Thinking itís time to start working out? Wondering how to shop for a gym, health club or spa?

We asked the Federal Trade Commission to help us with tips for how to chose a gym.

We know: 5 Tips Before You Join a Gym


How do gyms and health clubs work?

There are a variety of contracts for joining a gym or health club. Usually membership entails a sign up fee and regular monthly fee that allows the member to use the facilities and equipment, on a limited or unlimited basis.

Gyms usually offer a variety of classes and training sessions as well, which may or may not cost extra.

What are some of the common problems associated with joining a gym?

Common complaints include:

  • High pressure sales tactics
  • Misrepresentation of facilities and services
  • Broken cancellation and refund clauses
  • Loss of fees if the gym should close

What should I look for when shopping for a gym or health club?

Here are quick tips:

  1. Take a tour of several and see what they look like and what facilities they have to offer. Notice if they're clean, well-maintained, have up-to-date equipment and are crowded.
  2. Ask for a trial period. See if they'll give you a month or two free to see if you like the club.
  3. Consider the hours of operation and the location. If it's a pain to get here, you may never go, and your money is wasted.
  4. Check on the staffing. Do they offer classes you might take? Do you want access to a personal trainer? Are there people around to help you with the equipment?
  5. Find out how people like the place. Ask friends if they like their gym. When you visit, ask people who are using the facilities what's good and what's bad. Call the Better Business Bureau and see if there have been any complaints about the gym you're considering.

What about the contract?

Stuff to remember:

  • Make sure that everything the salesperson promised you is in the written contract.
  • How long is your commitment? If youíre not sure youíre going to stick with the exercise thing, see if you can get a trial period or short contract. Otherwise, it could be a costly mistake.
  • Is there a cancellation policy, and if so, what is required to cancel? If you cancel, can you get a refund for the unused time?
  • Can you afford the payments? Donít be fooled into thinking you can and then be plagued by the gym constantly calling you wanting you to pay up.

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