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Are Gym Memberships A Waste Of Money?

There is no doubt that life at the moment is stressful for most of us. An unstable economy and rising prices means we have to stretch our hard-earned money even further. Many little luxuries that you used to enjoy have to be given up to set aside more money for increased bills and even food. Yet we still need to enjoy life, relieve stress and fit some exercise into our hectic schedules.

The government recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week and many of us choose to achieve our exercise goals at the gym. Realistically, though, how many people get their money’s worth from a gym membership? Would we be better off cancelling the gym contract, finding other ways to exercise and using the money saved for something more useful?

A Waste of Money

For many people, gym membership is a waste of money. This doesn’t include the gym enthusiast who attends maybe five times a week for an hour or more and makes full use of all the facilities, including classes, saunas or any other extras offered. It does apply to the individual who enthusiastically signs up to an expensive contract, with little or no chance of cancelling it and attends regularly for a month but then never goes again.

Furthermore, if you try to get out of your contract you are likely to be hit with a hefty cancellation fee. Gym contracts are notoriously unfair to the consumer and some have been challenged in court.

This is how gyms make their money. They sign up as many people as possible, tie them into a contract and assume (probably quite accurately) that a sizeable majority will not attend regularly, if at all. You have just handed a gym perhaps £500 a year for nothing.

Then there are the gyms which charge sky-high prices but have been a little too greedy and find that they are oversubscribed as more people than anticipated are actually making use of their membership. As a result, the customer suffers because there is a lack of space in the changing rooms, no free lockers or showers and queues to use the equipment. So perhaps you are paying £500 a year for an inadequate service.

Unless you are a dedicated enthusiast, who must have access to specific equipment, a gym membership is usually a waste of money. There are cheaper and more enjoyable alternatives to getting exercise.

Alternatives to the Gym

Save the money you would have spent on the gym and try exercising for free outdoors. Take up jogging or cycling and the only expense will be the initial outlay on some basics, such as trainers and a bike. It is free to run or cycle and most places will have parks, cycle routes or other scenic areas in which to enjoy exercise for free.

If you are confident you will use it and have the space you can also buy some basic gym equipment to use at home. An exercise DVD is an inexpensive one-off purchase which can be used time and time again. Or you can try your local leisure centre, which may offer classes or gym access on a pay-as-you-go basis. Save up that gym-membership money and use it cover unexpected expenses, or better still put it towards a holiday.

This guest post was contributed by Francesca

Evan’s Note: I have struggled with the topic of how much is too much to spend on a hobby and in particular gyms.  I have friends that are paying $120+ a month at a very trendy (and amazing) gym by me, which I think is NUTS. But at the same time I take Krav Maga for the same price per month and that doesn’t seem crazy since I can’t get that education elsewhere.

Notwithstanding if you are using the gym and helping out your health can it really be considered a “waste”



  1. It would be a waste for me because I would never go but my parents have a membership and go quite regularly. This is one of those topics where it depends on the person but in general if you go and are healthier because of it I would say it is probably worth it. Good health is very important.

  2. I bought an exercise bike at a fraction of the cost of a gym membership. While, just like most gym memberships, it does go through periods of months at a time where it doesn’t get used, the fact that I own it forever (or at least as long as it works) and that I paid less for it than a gym membership makes it a much preferrable option for me. Plus, I actually do use it more because one of the things I learned is that I hate getting in the car and driving to the gym. Much easier to hit the basement stairs when I do feel motivated to exercise.

  3. I gave up my membership roughly 15 years ago. I created a home gym to supplement my bicycling and exercise program. Walking and physical exercise does not require a gym membership. In fact just hard physical activity in the form of a job works too.

  4. It’s worth it for me because it’s only $20 a month and, I’m embarrassed to admit that I wouldn’t work out at all if I didn’t go to the gym. I only use the treadmill, elliptical, and some weights, but still.

  5. If you go, it’s worth it. Now that I’m a stay at home dad, I try to exercise whenever I take the kid to the park. I just jog in place, do jumping jacks, push ups, and whatever I can think of. As long as you get some physical activities in, I think that’s better than sitting around in front of the TV.

  6. I think it all deoends on the value to the cost. I pay 10$ a month for the gym at work. That is based on convience and doesnt really annoy me.

    I also belong to another gym and have for many years now. I pay a fee of about $230 per year, since it breaks down cheaper that way as opposed to monthly. This one I do not go to frequently because I much rather run outside or do things at home. Year in and year out I decide to keep this because of a rainy day outside, extreme heat/cold, or to break up the routine.

  7. I notice that a lot of people who are so diligent with their money are so…lazy when it comes to simply taking care of their own bodies.

    I would say more like 40 minutes, 5 days a week. I have a gym membership for poor people, so I don’t pay much. It’s worth it for me. I’ve lost 40 lbs in a year and a half. And thank goodness for that.

    It seems to me that 90% of PF bloggers don’t exercise. Does money cure the diseases that an unhealthy body brings?

  8. My advice: go, and pay the drop-in rate every time. Keep track of 30-day periods, and once you surpass the monthly rate, then switch.

  9. I hate the gym so it would be a waste of money for me. When I was in high school my mom purchased a gym membership for me that I used maybe 4 times. The setting is very unappealing to me. Running on a treadmill or using a weight lifting machine is boring to me. I need something more interactive and educational. That’s why I started taking kung fu.

    But I imagine for the people who actually go to the gym regularly and enjoy it over doing those things at home it isn’t a waste of money

  10. I had a gym membership, but waking up every morning at 5am was tough. I then was going to walk in my neighborhood, but I didn’t want people looking at me and I worried about getting ran over. So, I bought a treadmill and use it indoors.

  11. I used to pay $60/month to for my bouldering gym. Definitely seemed worth it since it was actually two gym locations (tons of routes), a lot of my friends climbed (social / more reason to work out), they had regular gym equipment and it’s not something I can do at a normal gym.

  12. Every time I’ve had a gym membership, it’s been a waste. Since deciding to work out at home, I’ve saved a ton of money and actually do it now. 🙂

  13. I’ve never paid for a gym membership, yet always had access – so I guess that’s worth it! When I was a minor I could use the high school ergs and weight room before school. When I was in college and grad school you access to a gym came with being a student. The year I worked there was a freely accessible gym on the institute’s campus. Both apartment complexes I’ve lived in also had small gyms.

    Even though I could go to my university’s (very nice) gym, I find myself working out almost exclusively at home (DVDs, light weights) or in my apartment complex’s gym since it’s so close. During periods when I lift heavy, the only place I have access to that equipment is my school gym, and that’s not too bad.

    I can’t even imagine paying for a gym membership. If I don’t have a free gym as a perk at my next job, I’ll probably join Crossfit. I have no idea how to evaluate if a gym is worth paying for, though, since I seem pretty happy working out in my home.

  14. Once you cancel your membership what do you do to keep physically fit? A great alternative would be to utilize the recreational parks in your community—your tax dollars already pay for these places. I also own a bike and it will allow me to explore many of the trails around the Atlanta area. The fresh air is great and it’ll help with my financial fitness since they are totally free! If you find a workout buddy to help you go run or ride the trails you’d both be saving money too!

  15. Amazing comments! 30 years ago I was an aerobic instructor for 5 years, super -fit, then concentrated on my nursing career but worked out with a personal trainer. By the time I hit my 60s, I lost motivation at the gym, but re-joined in retirement. Guess what? Barely used the $56/mo. Membership but work out outdoors now -walking mainly, ESP. the beaches in the summer in Rhode Island where I live. I’ve lost weight, about 15 lbs. without a gym, a healthy diet, + am cancelling my.membership this week !!

    • Awesome! I spend a lot on my current gym (crossfit) but it keeps me motivated to go. I know if I miss a class or two I am literally burning dollars and that is unacceptable to me.


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