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Great Time For Great Deals At Health Clubs

There are deals galore to be had at health clubs these days.

January is to them what December is to retailers, Early Show financial contributor Vera Gibbons explained Thursday, since so many of us make New years resolutions to shape up.

And this is no ordinary January for the clubs, Gibbons adds -- the industry, like so many others, is hurting in the down economy.

The result? Advantage, consumer!

But, Gibbons cautions, you still have to work at getting the bargains, and they're not always so obvious.

According to Gibbons:

Growth among health clubs has slowed to a trickle, even gone into reverse: The sector boomed in the late '90s, but memberships were down three percent last year. And with the economy in recession, consumers have much less disposable income and are cutting their costs across the board, so we're seeing more health club deals than ever. Nearly every club is cutting prices to some extent.

Among the best deals:

  • Equinox fitness clubs, with locations in New York, Boston, Chicago and other cities: half-off the initiation fee. Plus, if new members work out 36 times in the first three months, they get the fee back.
  • Curves: Half-off the initiation fee and first 30 days free
  • Gold's Gym: No enrollment fee

    And, says Gibbons, if the bargains being offered don't lure enough customers, deeper discounts are sure to follow.

    But beyond the publicized deals, Gibbons points out, the bottom line is that it's hard for gyms to get new members. They're more eager than ever to get them. And prospective new members are in the driver's seat. The initiation fee is the most negotiable part of any membership, so ask if they'll eliminate or reduce it.

    If you're already a member and seeking a price break, "Haggle, haggle haggle," Gibbons advises. Ask for a better membership rate. Use attractive offers from other gyms as leverage to renegotiate your rate.

    Though the best deals tend to be the ones for long spans, stay away from long-term memberships, such as three-plus years. Gym experts Gibbons spoke with suggest memberships that last no more than a year, and they prefer month-to-month. Your situation could change, and memberships are usually non-refundable, and getting out of contracts nearly impossible.

    Other ways to save include discounts negotiated by your company, and ones offered by insurance companies through their health and wellness programs. If you're with Oxford, for instance, you can get up to up to 30 percent off monthly dues of clubs such as Bally's, Gold's and Curves.

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