Five Questions to Ask When You Join a Gym

As the new year approaches, many people will resolve to lose weight or get into better physical shape. If so, you’re not alone. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association, more than 45 million Americans belong to health clubs.

Before you sign up, however, the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA) recommends you ask these questions to ensure you spend your money wisely:


Can I Start on a Trial Basis?
Many people join health clubs with great intentions, but they find that they don’t really use the facility as much as they thought they would. With that 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 use.

Can I Have Some Time to Read the Contract?
You shouldn’t feel pressured to sign a contract on the same day that you first visit the facility. Instead, take the paperwork home and review it carefully to be sure you understand what you’re agreeing to. Make certain that the contract’s details 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, it could become a very busy place 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 to confirm that they fit into your schedule.

What’s Included in the Membership?
In addition to the basic gym equipment or classes, what other options do you want as part of your membership? Many health clubs provide nursery facilities where members’ children are cared for while they work out. If a club is part of a chain, you may be able to use other facilities under the same management. Before you begin visiting clubs, think about which extras you are seeking and find out if the gym offers them.

What’s the Club’s Reputation?
It’s a good idea to talk to friends or neighbors who use the facility to see if they are satisfied, but don’t stop there. Contact the local Better Business Bureau or state attorney general’s office to see if there have been any complaints made about this club. If they have received reports from dissatisfied customers, find out what kinds of problems have arisen.

For more information on various personal financial matters, visit the NJSCPA’s public service website at While visiting, you can subscribe to Your Money Matters, the NJSCPA’s free, monthly email newsletter to receive valuable personal financial planning advice throughout the year.

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