How To Choose The Best Gym Membership: Costs And Ways To Save

It’s no secret that obesity rates in the United States are staggering. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight and more than half of these people are clinically obese. Being overweight is associated with a number of health complications, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even some types of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), these complications are the root cause of some of the most common and preventable causes of death.

Ironically, as obesity rates rise, so do the rates of Americans going to the gym. In 2013, the latest year for which Statista has statistics, nearly 53 million Americans were subscribed to a gym, or about 22% of the adult population. Another five million or so do not have an active gym membership, but have visited gyms or health centers (using guest passes or staying in a hotel) at least once during the course of the year. ‘one year. The United States also has more gyms than ever before, with more than 30,000 health and fitness centers located across the country.

The health and fitness industry is capitalizing on our propensity for potato chips. In the United States, health and fitness centers generated a staggering $ 22.4 billion in revenue in 2013, or roughly $ 423 per year for each person in one of these centers. And that figure is heavily influenced by people who join or leave a gym throughout the year. The actual cost for people who have a year-round gym membership is more like $ 700 per person.

This number may not seem like a big deal if you lift weights in your gym every morning and use the hot water in the gym for showering and its electrical outlets for your clipper or hair dryer. But if you’re paying a monthly membership fee and haven’t seen the inside of your gym since the day you signed up, that’s an unfair deal.

This is why it is so important to choose the right gym and get the best possible deal on your membership. This way, you can achieve your health and fitness goals without sacrificing your financial health.

How to choose the right gym

The number one reason for choosing a gym is that that gym has something – or, preferably, several things – about it that will make you want to show up. Maybe that “something” is for your workout partner to go to the same gym and help you take responsibility for your 6am treadmill session. Few articles are more motivating than a good friend who won’t let you down. Here are some other critical factors to consider when choosing a gym.


One of the biggest barriers to exercise is a lack of free time. You might get a fantastic deal on a subscription to a great gym with amazing equipment, but if you have to sit in the car for 40 minutes to get there, you might have a hard time fitting it into your daytime. And even if you’re someone with a lot of spare time, an extended trip to your gym can easily crush any motivation you have to make it happen.

It’s one thing to convince yourself that exercise is a good idea. If you need to focus on traffic as well, forget it.

The gym doesn’t have to be close to your home to be practical. If you like to exercise right after work, consider choosing a gym right next to your desk (don’t forget to pack your workout clothes). If you like to train on the sly before picking the kids up from school, choose a gym near your school. The key is to select a location that won’t take you too far out of your way.

My gym is only a mile from my house and I enjoy running there, lifting weights at the gym, and running at home. This way, I put on cardio and weights in one session, and I don’t even have to find my car keys. Only you know what your personal travel limit is, but it is a good idea to go wrong with a shorter trip. And remember: the price you pay for a gym membership is too high if you never use that membership.

Disadvantages of the mode

Maybe the gym closest to you is a complete dumping ground. In this case, it doesn’t matter if you are at the end of the block. If a gym doesn’t have the atmosphere and the equipment you need, you’re less likely to use it.

Several important features include those that provide the following:

  • Relaxation. For some people, the promise of a sauna, steam room, or hot tub after a hard workout is enough motivation to drive them to the gym.
  • Customization. Some people won’t consider stepping into a gym unless they know they will be greeted with freshly laundered towels, a private locker, and the ability to lie on a tanning bed and drink shakes. personalized.
  • Free time. For others, nothing is more important than affordable on-site child care.
    Know what’s important to you and what you’re ready to commit to. And remember, it’s not just about clean machines and sparkling bathrooms. Consider your personal fitness goals and determine if the gym has the type of equipment and classes that can help you achieve those goals.

The following features may be important to you:

  • Group fitness. Check the group fitness class schedule to make sure your preferred type of class is available. If there is only one Pilates class per week and you can’t live without Pilates, make sure the class fits your schedule. It is essential to note that some gyms charge more for certain classes. Ask before signing up to make sure you won’t be spending more than your budget.
  • Dedicated area. Some gyms have a dedicated area for boxing, squash, racquetball, or basketball, while others do not. If any of these activities are important to you, make sure your gym offers them. Make sure you know if there is a swimming pool.
  • Team. The supply of equipment varies considerably depending on the gymnasium. It’s one thing to donate certain equipment or classes, but whether or not those items are available is another matter entirely. Some gyms have a lot of squat racks, while others emphasize free weights. Some are almost all cardio, while others are aimed at the bodybuilding crowd. If you’re a cardio king or queen, make sure there are a large number of cardio machines out there compared to the number of people who have a gym membership. A small gym (less than 1,000 members) might get away with a handful of treadmills, but a larger gym (over 5,000 members) often has 20 or more. If you like free weights a lot, make sure there is more than one set of each dumbbell.
  • Personal Training. If you know you’ll need the extra boost to help you reach your goals, educate yourself on personal training. Not all gyms offer on-site personal trainers, and those that do almost always charge generously for this privilege. Expect to pay around $ 50 per hour-long session with a trainer, and more for sessions with experienced trainers and people with special qualifications and certifications.
    You can ask your gym salesperson how many people are members and approximately how many people use the gym on any given day. However, a smarter approach is to show up to the gym during your favorite exercise routine and see for yourself if your favorite equipment is available. Membership count doesn’t matter as much as traffic during the time you’re most likely to be there.

Another topic worth researching before logging on is the course request. Even if your preferred class is offered at your preferred time, it may not be worth it if you have to arrive 30 minutes early to get a seat. And the reverse problem can also be a problem: ask the seller if a course is subject to cancellation if too few people show up. Again, the best option is to know when your preferred class is taking place and try to schedule a visit to the gym during that time.


There is no such thing as an “average” gym size and there is often variation in the size of gyms within a chain. For example, some LA Fitness sites may have 500 members, while others have 5,000 members. The size of the limbs doesn’t necessarily determine the number or quality of equipment, although gyms with more members usually have more classes and machines to keep up with demand.

  • Large gymnasiums. Gold’s Gym is said to have an average of 5,000 members per site, while Life Time Fitness targets nearly 10,000 members per site. Both would be considered excellent gyms.
  • Gyms-shops. Some gyms, like Snap Fitness, don’t promise a lot of equipment or amenities. By design, Snap Fitness locations are small gyms in tight spaces. They are available 24 hours a day by access card, but are only occupied during the day. The idea is to have a small, non-overwhelming place to exercise whenever you want. Snap Fitness gyms can have around 500 members per site.
  • Specialized sports halls. Some gyms cater for a specific type of fitness, such as Crossfit. Crossfit gyms, or “boxes,” can get away with a much smaller membership count, with 100 to 200 members per box, which is not uncommon.

Snap’s “small and simple” formula works for some people. Others need the options and the energy of a bigger gym. You have to decide which environment motivates you.


Unless you’re joining a 24-hour gym, be sure to check the hours of operation seven days a week, as well as vacation times. But don’t stop there.

The hours of certain services, such as the swimming pool, sports fields and on-site daycare, are generally more restricted than the general opening hours. Personal trainers are often only available at certain times of the day and, of course, group fitness classes are scheduled. Request a hard copy or a link to an electronic copy of the group exercise program and be sure to ask how often the program changes.

It’s a good investment to spend some time researching these times before signing up for something at a gym. If you pick a gym and sign a contract because a spin class is offered at a convenient time, and the schedule changes two weeks after you join, you’re out of luck.

Gym membership fee

Each year, the International Association of Health, Racquet, and Sports Clubs (IHRSA) conducts research on health and fitness centers in the United States and around the world. The folks at the Brain Statistics Research Center looked at the IHRSA results, and the results are revealing.

In the United States, the estimated average monthly cost of a gym membership is $ 58. In reality, costs vary widely depending on the location and the gym. If you live in New York City, you can expect to shell out an average of $ 134.50 per month for a gym membership. If you travel to Charleston, SC, you’ll spend almost two-thirds less, at an average of $ 48.86 per month.

Here are some key things to consider when considering the cost of a gym:

  • Initiation fees. The monthly fee for a gym membership isn’t the only cost to consider. Many gyms charge an entry or initiation fee. Sometimes these fees are waived as part of a promotion, but it’s not uncommon to pay $ 100, $ 200, or even more for a start-up fee. This could be under negotiation.
  • Excess charges. Keep in mind that some services that are important to you (such as tanning, lockers, personal trainers, and some classes) may not be included in your monthly fees.
  • Contracts. Some gyms require a contract (usually for one year at a time). If you are moving or are not quite sure which gym will suit you, seriously consider a contract before signing; Otherwise, you might find yourself stuck paying for a subscription that you aren’t using. Be sure to read the fine print to see what cancellation fees, if any, you will need to pay if you try to cancel your membership early.
  • Freezing and suspension costs. If you’re entering a particularly busy time in your life or injure yourself and can’t make it to the gym, you may be able to suspend your membership without canceling it. This allows you to keep your place and not have to pay start-up costs again. Keep in mind, however, that it’s common for gyms to charge a “freeze” or “suspension” fee, and also impose time limits, such as six months. Some charge a flat fee, like $ 10 per month, during the suspension period, while others charge a percentage of your monthly fee (25% is common, but if you are asked to pay 50% or more, consider d ‘go away).

Gym chains cost sign

These are several gym chains in the United States with enough locations (100+) to display a sample of the ongoing monthly fees. Note that many gym chains also charge a start-up fee (often $ 100 or more) and / or an annual fee (often over $ 40) in addition to the monthly cost. Also, keep in mind that prices change regularly and often vary by location within the same chain.

  • LA Fitness. More than 600 locations. Prices may vary by location, but $ 29.95 per month is common.
  • 24 hour gym. More than 400 locations. The basic subscription price is $ 49.99 per month.
  • Planet Fitness. More than 800 locations. It offers a basic membership at $ 10 per person, per month, and a VIP membership (which includes tanning, use of massage chairs, reciprocal use of other Planet Fitness locations, and more) for 19, $ 99 per person per month.
  • Snap Fitness. More than 1,500 locations. Prices vary depending on location. Individual memberships to a Sample Gym (located in Hartland, Michigan) cost $ 29.95 per month; memberships for two people cost $ 49.95 per month; family memberships cost $ 59.95 per month.
  • The Golden Gymnasium. 400 locations. Great price for the location. Basic memberships to a sample gym (located in Paramus, NJ) are $ 29.95 per person, per month, and VIP memberships (which include unlimited group exercise, limited free tan, and a workout staff, and more) are $ 49.95 per person, per month.
  • Fitness for life. More than 100 locations. Prices vary by location and Life Time does not discuss pricing, although I have been personally quoted $ 169 per month for a two person membership that includes all onsite amenities such as group fitness , lockers, towels, saunas and steam rooms.
  • Anytime Fitness. 2000 locations. Prices vary by location, and while Anytime Fitness doesn’t easily post pricing information online, a 2013 Forbes magazine article quotes an executive from a market research and consulting firm saying Anytime Fitness monthly charges between $ 35 and $ 55 per person per month.

As you can see, six of the seven gym chains listed above offer prices at or below the average monthly cost of a gym membership. These large franchises may charge lower prices partly because of the number of members, but partly out of necessity, as they all compete with each other. Independent gyms and those with specialized fitness offerings, such as Crossfit, can charge more easily. For example, a Crossfit location in New York City charges $ 230 per month, well above the local average.

Yoga is another specialty fitness offering that is priced proportionately higher. The Behemoth yoga franchise, CorePower, charges $ 205 for a month of unlimited classes at the high end, like in San Francisco, and $ 154 for a month of unlimited classes at the low end, like in Salt Lake City.


Based on actual usage patterns, the report published in the Statistics Brain Research Center estimates that $ 39 of the estimated average monthly cost of $ 58 for a gym membership is wasted through “underutilization”.

Here’s how they got that number: Among those who have a gym membership, 67% never use the membership. People who keep gym memberships but don’t use them are a gym owner’s dream. If two-thirds of your members never show up to use your facility, you can continue to collect monthly payments without facing overcrowding, resource use, and wear and tear on your machines.

Those who use their gym membership do so on average twice a week. It should be noted that many health insurance companies offer financial incentives to people who use the gym a certain number of times per month (12 is a common minimum number of visits), and twice a week is not enough. .

Additionally, the CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week as well as full-body muscle-building activities at least two days per week. Unless you participate in extraordinarily long sessions with 75 minutes of cardio and full-body strength training on each gym visit, you won’t hit the minimum recommendation with just two visits.

Ways to save on a gym membership

A gym membership is an investment in yourself. Obesity not only creates health problems, it also costs a lot of money. According to the CDC, in a single year, the health care costs associated with an obese person are, on average, $ 1,429 more than the health care costs associated with a healthy weight person. The estimated total cost of annual health care for obese adults in the United States is approximately $ 150,000,000; yes, it’s $ 150 billion.

Fortunately, you don’t have to foot the bill for excess nationwide. However, you have the opportunity to take charge of your life and make healthier choices. And you don’t have to break the bank to do it.

Here are several ways to reduce the cost of a gym membership:

1. Compare prices
As pointed out above, location, amenities, and times are critical factors when considering a gym. But if there is more than one gym in your area that meets your needs, it’s in your best interest to get deals from all the relevant locations. You can even pit gyms against each other. Make a deal for a gym, then take it to the other places and see if they beat the price. (I recommend being honest here, because these gym owners probably know each other, not to mention that lying about the numbers is not only unethical, but could be largely counterproductive.)

2. Negotiate

There’s a reason many gyms don’t display prices – different members often pay very different amounts. Even if your gym publishes prices, it’s worth trying to negotiate. Most published prices are an “ideal” target for your gym, and if your membership is low, they may be very willing to go down.

Negotiating strategies involve initially offering something significantly lower than the first offer in the hope of finding you somewhere in the middle; ask the gym to waive the initiation fee if it does not budge on the monthly fee; request that your rate be lowered after a certain period of time if you stay in the gym; and ask for free extras, including personal training, tanning, or other perks that typically incur fees beyond the monthly fee. By negotiating, I ended up paying around 50% of the price I was initially offered in my current gym.

3. Share a membership
Many gyms offer discounts per person when multiple people are meeting. For example, one person can pay $ 50 per month, but two people on the same subscription can pay $ 80 (or $ 40 per person, per month). While these shared memberships were typically only for legal family members, it’s increasingly common for gyms to allow roommates and other important people to share the membership. Just make sure the contract is arranged so that it doesn’t get stuck on the bill if your training partner quits their membership.

4. Maximize use
If you pay $ 60 a month for a gym and only use it once a week, you’re basically paying $ 15 every time you walk into that gym. Was That 20 Minute Elliptical Workout Really Worth $ 15? The more you use your subscription, the less expensive it will be per visit and the more likely you are to get results. If you go there five days a week, you pay more than $ 3 per visit and you will feel better.

5. Consider a walk-in arrangement
If you do most of your exercise at home and just want to attend a class here and there, you could actually save money by paying per visit rather than per month. Not all gyms offer walk-in options, so be sure to check ahead. Also ask about “punch cards” which can allow you to buy direct tours in bulk to save even more money. Of course, if you start using walk-in services so often that you’d pay less for an unlimited membership, the walk-in offer quickly turns into a jackpot.

6. Explore a non-traditional gymnasium
If you live near a hotel or university that has on-site fitness facilities, ask how much they would charge for a “stranger” to work there. Ask politely and be prepared for a “no”. Do not argue, as the institution may have a policy that prohibits foreigners from using the facilities for security reasons. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. If they say yes, don’t hesitate to negotiate. A hotel or university may be willing to offer a good deal if you decide to exercise during your “off” times, such as the summer at a university.

Alternatives to the gym

If you don’t live near an exercise facility that meets your needs, you can’t afford a gym membership even after exercising your bargaining powers, or you just can’t stand the exercise. idea of ​​sharing exercise equipment with 1,000 other people. , you may want to consider alternatives to a gym membership. Here are some options:

1. Exercise outdoors
There is nothing more liberating, or more free, than exercising on the road or in a public park. If you are a runner, you should invest in good quality running shoes (estimated cost $ 100), a bottle of water (estimated cost $ 10) and running gear (estimated cost $ 50 per outfit. ). However, that initial investment should last a hundred or more workouts. Biking, skating, and cross-country skiing are other outdoor options, although there is a larger initial investment in equipment. You can also join a community league to practice the sport of your choice; fees range from free at the public park basketball court to several hundred dollars a month for a golf club membership.

2. Do strength training outdoors or at home.
You can get a high-quality all-around workout without any equipment other than a pair of running shoes and comfortable clothing. Learn how to do proper push-ups, dips, sit-ups or planks, squats, lunges, burpees, and Tabata routines, and you’ll cover almost any muscle group. You can do these exercises anywhere, anytime, for free.

3. Use exercise videos
If you need a little more structure to stay motivated, you can purchase exercise videos to do in the comfort of your home. Prices vary widely, although you’ll pay a lot more for shows with more DVDs and extras like meal plans. Popular options include Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred ($ 6.99), Insanity ($ 145), and P90X3 ($ 140).

4. Invest in home workout equipment
You don’t need fancy and expensive workout equipment to get in shape at home. With just a few pieces of training equipment such as a jump rope, battle rope, stability ball, and dumbbells, you can have a great all-rounder setup that can mostly be stored in the corner of a room. when you are not using it. A good team doesn’t have to cost a lot; there are many exercise equipment available for under $ 100.

Last word

Getting in shape shouldn’t mean making your wallet unhealthy. If you’ve delayed signing up for a gym because you’re worried about high costs, remember that as a potential gym client, you have some power. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If they can’t meet your needs, remember you have alternatives, even if you cater to the only gym in town.

Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice the opportunity to invest in your own health by choosing the wrong gym or paying more than you can afford. It’s worth repeating it a million times – the best deal is a subscription you’ll use.

How Much Is Too Expensive To Pay For A Gym Membership? How many times per week or per month do you feel you need to visit to make your membership worth it?

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