Fitness is booming in America, and Americans are trying to take care of themselves as they never have before. From power walks to diet plans to regular workouts, racquetball matches, or lap swimming, we are flocking to fitness programs. Health club membership may be the core of your plan to build (or rebuild) your body, but it may be time to take a breather and check up on the “fitness” of your current or prospective health club.
Before beginning a new fitness program, consult your physician to help ensure the program is appropriate for your specific needs. You may even discover that your health insurance plan offers assistance—sometimes even fully-paid membership in an approved health club!
Seek referrals from current or former health club members and shop around before signing on for any length of time. Many clubs offer free trial periods to introduce you to their facilities.
To make your task simpler and more thorough, the Better Business Bureau has issued the following guidelines for choosing a health club:
- Visit the club when you would normally use it. Is it overcrowded? What is the condition of the equipment and how clean is the facility overall?
- Ask if you can pay a weekly fee to try out the club if there is not a free trial period—and be sure to ask if there is. Also ask if those fees can be applied to membership if you decide to join.
- Find out if membership is limited and how many current members there are.
- Determine hours of operation and how often classes in your area of interest are given. Are there limits on times when you can use the facilities for the purposes you seek? Are there separate schedules for men, women, and children?
- Check instructors’ qualifications and how involved they are with members regarding proper use of equipment and safe, productive exercise.
- Review all written agreements for inclusion of verbal promises made by sales representatives, hidden costs, and a clear definition of total cost, monthly payments, and finance charges, if any.
- Ask about the refund policy if you decide to cancel. (Some states, and even some facilities, permit a three-day “cooling off period” allowing you to reconsider your decision after signing the contract.)
- Inquire about policies regarding membership cancellation due to a move, illness, disability, or closure of the facility. Is there a full payment requirement regardless of the cause of cancellation? Is there a cancellation fee? If a move is involved, are there other facilities near your new home to which your membership can be transferred? Is there a membership “freeze” policy or is it possible to transfer privileges to another party?
There are many excellent health club facilities available, even though the industry has received some hard blows from facilities that promised luxury accommodations and “miracle” programs only to close their doors before they opened. Many states now have regulations in place to prevent these practices, but the responsibility of checking your needs against the offerings of any health club rests with you.
A reputable health club can provide a thorough workout, and, when you do a little research, you’ll be assured of the fitness of your wallet, as well as your body.