Joining a GymMaking the decision to join a gym is a positive step towards improving your fitness, losing a few extra pounds, and toning your body at the same time. For most people that means heading in to sign up for a gym membership.

If you sign up when your motivation levels are high, you’ll want to know you’re getting your money’s worth on your membership. When you compare the membership options available, it’s usually set up to appear that signing up for a longer period of time becomes more cost effective.

The result is that most people sign up for contracts that may not always be the best option for their fitness needs. Statistics show that 80 percent of people who join a gym in January are likely to quit within five months.  

Before you sign up for a gym membership, take a bit of time to understand a bit about how the contracts work.

How Fitness Club Membership Contracts Work

A gym or health club membership contract is a legally binding agreement. You agree to pay your membership fees in return for access to the gym’s facilities.

Most gyms and health clubs offer a variety of different payment options for using the fitness facilities available. Some may allow you to pay on a casual per-visit basis, which is ideal if you only want to try the facilities, equipment or group fitness classes to see if they suit your needs.

Once you’ve tried the gym’s services and amenities, you might start looking at membership options. Some clubs may offer month-to-month agreements that allow you to pay for membership one month at a time without locking you into a term agreement.

However, in most cases, gyms and health clubs will try to lock in members for as long as they’re legally allowed. As a result, the membership options with 12-month or 24-month contracts tend to seem like the best value for money.

In an effort to ensure casual visiting people become members, many gym employees may offer special deals and discounted offers if they sign a contract on the spot. Don’t be tempted to sign up immediately just to save a couple of bucks. Instead, take some time to work out whether the services being offered are right for your fitness needs and your budget.

Visit the facility on a casual basis to learn how busy it can get during peak times and how easy it is to access the equipment or fitness classes you want. Only when you’re sure the gym is right for your fitness goals should you go ahead and commit to a membership plan.

Fine Print to Look for In Gym Membership Contracts

Before you sign any contract, always take the time to read it carefully. Check out the services you’re being offered and the facilities you’re allowed to use and be sure they match up with what the representative promised you’d receive. Read the fine print and know what’s expected of you if your circumstances change.

Some more common things to check before you agree to any membership contract include:

Cancellation policy: many gyms insert specific clauses in the contract about their cancellation policy. For example, some may require you to write a request to cancel your membership, sign it and mail it before they’ll actually cancel your membership. Others may require a month’s notice that you intend to cancel. If you don’t follow the rules as they’re stated within the contract, the gym will continue to charge your bank account or credit card every month.

Cancellation fees: some gyms may also charge cancellation fees that can become more expensive than continuing to pay your membership fees if you’re not careful. Always ask what fees you’re expected to pay if you do decide to cancel your membership before the contract expires.

Cooling off period: you have the right to cancel your membership with no questions asked for a short period of time after signing the contract. Conditions may vary between different states, so you’ll only know exactly how long you have to change your mind if you read the fine print.

Know your rights: most states have regulations in place that should allow you to cancel your membership contract at any time under certain circumstances. For example, disability or death are obviously reasonable circumstances to cancel a contract.

If you move more than 25 miles from the gym’s location and aren’t able to transfer your contract to another comparable club, you may also be allowed to cancel your contract.   Likewise, if the facility you signed up to stops offering the services that were originally listed in the contract, you may be able to cancel your contract without incurring any penalties or cancellation fees.

If you feel as though you have been caught in a contract that isn’t fair, seek advice from an attorney, such as the ones at Powers McCartan at

Before you sign up for the gym, take some time to exercise your eyes first and read the fine print in the contract. You’ll avoid a lot of headaches later if you decide to change your mind.

Amber Porter shares her thoughts about money; the tips and tricks she has learned along the way whether she’s discussing everyday savings, mortgages or contracts.

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