The fitness industry in the U.S. is bulking up.
A new report from commercial real estate services company JLL indicates the number of new gyms in the U.S. has risen by 23.5 percent since 2010. Today, more than 110,000 gyms are scattered across the country, with the number of locations projected to surpass 120,000 by 2024, JLL says.
It’s healthy to have so many choices, but how do you go about picking from the growing number of fitness centers? We asked fitness experts about what you should weigh when considering your gym options.
How to Choose a Gym
1. Contemplate the location.
Certified CrossFit trainer Sarah Ray, program development manager at exercise app company Volt Athletics, recommends selecting a gym that’s less than 10 minutes from your home or office.
“Selecting a spot that makes it convenient to get to from home or from work will help bust those excuses,” Ray says, “and keep you consistent with your schedule.”
Plus, it’ll keep you from wasting money. An estimated 5.1 million American adults blow $1.8 billion a year on unused gym memberships.
Ray adds that if you’re eager to enroll in fitness classes, be sure the schedules fit with your own calendar. For instance, if you usually don’t leave the office till 6 p.m., don’t pick a gym where the last fitness class starts at 5 p.m.
2. Pay a visit.
Before you sign up for a gym membership, tour the place where you’re thinking about working out. You’ll want to assess the gym’s cleanliness, equipment (like free weights, treadmills and weight machines) and amenities (such as the locker rooms and the smoothie bar). You don’t want to spend money on a membership at a gym that doesn’t provide most, if not all, of what you’re looking for.
“Does the facility offer the services you’re looking for in order to keep you on track for your fitness goals?” certified fitness and nutrition coach Danielle Muehlenbein says.
By the way, when you’re examining the workout equipment, look to see how old and worn-out it is, and be sure there’s an array of equipment, not just one type, certified personal trainer and nutritionist Jamie Hickey says.
“Make sure you pop in for a tour at the time you would typically be working out. Nothing is worse than taking a midday tour and signing up, then coming back to find out not a single machine is free,” Ray says.
3. Try it before you buy it.
Before committing cash to a membership, ask for a pass good for a free day or free week so you can get a feel for the gym.
“You wouldn't buy a car you’ve never sat in. Why would you invest in a fitness facility without giving it a test run?” Ray says.
In addition, ask relatives, friends and colleagues for recommendations, and check review websites and social media platforms for opinions of current and former gym members. A 2017 survey by Market Force Information found that one-fourth of gym members in the U.S. were unhappy with their fitness centers.
Investigating where other people work out also enables you to potentially pair up with a workout partner who goes to the gym that you’d like to join, according to Hickey.
4. Chat with the staff.
If you’re touring a gym or you’re taking advantage of a free pass, talk with the folks who work there, Hickey suggests. Are they friendly? Are they stand-offish? Are they knowledgeable about equipment and classes? You want to ensure the staff is there to support you.
“Do the environment and the people inspire you to want to consistently spend time there?” Muehlenbein says.
If the environment isn’t inspiring, then consider another gym or simply work out at home.
5. Inquire about the refund policy.
If you find you’re unhappy about the gym you’ve joined, what does it take to back out of the deal? What sort of refund policy is in place? Keep in mind that many gyms make it notoriously hard to cancel a membership contract.
“No matter how much research you do, the ultimate say on whether or not you like the gym will be when you use it for a while,” Hickey says.
Ready for gym life? Go prepared with these handy finds from Vitacost!