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Do I need a gym membership?

Getting in shape is the most widely pledged New Year’s resolution, resulting in a mad, collective dash to the gym during the first half of January -- but do you need to join the herd? If you don’t already have a gym membership, should you take advantage of special New Year’s rates and sign up? Or, if you already have a gym membership, is now the time to opt out?

Make no mistake; gym memberships can be incredibly useful tools for people who want to get in shape. Gyms provide all the weight

training and cardiovascular fitness equipment a person needs to be healthy. Most gyms offer classes in spinning, yoga, dance aerobics and other activities. A good membership may also give you periodic access to personal trainers who can point you toward your next fitness goals.

That said, most gym memberships have strings attached. If you’re signing up for the first time, be ready to pay some hefty processing and initiation fees. Be wary of any gym that wants to waive these charges -- chances are, they’ll ask you to sign a long-term contract. Some gyms are also notorious for trying to upsell you with offers for personal training, nutrition supplements, classes and other fitness-related goods. While gyms can be great for some people, they can be more stressful than beneficial for others.

So, do you need a gym membership to get the fitness results you want? The answer depends entirely on your circumstances. Have you been to the gyms in your area? Do you know how to use fitness machines, and have you ever lifted free weights? If you already belong to a gym, do you actually enjoy going there? You should analyze what you enjoy most about your fitness routine, and ask yourself if you can do these activities anywhere on your own. Fitness equipment can get expensive, though, so creating a home fitness center may not be feasible.

Another option to consider is taking a fitness class before joining a gym. Thanks to sites such as and, you can often find great deals to get personal training or take classes at various gyms and fitness centers. Explore fitness classes in cross-fit, mixed martial arts, yoga and more. You may learn that you’d rather sign up at a specialized fitness center rather than a full-scale gym.

Take this survey to learn more about whether you need a gym membership to improve your fitness.

How in shape are you already?
Which of these activities sound the most fun or interesting to you?
Do you prefer exercising indoors or outdoors?
Is finding the motivation to exercise a problem for you?
Do you have access to any fitness equipment (such as treadmills or weight machines) at your home or workplace?
Is there a gym you could join that's near your home or workplace?
How would you describe where you live?
How easily could you afford a gym membership? The average cost of a gym membership in the U.S. is $55/month.
Which of these best summarizes your fitness goal?
How many days per week do you plan on exercising?
Do your fitness goals require equipment that you don't have at home, such as free weights?
Would you be going to the gym with a workout partner?