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March 01, 2019

Are Gym Memberships Worth the Price?

How many times have you signed up for a gym membership in January, fully motivated to stick to your New Year’s Resolution, and by March realize you’re not going anymore at all?

It turns out that signing up for a gym membership might not be the right choice for everyone. Sure, if you’re a spin-class-hot-yoga-HIIT-powerhouse-butt-kicking devotee that over time has built a foundation of frequenting the gym daily or weekly then this does not apply to you. By all means keep kicking butt, and keep that gym membership going strong! However, for the rest of us that have seen our gym attendance taper off over and over again - is a gym membership worth the price?

How Gym Membership Deals Work

Often gym deals are set up to get you to commit to a set period of time (6 months or a year). You sign a contract to lock yourself in to your goal, and you plan to stick to it.

Consider it this way: Let’s say your gym membership is either $10 a day, or $58 a month (the industry average)*. The monthly deal sounds pretty great - you’re planning to hit the gym 3-5 times a week! That’s big savings!

*This amount does not factor in an annual fee, or “signing fee” which can also sometimes be included with gym memberships.

That first month you hit the gym hard. You’re devoted to going at least 3x a week and you’re doing an amazing job. Then you get sick and miss a week. You go back twice the next week, but after that you get busy at work and miss another week. Your friend invites you to a boot camp class outside of your gym membership, so you shell out $10 for a one-time class. Then you decide to go running instead of to the gym the next week because the weather is great.

By the end of following month, you realize you’ve only hit the gym 4 times that month total*. If you’d done the daily pay-as-you-go amount of $10, you would have paid just $40 for the month rather than $58.

*UC Berkeley economists conducted a study which found that although people think they will visit a gym around 9-10 times per month (or 2-3 times / week), in reality they only end up going about 4-5 times per month (1-2 times / week).

The problem: We tend to put our aspirational gym goals ahead of how real life may affect them. We don’t consider all of the factors that can interrupt gym attendance, such as:

  • Work schedule (last-minute meetings, unexpected long hours, travel, being on-call)
  • Illness
  • Motivation (if your gym isn’t close to your work or home, it could be hard to motivate yourself to make the drive)
  • Workout buddies (they may not belong to the same gym)
  • Injury
  • Weather (you may want to get outside to exercise, rather than stay indoors)
  • Traffic / driving conditions

We may have best intentions of getting to the gym to exercise, but the truth is that we often end up having regular interruptions in actually physically getting there. It doesn’t become a question of motivation with working out, it becomes a question of priorities and how we choose to enjoy exercise. Although as humans we enjoy routine, we also need flexibility in our lives and our workouts.

Are we really going to the gym as much as we think we are?

The statistics say that we are not. One study researched over 5,000 American gym members, and found that 63% of memberships are not being used at all.

The results of this study also showed that 82% of gym members use the gym less than one time a week, and 22% stop going all together after the 6-month mark has hit.

If you are a person that honestly goes to the gym 5x a week, or is fully devoted to a training program or class schedule, then yes, your gym membership is probably a great investment. However, if you’re on a tight budget you may want to reconsider. Getting and staying fit isn’t something that has to cost very much money, if anything at all. There are a number of ways to get in exercise that aren’t conventional and cost very little money!

With all of that said, gym memberships can be a wonderful tool in kick-starting your fitness routine. For guidance with beginning or advancing weight training, personal training, workout basics, race or challenge techniques to prevent injury, specialty classes (such as HIIT, Pilates, yoga, etc.), gyms are an amazing resource. Experiment with different exercise routines and find the fit that’s right for you. And as always, remember to have fun!

[Credit: Crockett, Zachary. “Are Gym Memberships Worth The Money?” The Hustle.]