Joining a Gym, What Are the Pros and Cons?

When you decide that now is the time and you absolutely have to get fit, one of the things that might immediately spring to mind is that you’ll have to haul yourself down to the gym and start a workout programme.

Gyms are very popular and a great way to motivate yourself – but the sad fact is that many of us join a gym and only go a few times – it can be an expensive way of not getting fit!

Many surveys have indicated that people don’t go to the gym anywhere near as much as they fully intended to when they signed that contract, and can find themselves stuck with a 12 or 18 month expensive direct debit that they can’t cancel. In 2008, one study discovered that just six months after joining a gym, the dropout rate among new members is a staggering was 60% or so. One Mintel report also suggested that 20% of people who do use their gym membership only show their once a month.

The Benefits of Joining a Gym

But there has to be an advantage to joining a gym. Well, yes, there are bonuses or nobody would even consider it. The promise of a lifestyle change and a sparkling trendy gym with all mod cons and treadmills that you can watch the telly on can be very tempting.

Most gyms, even smaller council run sports centres and private gyms have a certain amount of variety. They’ll usually have a good choice of machines – treadmills, cross-trainers, bikes and rowing machines are a staple, and some have more interesting variations with iPod docks and interactive options that let you race an imaginary opponent.

Luxury, Motivation and Facilities

Some health clubs also have tennis and squash facilities, swimming pools, saunas and steam rooms. On top of this, there are fitness classes that you can take and often personal trainers on hand for an extra fee to push and motivate you. Some offer diet clubs and programmes, and most will arrange regular consultations with fitness trainers to help you set your programme and achieve your fitness goals. They can check that you use the correct form when exercising, which helps you to prevent injury and get the most from your workout.

Full on luxury gyms and health clubs will even have tanning facilities, a salon and a hairdresser, so women especially can treat themselves to a pampering session after the hard work.

So, What’s the Down Side?

If gyms are so fabulous, why don’t we go as often as we say we will?

The first problem with a gym is that a lot of them can be really expensive. Although many of the big chain gyms will attempt to tie you into a long contract and you end up paying even if you never set foot in the place, some are more lenient and it can be easy to just cancel that payment if you have other things than fitness you need to spend the money on. After all, you can just go for a run instead…can’t you?

Once you do make your way into the gym, you have to accept that if you go at the same time most people want to go – after work – you will probably have to wait to get on the swanky machines. It can be pretty frustrating to have to hang around while you wait for someone to finish hogging the cross trainer machine – and ignoring you. The same principle applies to classes – the popular ones can get booked up in advance so if you join a gym for the latest trendy workout, you might find you never get the chance to try it..

Some people find the gym atmosphere intimidating. Not so much in the smaller gyms, or, council owned clubs that welcome all, but in the more exclusive and expensive gyms there’s a perception that they can be for ‘the beautiful people’. If you’re going to the gym because you actually need to lose a bit of weight, you can feel like you’re being judged for being fat in the first place, which kind of defeats the object.

There’s also the yuck factor in some gyms. Sweating men who don’t wipe the machines afterwards, germs in the pools and wet areas, and damp changing rooms that breed fungal infections – it’s all enough to send you back to the sofa.

Gym memberships are a great thing if you are disciplined enough to get your money’s worth. But if your idea of hell is to make like a hamster on a wheel and pound a treadmill, you’re probably best saving your money and going for a walk instead…

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