Is a Gym Membership Worth It?

Studies show that nearly 70 million Americans were members of health clubs and gyms in 2017. But, in that same year, only about 20% of Americans got the recommended amount of exercise on a weekly basis.

Gym memberships are worth it if you actually go. You can get a membership for less than $10 a month. This gives you unlimited access to cardio and strength equipment and group classes. You can also get a membership that comes with tanning beds, massage chairs, and free personal training.

Truth be told: Gyms just aren’t for everyone. So, let’s go over what American gyms really have to offer and a brief glance at gym membership benefits.

Average Gym Membership Cost

Yes, joining a gym does come at a price. But, that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for the vast number of Americans that join gyms and never go.

Here’s what you might not know: Many gym memberships are extremely affordable. So, even going once a week would easily get you your money’s worth.

Monthly Payments

According to recent reports within the last five years, the average gym membership will run you just under $60 a month.

Now, if that seems like a lot, that’s because it is. 

Yet, there is some good news here: Most gyms offer some type of gym membership for less than $30 a month.

So, here’s a list of some of the cheaper gym options that are well worth the money.

  • Crunch Fitness: $9.95 a month
  • Planet Fitness: $10 a month
  • Youfit Health Clubs: $10 a month
  • LA Fitness: $24.99 a month
  • 24 Hour Fitness: $29.99 a month

There are obviously higher-end gyms out there that’ll give you access to even greater features. Even some of the gyms we just mentioned offer unlimited fitness classes, swimming pools, and other perks.

As a beginner, you might just be looking for an affordable gym to join. Each of the gyms we just went over are great options that don’t force you to break the bank.

Additional Fees

Does spending $10 a month on a gym membership seem too good to be true?

Well, it sort of is.

You will be charged that exact amount (plus tax) every month. But, there are other costs and fees that come with average gym membership prices

So, here’s a look at other things that’ll cost you some extra money.

  • Initiation or Enrollment Fees. Most gyms will require some sort of down payment the day you join. They’re usually less than $100, but some gyms offer promos that’ll allow you to join for as little as $1 down. The good news is that you only have to pay this fee once.
  • Additional Perks. The prices we listed above are the prices for the basic memberships available at those  gyms. For extra perks, benefits, and features, you can choose to enroll in a more advanced membership package for a little bit more money every month.
  • Annual Fees. Halfway through the year, your credit card will be charged with an annual fee. This fee is usually less than $50 and is required to continue your gym membership with that gym.

If you’re leaning toward signing up for a gym, consider the additional fees you might have to pay when setting a yearly or monthly gym budget! That way, you won’t be surprised when an extra charge hits your credit card halfway through the year.

The Types of Equipment

When you’re considering joining a gym, you want to make sure that you’re selecting a gym that has all the gym equipment you need. 

Think about it: It wouldn’t make much sense to choose a gym that only has cardio equipment if you’re eventually going to transition to a resistance training routine.

Cardio Equipment

If you’re looking to improve your aerobic fitness, you want to lean toward a gym that offers plenty of different cardio equipment.

After all, a half-hour on the treadmill every day tends to get boring and sometimes it’s just nice to switch it up every once in a while.

Here are some pieces of cardio equipment that you might eventually want to add to your routine.

  • Treadmills
  • Ellipticals & cross-trainers
  • Rowing machines
  • Recumbent & stationary bicycles
  • Stair machines

Now, it might be hard to find a gym that has all of this equipment. But, most gyms will have at least some of it. 

You should schedule a tour at your local gyms to see what types of cardio equipment they offer and just how many of these machines they actually have.

Remember: The cardio section of a gym is usually the most crowded area. That means you want to consider the availability of cardio equipment at peak gym hours.

Free Weights

Free weights are a staple at any good gym. 

They allow you to perform all different types of resistance training exercises and help to build muscle, strength, and endurance all across your body.

When you’re looking for a gym that appeals to those interested in weightlifting, there should be no shortage when it comes to the availability of free weights. There should be a wide range of weights for those of all fitness levels.

Think about it: You want to improve, right? 

That dumbbell set going up to 15 pounds is great for now. Yet, it won’t be too useful to you when you’re looking to increase the amount of resistance you’re using.

So, here’s what you should be looking for in terms of free weights.

  • Barbells
  • Dumbbells
  • Weight plates
  • Kettlebells
  • Medicine balls

Most gyms have at least a small free weight area with benches to aid with some of the more basic gym exercises.

If you’re looking to add resistance training to your weekly routine, it would be within your best interest to choose a gym with a solid free weight section.

Resistance Machines

Resistance training machines are the perfect fit for those just beginning their new fitness journey.

These machines are built with one specific exercise in mind. They also allow you to easily adjust the amount of resistance by simply inserting a pin into a large stack of weights.

What’s great about these machines is that they encourage the perfect form for their specific exercise.

While the movements you’ll be doing aren’t exactly natural and movements you perform every day, there’s a significantly lower chance of injury when using these machines!

Other Equipment

So, we just went over the basic types of equipment that you’ll find at any gym. 

But, there are some other minor pieces of equipment that your ideal gym might also offer.

So, here are some examples of “other” types of equipment that gyms sometimes have.

  • Resistance bands
  • Yoga mats
  • Open space for bodyweight exercises
  • Stretching machines
  • Stability balls

You should do your own research to determine which types of exercises you’re looking to add to your daily or weekly routines. That’ll give you a better idea of what types of equipment you want your ideal gym to have.

Some gyms also allow you to bring your own equipment.

That means you don’t have to cross a specific gym off your list for not having yoga mats available if you can just bring your own!

Types of Gym Amenities

Gyms are usually recognized for their cardio and resistance training equipment. 

But, to generate more interest in their facilities, most gyms now offer some additional amenities and perks that’ll allow you to truly get your money’s worth.

Well, that’s if you use them. 

If you want more out of your gym than just a place to work out, you should really consider the importance of some of the more popular amenities offered with your gym membership.

Juice & Snack Bar

Most higher-end gyms now offer their own juice and snack bars to provide you with the nutrients you need to recover from your workout. 

Because you can usually personalize your own juice or snack, it’ll cost you a bit of money every time you order a post-workout snack at the gym!

But, there are some benefits of having access to a juice and snack bar at your gym. 

These bars offer completely fresh ingredients that you’ll only get by going to the supermarket or local farmer’s market and making the drink yourself at home.

Free or Discounted Gym Passes

Though free or discounted gym passes for friends and family are obviously a genius marketing ploy developed by gyms to get new members, that doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial! 

As a beginner at the gym, it can be intimidating to go alone and traverse this new world on your own. 

With these additional guest passes, you can bring a family member or friend along to boost your confidence and give you a gym buddy (at least for a day!).

Tanning Beds

Now, we don’t quite understand the connection between gyms intended to improve your health and the availability of tanning beds at the same facilities.

But, they do seem to be increasingly more popular with some of the more mainstream gyms!

If you do enjoy tanning and are spending additional money every month for a membership at a tanning salon, you just might be able to cut your costs by joining a gym that offers tanning beds to its members.

Massage Chairs

We definitely understand why gyms would offer massage chairs or massage beds in their facilities! 

After a really intense workout, your muscles are going to be sore, tight, or incredibly weak. Massage chairs can help to reduce the tension in your muscles and help to ease your recovery after a workout. 

Plus, there’s tons of evidence that suggests that getting a massage of some sort after a workout can improve muscle recovery, allow you to get back into the gym sooner, and prevent the development of injuries.

Personal Training & Fitness Classes

So, you’ve decided on improving your health and fitness, but don’t exactly know where you should start. 

What’s great about most gyms is that you have practically full access to fitness professionals who are willing to guide you on your new fitness journey!

Free Training & Classes

Paying for weekly personal training sessions or group fitness classes might not be in the cards just yet.

But, many gyms actually offer free personal training sessions and group fitness classes with the purchase of a membership!

Tip: You have to pay attention to the fine print when it comes to these offerings. 

Though many gyms advertise these offerings as free, a majority of gyms will only offer one free session or class before charging you for future sessions.

If you really want to work one-on-one with a personal trainer or join group fitness classes, make sure that they’re free or low-cost before officially enrolling!

Variety of Group Fitness Classes

While most gyms offer some type of group fitness classes, you want to do your research before choosing a gym strictly for this purpose. 

Some gyms will only run a class if a certain number of members join. So, if there’s a lack of interest in group fitness classes at the gym, you might never get to attend one at all. 

There goes the money you invested and your motivation to exercise!

So, here are some examples of different types of group fitness classes that gyms offer.

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Kickboxing
  • Boot camp
  • Circuit training
  • Dance/Zumba
  • Spin classes

Sometimes, it’s hard to find the motivation to go to the gym and go through a workout alone.

Joining a group fitness class provides you with a professional willing to offer words of encouragement and the potential to make friends along the way.

Gym Hours & Schedules

Your schedule at school or at work might be inconsistent. 

That means you might only be able to get to the gym early in the morning, after rush hour, or late at night. You really need to consider your personal schedule when choosing the right gym.

Popular Gym Times

Most people try to get to the gym whenever they can reasonably fit it into their schedule. 

But, there are some times of day that are peak hours at the gym. You’ll also notice that the gym is much more crowded on some days of the week as compared to others.

So, here are some trends in gym crowds in recent years.

  • Mondays are the most crowded
  • Fridays tend to be the least crowded
  • When working out on the weekend, Sundays are your best option

Though these trends are pretty standard in all American gyms, this data can help you choose the perfect gym for your schedule. 

If you plan to go to the gym on some of the more crowded days of the week, you might want to pick a gym that has more equipment available to its members.

24/7/365 Gyms

In all honesty, the best gyms are those you have practically unlimited access to. 

Whether you’re simply trying to avoid the crowds or are only free at certain times of the day (or night), you want a gym that’ll fit into your schedule.

That’s why there’s no harm in joining a gym that’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can work the gym into your schedule rather than working your entire schedule around when you’re going to the gym.

At this point in time, a majority of gyms are actually open and staffed 24 hours a day.

Final Thoughts

For as low as $9.95 a month, you can have unlimited access to cardio equipment, resistance training equipment, and free weights. 

You might also be able to get yourself free personal training sessions and participate in group fitness classes as often as you want.

Most gyms are open 24 hours a day, meaning you can go whenever you have free time in your schedule. 

There are also tons of additional perks that you might have access to when you purchase a full gym membership.

YES, there’s a “but”…

Gym memberships are only really worth it if you are actually planning on going to the gym regularly. 

As we mentioned in the very beginning, very few Americans with gym memberships actually take full advantage of the almost unlimited access to fitness equipment and training available at their gyms. 

So, if you’re not completely dedicated to your health and fitness journey, your monthly gym payments will essentially be donations to the gym.