Exercise Financial Smarts

Five questions to ask before joining a gym



Triangle health clubs are wall-to-wall with gung-ho exercisers in January, which is the biggest month for fresh recruits. Resolving to work out in the new year is a healthy move, but use your bucks wisely. Before you sign up as a member, ask these questions, says the N.C. Association of Certified Public Accountants, based in Raleigh.


Can I start on a trial basis?
Many people enroll in health clubs with great intentions, but they find that they don’t use the facility as much as they thought they would. With that possibility in mind, ask if you can try out the club for a week or more to see if you like working out there and if it’s convenient for you.
When it comes time to sign a contract, don’t automatically accept a one-year membership. Instead, ask if you can join for a shorter period so you’re not committed to paying for months of membership that you may not actually use.


Can I have some time to read the contract?
There should be no need to sign a contract on the same day that you first visit the facility, so don’t feel pressured to do so.
Instead, take the paperwork home and read it over to be sure you understand what you’re agreeing to. Make certain that the details in the contract match any promises made during your visit.
If you have any nagging doubts about joining, check to see if the contract allows a grace period in which you can change your mind without violating the agreement.
Educate yourself about the club’s cancellation policy. Will you be able to get your money back if you are injured, move out of the area or can no longer use the facility for some other reason?

How busy is it?
If the gym has no limits on the number of members who can join, it could become too busy after work or on weekends.
Visit during peak hours to find out whether there are lines or sign-up sheets for the equipment you want to use or if classes you plan to take fill up early.
Make sure you know the hours of operation, too, to confirm that they are convenient for your schedule.


What’s included in membership?
In addition to the basic gym equipment or classes, what other options do you want as part of your membership? Before you begin to visit clubs, think about which extras you are seeking and find out if those gyms offer them.
For example, many health clubs provide day cares where members’ children are looked after while they work out. Also, if a club is part of a chain, you may be able to use other facilities under the same management.


What’s the club’s reputation?
Talk to friends and neighbors who use the facility to see if they are satisfied, but don’t stop there. Contact the local Better Business Bureau and the N.C. attorney general’s office to see if there have been complaints made about this club. If so, find out what kinds of problems have arisen.