Cheryl Parson: Exercise your mind before picking gym


By Cheryl Parson - Better Business Bureau

You’ve decided, “This is the year. I’m going to get healthier, in shape and lose weight!” You’re not alone. More people join fitness centers and gyms in January than any other month.

To make sure you are still showing up to work out in August there are several factors to consider before joining any gym. Decide what you specifically want out of this relationship. Do you just want to lose weight or become more active and heart-healthy? Do you want to take classes? Prefer to work out alone or with a partner? You must feel relaxed in your exercise environment, not embarrassed or intimidated, so set up tours of those gyms you are considering and bring a list of questions you’d like answered.

Here are a few criteria to consider when making a commitment in both time and money.

• Location. Be realistic about the amount of time exercise is going to take from your day. This includes travel time. Five to 15 minutes from your home or office is ideal. Statistics show that if your gym is more than 25 to 30 minutes away, you’re likely to miss more sessions than you make.

• Hours. What time are you going to use the gym? Make sure their hours fit your schedule, and the equipment you want to use isn’t busy at the time. After all, you don’t want to pay for something you can’t access.

• Staff and members. As we said earlier, you should feel relaxed about your exercise environment. The staff should be knowledgeable, supportive and courteous, ready to answer questions. Take a close look at the type of members you’ll be around. Is the gym co-ed or same-sex only? Are you looking for specific age groups? Would you be comfortable exercising around the current members?

• Cleanliness. Keep your eyes peeled. Are towels available to wipe off the equipment after use? Does the staff enforce good standards of hygiene? Check the locker rooms and showers if you will be using them often. Also look at sinks and toilets to see how they are maintained.

• Equipment. Are the machines well-maintained? Are there enough popular machines to go around, or do members have to wait in line to use them? Are there instructions and photos on how to use the equipment?

• Classes. What type of classes do they offer? Do classes cost extra if you’d like to attend?

• Fees. This is probably one of the biggest deciding factors when choosing a gym. It’s a very competitive business, so many gyms have promotions, especially at this time of year. How do you pay? Monthly or on an annual basis? Can you cancel without a penalty? And, most importantly, does it fit your budget?

• Understanding your financial commitment. There’s a lot of fine print and hidden costs in a fitness club contract, so read it carefully and understand the terms. For example, it is common to include a clause renewing your membership automatically. Make sure any promises are in writing.

Ohio gym and health club memberships fall under some consumer protection laws. Ohio consumers have three business days (excluding Sunday) to reconsider the purchase and cancel the agreement. Gyms must provide customers with a copy of the contract that includes a “notice of cancellation” form. Consumers must notify the club by returning the cancellation form by postal mail or in person. You can review Ohio’s law by visiting the Attorney General’s website,, or calling 800–282–0515.

Be well informed and prepared! Be picky! Shop around. Take tours. After all, the right gym can be the key to your new, healthy lifestyle.

By Cheryl Parson

Better Business Bureau

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

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