Better Business Bureau 

Do your homework before joining a health club


It happens every New Year. Immediately following January 1st, all of the treadmills will be occupied and classes at your local gym will be full of people looking for a healthy start to the year. According to, two of the top six New Year’s Resolutions every year are “Get Fit” and “Lose Weight.” After all of the delectable temptations seasonally popular between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, it’s easy to see why improving one’s health through exercise is always a top resolution.

Your Better Business Bureau recommends taking a look at BBB Business Reviews of fitness centers in your area. In 2012, more than 435,000 consumers in the United States turned to BBB Business Reviews to look into health and fitness clubs in their area. The Accredited Business search on is also a good starting point in finding a gym in your neighborhood that you can trust.

Don’t feel pressured to make a commitment to a gym membership during an initial visit. Many gyms will offer a free tour and trial passes to use the facility, so be sure to ask about these or similar opportunities. Take time to weigh your options and ask questions about specific programs and equipment. For example, do you want access to personal training, group classes, resistance training, athletic games and/or a swimming pool and does this gym provide these options?

If you decide to pursue membership after obtaining these answers, your BBB recommends that you ask specific questions about the contract and billing:

What’s the total cost and payment schedule each month? Take time to read the contract and understand what services are included in the monthly fee and what will cost extra. Ask if there is an enrollment fee or finance charge and find out when money will be taken out of your account each month, or if you can pay on a month-to-month basis.

What are the terms of the initial offer? Some fitness centers will give you a special rate during your first months. Make sure you understand when and how much rates will rise after the initial joining period is over and if you have to sign up for a long-term contract to receive the special offer. Know how much the membership will cost you each month for the length of the contract so you select a plan you can afford.

How long is my membership contract? You may consider signing up for a short-term contract in case you’re not happy with the services offered or you get injured. Find out if the contract automatically renews after the membership period has ended in order for you to plan ahead in understanding and executing the sometimes-confusing cancellation policy.

What is the cancellation policy? Discover your cancellation rights in case you move away, the club closes, or something unexpected happens. Will you be able to receive a refund for a portion of your membership cost? Make sure these details are written out. How do you go about canceling a membership? Each business has a different cancellation policy. Some companies need a cancellation letter in writing, others you must cancel in person and sometimes there is a fee. The details of the policy should be in the contract.

Consumers shouldn’t be rushed or pressured to sign a contract and get moving at just any gym. Take the time now to explore your options, find a place you feel comfortable and understand what you’re signing up for in order to start the New Year off right.

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