Do You Really Need a Gym Membership?

by Justin Weinger on August 26, 2006

First off, don’t get me wrong – I’m certainly not trying to dissuade you from exercising and living a healthy lifestyle.  I’m a firm believer in exercising and staying in shape; I just don’t see the need to pay an arm and a leg for it.

Gym memberships cost, on average, between $30 and $50 per month, and usually require an initial one time membership set up fee of between $50 and $200.  So, over the course of a year, to be a member of a gym will typically cost you between $400 and $800.

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It’s hard for me to justify spending that amount of money for things that can very easily be done outside the gym for free.  For example, it doesn’t cost me anything to jog outside, do push ups, pull ups, play pick up basketball at the local courts, etc.

However, if you feel the need to actually use “going to the gym” as motivation to work out, you may want to check a couple of other places before you make the commitment to fork over $400 or more of your hard earned money.

For example, more and more employers are realizing the benefits of having a healthy workforce and are putting a work out room in their facilities.  Also, many communities have a gym in their clubhouse – which is probably something you’re already paying for if you have homeowner association fees.

Or, if you felt the need, you could take that $400 to $800 you’d be spending on gym membership fees and put it towards getting some small gym equipment for your own house.  Then you can get the gym like atmosphere without having to leave your home – and you don’t have to make reoccurring payments.

The moral of the story is you should definitely find ways to get out and exercise, but joining a gym should be one of your last options.



Dee July 21, 2007 at 12:32 am

I gave up my gym membership when they started pressuring me to buy $560 personal trainer sessions. Since then, I’ve discovered a great community of people who exercise by walking, running, biking, and hiking in the neighborhood around my house. A little research on the internet, advice from my more athletic friends, and fitness podcasts took the place of personal trainers. Also, I save 45 minutes (one way) of my time and gas by not driving to the gym.

I figured out that I save an average of $362 a month (personal trainer, gas, gym membership). That doesn’t include wear and tear on my car.

Eric February 6, 2008 at 11:53 pm

I agree 100% with everything you said.

Bill March 4, 2008 at 6:54 pm

There can be more things to consider here so one does not inadvertently make an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison. Needs and their costs mostly depend upon your goals and your willingness or dedication to work at it.

You can take the $560 and take the introductory personal trainer course for yourself.

Need to include the cost of track-suits and other work-out wear.

Training shoes wear out. Decent running shoes can cost about as much on an annual basis as the gym membership does. ie. >4 pairs of $100+/pair shoes per year. Working out at home or going jogging is not ‘free’. The gym membership is money paid in addition to the shoes.

Should make an allocation for the extra laundry/towels one goes through as a result of working up a sweat.

Strictly speaking, the extra sweating results in a need to take more showers, and use more shampoo etc. These costs appear on your other utility bills. Your clothes will need extra tailoring to fit nicely.

If your fitness goals are limited to walking/jogging, then your equipment needs are minimal and you do not really need a gym membership.

If you want to live life large, then you should be at a full-service gym.

When you are serious about your athletic training, then you probably need club-quality machinery. ie. if you lift weights that weigh more than you do, then you need the sort of equipment that does not collapse.

This sort of equipment takes up a lot of space and costs considerably more than most of the lame stuff available on the home market. Even the most basic of equipment needs storage space (ie. car-pulling harness, dip-belt, sand-bags, chin-up bar, etc. etc.)

There are some other positive benefits to being in shape that are hard to put a dollar value on. It is difficult to put a value on good health.

Bob H. July 28, 2008 at 1:56 pm

I was paying $79 a month for NY Sports Club, but started working out from home instead. I’ve been getting workouts on it’s pretty great and can’t complain about saving the money.

wes April 20, 2009 at 9:01 pm

there have been many occasions where the workouts at home didn’t have nearly the same intensity as being in the gym

granted, there are many downsides to being in a gym, but the atmosphere cannot be replicated in a person’s home…because home is the same place you eat, sleep, etc…to me, it’s a place for relaxation…it’s just different for everyone

but yes, if money is of concern, gym memberships are frivolous, but so are cell phones, tv’s, computers, etc if you wanna get down to it…but i don’t see my world without most of these things

vickie July 24, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I just signed up at a l0cal health club and everything is included; trainers, nutritionists, baby sitting ( d0 not need), all classes, tanning, swimming. I paid $700.00 f0r 4 years. I think that was very reasonable. I paid outright, no interest, and got an extra year free. My daughter signed up too for $27.00/mo. If we go back and pay for hers up front they will give us another extra year. So that would be 5 years for $700.00. That is a deal.

MS July 26, 2011 at 3:47 am

That’s a great deal! I’m curious– where do you reside??

vickie July 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Now, what I really need help with is the price of groceries. We eat organic and my daughter is Vegan. We buy no junk food but it is way out of sight.

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