Should You Join A Gym?

Health club memberships are beneficial only under certain conditions. Read this to find out if you should join a gym.

Many people exercise from time to time, whether hopping on an exercise bike at home or jogging around the block. But joining a gym for health benefits takes your workout to a new level that includes both risks and benefits.

First you'll need to find a gym that offers the kind of program you're looking for. A boxing gym probably isn't for most people who are trying to lose weight because it focuses narrowly on boxing-related workouts and practice. A weight-lifting gym, likewise, may prove too limiting for those who are searching for variety in their workout routine. The best solution may be found in joining a health spa or generalized gym, where a number of varied workout activities are included in the basic annual fee.

Ask for a guest pass to check out the gym before signing up. You may have to pay a few dollars or you may get in for a free visit. Check out all areas of the club to evaluate cleanliness, staff courtesy, professional expertise, equipment maintenance, hours of operation, and so on. Talk with instructors to learn more about the available services. Ask members how they like the club and if they recommend it. You should come away with a pretty good idea of what to expect if you join as a member.

If your first impression is good, you may want to sign up for a trial membership that lasts a few months or so. Find out if you can make monthly rather than quarterly or annual payments. Ask about possible discounts through coupon books or other ways of reducing the membership fee. You may be able to pay on a per-visit basis instead of a flat fee, which means you pay only for the days that you actually use the gym.

As you calculate the cost, however, don't forget to factor in the supplemental fees. For example, if you have young children you may need to pay a babysitter when you want to work out at the gym. Do you need workout clothes? Don't forget the cost of gas for driving to and from the gym several days a month. Find out if activities like an aerobics class or use of the swimming pool or sauna cost extra.

Before joining, review your schedule. Will your have enough time each week to visit the gym on a regular basis? Other commitments like training sessions, classes, and special events like an upcoming wedding may take time away from your workouts. Decide in advance if you will get your money's worth from the membership fee by signing up now, or would it be better to wait a few months, or until the kids are older?

A gym membership provides access to special equipment that may seem easy to operate. But ask a staff member to explain or supervise your use of it until you understand how it's done. You don't want to strain a muscle or incur another type of injury, nor damage the equipment due to a misunderstanding.

Socialization is another potential benefit to joining a gym or spa. You can meet like-minded people who share your interest in exercise and fitness, but that also means your private exercise time may be interrupted by well-meaning new acquaintances who want to chat. They also will see you in form-fitting workout outfits.

Getting in shape is a terrific goal for anyone who isn't there yet. But be sure to weigh the pro's and cons of a gym membership before signing on the dotted line.

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