Selecting a fitness facility: Match your needs to ensure success

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How to choose a fitness center

Looking for a fitness center? Let your fitness goals guide your search.

You've decided to join a fitness center. But the choices are vast — from expensive all-purpose gyms and specialized clubs geared toward specific activities to bare-bones facilities. How do you choose? Fortunately, you can tell a lot about a health club before you put on your workout clothes or step onto a piece of exercise equipment.

Visit your top picks

Consider the specific fitness clubs that might meet your needs and pay a visit to each one. Most facilities have regular drop-in hours. You can meet with a staff member, learn what equipment and services are available, and take a tour.

Remember, this is your opportunity to find out if a particular facility is a good match for you. Take advantage of it by finding out as much information as you can. You might even want to jot down your questions ahead of time.

  • Location and hours. Is the facility near your home, work or other daily activities? Is the facility open at the times you plan to exercise? When is the facility most crowded?
  • Environment. Will you enjoy spending time in the facility? Are the floors, equipment and locker rooms clean? Is entertainment available, such as televisions or personal music stations?
  • Equipment. Does the facility have the equipment you're interested in using? Does the equipment seem to be in good shape? How often is the equipment replaced? Does the facility offer activities and equipment suited for your unique health needs or disabilities?
  • Classes. What type of fitness classes are offered — and when? Are class sizes limited?
  • Staff. Are the employees friendly? Are they trained to give first aid and CPR? Are personal fitness trainers or nutrition consultants available? What qualifications or certifications do these staff members have?
  • Amenities. Does the facility offer convenient parking, towels, steam rooms or on-site child care services?
  • Reputation. What do others say about the fitness center?
  • Cost. How much does membership cost? What are the billing cycles? What are the opt-out policies? Are any additional fees imposed for specific amenities?

The more information you have about each fitness center, the better decision you'll be able to make.

Try before you buy

Trying out a fitness center before joining is the best way to see if it truly meets your expectations. Although some fitness centers offer free trial memberships, most facilities charge a nominal fee to try out the club.

Visit the fitness center at the same time of day or night that you plan to exercise. Machines that might be accessible at 10 a.m. may be unavailable during the busier, early evening hours.

It's up to you to follow through

Remember, it's not enough to join a fitness center. You must put in the work to reap the health benefits.

"It's like exercise equipment," Dr. Laskowski says. "It doesn't do you any good if you don't use it. That's why it's so important to find a fitness center that offers what you need."

Last Updated: 02/16/2007
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