. Ask what happens if you are ill and have to terminate or put your membership on hold.
  4. What happens if I move?   Policies vary by company when a consumer is moving and how the gym applies the policy may depend on how far away you are moving and if they have another facility in your new community area.
  5. What happens if the gym goes out of business?   The BBB receives complaints from people when their gyms suddenly close taking their money with them. Ask the gym to explain what will happen to your money if they suddenly go out of business.

Also check out CBC Marketplace’s January 2011 exposé called Big Gym Ripoff which offers tips on how to avoid continuing to be charged after cancellation of membership and how to avoid being charged for services not requested or received.

How are you planning to get fit and stay healthy on a budget in 2013?  Send us an email to so*********@sa*********.com. If your idea is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you add exercise to your daily routine in 2013.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

10-Jan Post-Christmas How to get the most out of your gift cards
17-Jan Online shopping Ways to save by shopping online
24-Jan Home insurance What does your home insurance cover?
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