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Health Club or Gym Membership – Is it right for you?

For many people the obvious and easy answer when they decide to start working out and setting exercise goals is to join a Health Club. The motivation to start working out may have come about because of a desire to lose weight, get in shape, reduce stress etc. Whatever the reason in this blog I would like to examine whether or not purchasing a membership is the right course of action for you. I have a long association with Health Clubs and gyms. I have used them as a competitive athlete and after retiring from competition have continued to utilise gyms for my exercise routine when appropriate. I have also previously been a Health Club manager for a number of years.

Firstly let us look at this discussion from the Health Clubs perspective. Make no mistake about it a Health Club is a business, they need to make money in order to provide the latest equipment, employ good quality staff and primarily make a profit. I believe there are two main approaches to Health Club management. Profit First; this approach is focussed foremost and primarily on making money. Profit First requires an aggressive management style to be successful, you will generally find they are strong in sales and marketing while neglecting areas such as cleaning and service which can often result in poor customer satisfaction. They are there for business and profit first, your health and fitness goals come a clear second. It is important to keep this in mind should you choose to utilise a Health Club membership. Service First; This second approach focuses on providing excellent fitness services and facilities in the belief that by creating an excellent product or service delivered by a well-trained team the money will naturally follow. Personally I am a fan of the latter; unfortunately there are many Health Club providers who disagree. In London it is also true that because of the tough competitive market many Health Club operators falsely believe Profit First is the only survivable way to operate.

Regardless of the two approaches mentioned above a Health Club is always a business. Therefore keeping membership to a minimum so you can have plenty of space to enjoy your workout and access to all equipment is not in their interest, it’s not their fault. A typical London based Health Club will have anywhere from 2000 – 5000 members. Based on my experience 25% to 40 % of the members will access the club on any one day. If we look at a 4000 member club as an example that means 3000 to 2400 members are NOT using the club on any one day. My concern would be if you are one of those people not regularly using the Health Club? If so how many days do you fall into this category per week? Unless you are regularly using your Health Club membership all you are really doing is funding the memberships of others.

Other factors you should be aware of; most Health Clubs provide equipment that the masses can use. They must be easy to use, have low risk of injury if used incorrectly and as a result may not provide maximum benefit for the limited time you have to work out.

At this point my article might be sounding pretty negative toward Health Clubs. Don’t get me wrong, as I said at the beginning Health Club Membership has its place. Convenience is a massive barrier to exercise. If you have a Health Club close to work or home that is a big plus. They can be very social places; excellent to meet like-minded people. It can be fun to exercise with others and also reassuring to those new to exercise; group classes can be a good starting point. If a Health Club has a good Personal Training team this can be a huge benefit to you. Yes of course you may see some bias as I am a Trainer. However I would be interested to hear a counter argument. Personal Trainers provide expert knowledge, motivation, and above all else they should be able to utilise the equipment in the Health Club to get maximum results for you, no matter what your goal and in the shortest amount of time. This should all be delivered in a friendly and fun environment. I have a couple of Health Clubs that I would definitely recommend in London – just ask me.

My point in writing is to give you information and points to consider when choosing a Health Club membership. Look at what value you are getting for the cost of the membership and if it doesn’t add up don’t keep paying; shop around until you are getting return for your investment. The alternative especially in these summer months, is to exercise outside. There are plenty of terrific parks in London and expert trainers such as Fit & Abel who can deliver expert training in a fun and relaxed environment.


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