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3 On Your Side: Fitness Club Ratings & Contract Advice

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - One of the most common New Year's resolutions is to lose weight and get fit. Joining a gym is a step in the right direction, but as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan reminds us, not all membership contracts are created equal.

For many of us, the New Year means a new fitness routine. But when signing up for a gym membership, you'll want to be sure to crunch the numbers, before starting your crunches!

When Delaware Valley Consumers Checkbook rated 88 fitness clubs in our region based on customer surveys and extensive price checks, Checkbook President Robert Krughoff says one thing was for certain, "You certainly want to shop for price with health clubs, membership prices are all over the map."

For basically the same type of membership, Checkbook found that fees ranged from $188 to $787 a year. Many fitness clubs offer New Year specials aimed at new members, and they may ask you to sign a contract on the spot. Take it home and read it there instead, to make sure you understand what you're paying for.

Here are some things to consider:

If the gym is offering low introductory fees, when will those fees increase? In some cases it could be in as little as 3, 6 or 12 months.

Are additional lessons or classes and things like pool or tennis court usage included in that base charge or will they cost extra?

What is the length of the contract? Does the contract automatically renew? What are the cancellation terms? For example if you move, get injured, or the fitness club changes hands, will you still be obligated to pay?

Above all else, don't make a financial commitment to any gym or fitness club without visiting it first. Krughoff says that would be the time to ask, "Is the equipment clean? Are there long lines to get into classes? Is the staff helpful?" You'll want to see how crowded the facility gets at peak workout times, and that it has the amenities you're looking for.

If you're thinking of joining a fitness club, or you want to see how the club you already belong to may have been rated by Checkbook readers, visit this link:

For the next week, CBS 3 viewers will have access to the ratings absolutely FREE.

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