Finding the one that's best for you

How to Choose the Right Gym

by Debra Karplus

How to Conquer Debt eBook

Perhaps you're like most Americans and need to shed a few of those pounds packed on over the holidays or from all that free food in the employee lounge at your job. Or possibly your physician has suggested yoga or water aerobics for your arthritic hip; you purchased a yoga video with the good intention of exercising in the family room. You've heard that walking is healthy to keep the cardio system intact; you live near a lovely park with a paved path, so you could walk there. You could, but you don't.

Despite the fact that you're well-disciplined when it comes to personal financial matters, you, like most people, can't seem to get yourself onto a solid exercise program with any consistency. It could be time to get over to your nearby gym or fitness center. But there are several facilities in your community with enticing special offers for new gym memberships. It's overwhelming and difficult to sort out which would be the best choice for you and possibly for your spouse or family.

What services and amenities do you need from your gym membership?

As you begin a serious search to find the right fitness center for you, many decisions will become apparent. Most facilities offer treadmills, stationary bicycles, and exercise machines and free weights to strengthen various muscle groups. Those seem to be the basics.

Additionally, many offer an array of group fitness classes, such as different kinds of yoga, step aerobics, kick-boxing, zumba, and more, at varying times, frequency, length of class, and intensity from senior-oriented to high-power. If you're interested in these classes, you need to look at your regular weekly schedule and realistically determine which specific class or classes you would likely attend consistently to make your membership worthwhile. Possibly you can try a class for free or at least observe to help you decide if you would enjoy and benefit from the class.

Some places may offer other special features, such as a lap swimming pool or warm water therapy pool, tennis courts, racket ball, or other group or team sports like volleyball or basketball. Others have more amenities in the locker room, such as hair dryers, lotions, or shampoo. You might find a gym that has a whirlpool, sauna, or steam room. And, personal trainers are becoming more prevalent at local gyms as are massage therapists.

Membership or punch card, which is best for you?

Many people become affiliated with their local fitness center because of the regular group fitness classes. They enjoy the structure of the classes and the camaraderie of working out with others who regularly participate in these classes. Some gyms, yoga studios, and municipal park districts offer the option of purchasing a punch card for attending classes. This can be a very affordable way to pay for only the services that you'll actually use; it also saves money on often pricey joining fees.

It may be worthwhile to try a punch card first to see if you like the gym and will actually attend the classes. If you go to the gym often enough, the monthly or annual membership may actually be the better deal instead of the punch card. You'll also want to consider if your spouse or entire family will use the facility. Sometimes family rates provide the best value yet.

Imagine how much simpler life could be if you were debt free. Now take the first step to getting there.

...where everybody knows your name.

We live in a world where people crave connection. You only have to look around to see all the people incessantly using cell phones or social networks. Or take a peek into one of the coffee shops in your neighborhood. In addition to the physical benefits of exercising at the gym, many people seek a sense of community there also. Maybe the free coffee with tables and chairs in the entranceway for members is a bonus of a gym membership that you would like to have.

The fitness center that seems to be the best fit for you might be located farther from your home or workplace than some of the others. You'll need to make an honest assessment as to whether that distance, particularly during inclement weather, could keep you away from the gym. Determine how far is too far?

And don't be enticed by the incredibly fantastic price of the newest fitness center in town. These places come and go and you don't want to be stuck with a gym membership of a place no longer in business! Ask your friends where they work out and see if they would recommend the place to others.

Investing in your health and overall well-being can be money well spent for now and for the future. Stretching dollars is almost always a good thing, unless it conflicts with good health. So if you don't exercise on your own, try the local gym.

Reviewed December 2017

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Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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