Check out health club memberships before joining

New gym memberships are always popular around the holidays, but do folks really know what they’re getting into?

Signing a health-club contract, like signing any other contract, requires some due diligence, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.
 
You can easily get the physical activity you need from home gyms, fitness DVDs and exercising outside, but you may find the perks of joining a fitness center to be more beneficial during your first steps toward leading a healthy lifestyle.

Gyms and health clubs offer members the opportunity to discover which activities they enjoy most. The quality and diversity of equipment far exceeds machines designed for home use, and most gyms offer a wide range of cardio classes. Helpful staff and personal trainers are usually nearby to answer your questions and offer advice. Plus, the opportunity to meet other fitness-conscious members can be motivating.

Not all gyms are created equal. Before investing in a membership, make sure to consider convenience, equipment/fitness classes, price and staff.

According to the American Council on Exercise, your fitness routine should include aerobic exercise, muscular strength/endurance conditioning, and flexibility. Some gyms offer more general equipment and classes incorporating all of these components while others might focus more on the aerobics or strength training.

Equipment should be clean and well-maintained. Fitness classes should be safe and effective, not an opportunity for the instructor to get his/her workout in. You may want a gym that offers other activities, such as swimming, basketball, martial arts or some other sport that you enjoy.

The cost of a gym membership can be ambiguous. Usually the price is quoted as a monthly rate. Additionally, some gyms charge initiation fees, monthly maintenance fees and cancellation fees, as well as costs for towel and childcare services. Take advantage of specials and discounts, but be cautious against purchasing lifetime memberships.

One third of heart attacks experienced outside of homes or hospitals occur at gyms or health clubs according to the American Heart Association. Staff should be CPR certified and familiar with AED devices.

Personal trainers and fitness instructors should be certified by a reputable organization. You need to work with professionals who are knowledgeable about the safest and most effective approaches to fitness, not someone who attended a weekend workshop.

According to Medical News Today, 80 percent of 40 million Americans who have bought gym memberships are not using them. Find out the ratio of inactive to active (visiting the gym at least once a week) members at the gym you are considering. A ratio of 2:1 is a good sign, while 10:1 indicates that the gym is better at selling memberships than keeping members satisfied.

If a large percentage of members find reasons to stop going, you probably will, too, although many people who quit do so because of laziness, or loss of interest.

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