Fitness Articles

8 Things to Consider When Choosing a Gym

A Checklist for Fitness Facilities

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5. Cleanliness
This may or may not be obvious on your first trip to the gym, so keep your eyes peeled. Make sure that towels are available to wipe off the equipment after each use. Also, look to see if staff members enforce this standard of hygiene. Peek into the locker rooms and showers, especially if you’ll be using these often. Look at the toilets, sinks, and showers themselves to see that they’re properly maintained.

6. Equipment
Take a good look around. Are there enough of the "popular" machines to go around, or do members have to wait in line to use them? Find out if there is a sign-up sheet or a time limit on cardio equipment. If you run on a treadmill for an hour, then a 30-minute time limit won’t really suit you.

Make sure that there are a wide variety of machines, but don’t be intimidated by new ones. Notice whether or not instructions and pictures are posted on the machines, or if staff is available to help you. Be cautious of out-of-order machines; this might be indicative of a poorly maintained gym.

7. Classes
Ask to see the schedule of fitness classes offered at the gym. Make sure that the classes you WANT to take are offered at the times you can attend, and find out if you need to show up early to reserve a spot. High-energy classes like spinning might interest you, or a calming yoga class might be more up your alley. If group classes are the staple of your exercise program, find out if the gym charges extra for classes before you join. Decide whether or not these fees are affordable before you join, or you might be paying for a membership that you don’t really use.

8. Fees
Cost is probably the deciding factor when choosing a gym. Many gyms have a sign-up fee, but these are often waived during certain promotions. Take a look at the payment schedule. Do you pay each month, or do you have to commit yourself to an entire year as a member? Can you cancel without penalty? And ultimately, does a gym fit into your budget?

When it comes down to joining a fitness center, you may feel like you’re signing your life away—if you aren’t informed and prepared. Be picky! Shop around, talk to friends, and take the tours until you find a place that meets all (or most) of your expectations at a reasonable price. After all, finding the right gym can be the key to a healthy lifestyle!

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About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

Member Comments

  • I was going to a gym before work. The gym met all the qualities listed BUT the locker room was SO steamy that I couldn't get out of there without needing another shower. I ended up changing gyms because of that. - 8/2/2014 9:11:44 AM
  • I would love to join the Y, but the closest one to me is 25 minutes away from where I live, and that one really doesn't have much to offer for the price. There are three gyms within five minutes of my house, two do not have registration fees, all three are more than $30 a month, all have decent offerings. One is 24-hour but no classes, one offers a few classes, and the third has daycare and classes included in the price. Two are over 18 only, the third allows 13-year-olds and up the ability to join with physician permission (and younger on certain circumstances). That particular one has various levels of pricing. $50 a month without contract, $40 a month with one year and $25 a month with two year. Couples are $50 a month with contract. Also, you can take a guest at $5 per day/class. My current gym is my house, and I am looking at the best alternative. I work for a medical office. In our same building, there is a physical therapist who allows employees to use their equipment completely free of charge during regular business hours. I'm thinking lunch break, head over to PT, workout a bit, then go for a quick lunch. - 1/18/2014 10:08:44 PM
  • MANDYCAT3
    This is a deal breaker for me: some gyms will let you sign up without a long-term contract but only if you authorize automatic withdrawals from your bank account. These can be a nightmare if the gym turns out to be less than ethical and your bank isn't responsive to your problems. If you go with a monthly payment plan, use a credit card and preferably one, like American Express, you can rely on to back you up if things go wrong.

    In fact, authorizing automatic bank withdrawals is pretty dicey no matter who you're dealing with. It pays to proceed with great care. - 1/3/2014 2:39:00 PM
  • I am considering joining our local Y as it is close to where we are living(at the moment) and the price is the most reasonable of the three gyms that I checked just not sure how much use I would get from a membership.I could walk to a closer gym but didn't like the lay out and there were just to many machines and not enough help.I have a nice elliptical machine at home and use it every day except sundays and I think I will start working out on Sundays also.Think I need different kinds of exercise as well as cardio that is one reason for joining a gym.My girlfriend seems to think that swimming is a must at the Y but I assured her she was wrong and working out doesn't have to involve swimming.I don't like to use public pools because of health issues.I do look forward to working out with a group of women like myself. - 10/6/2013 10:57:47 AM
  • Great article! Former hater of gyms. Retired & go faithfully. I love the people, friendliness , etc. my day is now organized around my commitment to classes that I love. - 6/25/2013 1:57:54 PM
  • I was a member at the Y but it was too much for me. I loved it. But now I go to this school where I pay less and my whole family can go on that price. They just don't have as much as the Y. Great article. - 6/25/2013 7:39:37 AM
  • I wish I could afford a gym with classes. The Y is so expensive and it looks like it is always busy. - 1/15/2013 7:35:49 PM
  • I love Curves for Women. It is designed for women and targets their fitness issues. The machines are easy to learn. You can get in and out in 30 minutes and have a complete workout. There is no spandex or people trying to win a fitness appearance contest. The coaches are great consultants but there is no pressure to join or upgrade. Occasionally they have a "free month" promotion. You can start at your own pace and move up when you are ready. I have lost weight with their program and all my other issues are improved as well: went from diabetic to "Pre-diabetic" in my glucose measures, off my cholesterol medication, etc. This is my 6th fitness effort and the only one I've been able to stick with for a year. - 1/15/2013 9:47:42 AM
  • My advice would be to have a chat with the receptionist. They know EVERYTHING, like when the gym is busiest, quietest, the best trainers to work with. Also, chat with people who work there, like the trainers. They should be friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. - 12/20/2012 4:29:22 AM
  • As a gym owner it is always nice to get an objective list of what potential gym members consider when choosing a gym. My personal priorities are gym cleanliness and safety. Thank you for your Insights! - 11/28/2012 9:15:14 PM
  • SAMSMIGIEL
    I tried a few of the no-contract gyms, but it just wasn't for me. Then I looked into the YMCA and that was just a little too over the top. I found a good medium that is actually 24hrs so I'm willing to pay the extra because I don't want to work out in an environment that doesn't fit me. - 8/9/2012 11:46:41 PM
  • One of the reasons why I don't do a gym contract is because I'm not paying for something that will turn out to be totally wrong for me. That's why I use monthly memberships from social coupon sites.

    The first gym I joined, I loved. It had up to date equipment, was well-maintained, and there was never a line. The second gym I joined, I HATED it. Machines were often broken, the machines were located too close to each other, the staff was rude, there were often long lines to use equipment, and the ladies locker room was a madhouse. Plus, I didn't like how the other gym members felt "skanky." The only thing it had going for it was that it was extremely conveniently located.

    I don't think I'll be tempted to join a gym again. - 5/10/2012 8:24:19 PM
  • I also didn't see if it mentioned avoiding gyms (or at least be ware of )that offer free trials then hit you with the hard sell right off the bat- that happened to me at a local chain got suckered into a locked in contract what a scam!!! - 1/5/2012 8:51:28 PM
  • Great article! All valid points, depending on your needs. :) - 1/5/2012 10:44:25 AM
  • Location, pool, members, trainers... having belonged to now three different gyms in town, I recently returned to the first one I had belonged to... for all those reasons. Good article. - 1/5/2012 7:36:18 AM
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