5 Times a Gym Membership Isn't Worth It

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By Mikey Rox

Some people swear by their gym sessions and feel joining a fitness club is the best and only way to lose weight or get into shape. However, there are no hard-and-fast weight loss rules, and what works for one person may not work for another.

And the truth is, you don't need a gym membership to be physically fit. In fact, depending on your circumstances, joining a gym might be a complete waste of money (just don't tell my personal trainer that). A membership can easily run as much as $120 a month (I live in New York City, so it's a bit pricier than other places)

No one's telling you to quit your gym if it's working for you, but if you're on the fence, here are five times when a gym membership isn't worth it.

1. You're Not Fully Committed. You may say that you want to lose weight or improve your health, but if you're not fully committed to the challenge that lies ahead, don't spend money on a gym membership.

Losing weight or getting into shape takes more than desire -- it requires action. You'll need to be physically active on a regular basis and you'll need to modify your eating habits. It's pointless to spend an hour at the gym only to go home and fill up on high-calorie, high-fat foods and undo all your hard work.

This doesn't mean you should give up on physical activity altogether, but it doesn't make sense to spend $300 to $500 a year and not achieve any of your fitness goals. You're better off canceling the membership until you're ready to commit.

2. It's Too Crowded. If you're pumped and ready to exercise, there's nothing more frustrating than walking into a crowded gym and not being able to find a single piece of available equipment. You might spend more time waiting for equipment to become available than actually working out.

Some people hit the gym in the early morning hours or late at night when it's less crowded. But if this routine doesn't work with your schedule, you may not be getting the most out of your membership. The gym isn't the only way to achieve health and fitness goals. You can take what you normally spend on a yearly gym membership and invest in equipment to use around the house, such as a bike, an exercise ball, weights, DVD workouts, etc. (See also: At-Home Exercises That Give You a Gym-Quality Workout for Free)

3. You're Too Busy. I believe it's important for everyone to make time for exercise, but if you have a hectic schedule due to juggling work, family, and other personal obligations, it might be cost-effective to cancel your membership and squeeze in a workout whenever you have a few extra minutes throughout the day. You can walk on your lunch break or watch a workout video in the mornings before you get the kids ready for school.

4. You Have Access to a Free Fitness Center. Fitness rooms at a recreation center or apartment complex might be small and have limited options, but the equipment available might be exactly what you need to reach your fitness or weight loss goals. It's also a cheaper alternative to a gym membership and you'll probably deal with fewer people. Some community recreation centers only charge $15 or $20 for an annual membership, which gives you unlimited access to fitness room. And if you live in an apartment complex -- or have a friend who lives in an apartment -- you might have access to a fitness center 24 hours a day.

5. You Need to Save Money. Even if you like the idea of working out at the gym, sometimes we have to face reality and cut costs when living above our means. If you're struggling to pay your bills every month, the money spent on a gym membership can go toward paying a more important household expense. You can still enjoy workouts, but you'll need to find them for free.

Some people think they can't get results without their gym or trainer, but many workouts like walking, running, biking, and playing sports can transform your body. Personally I prefer physical activities in which I'm having fun and improving my fitness -- like kickball and dodgeball. There are even plenty of exercises using your own body weight to tone and shape, such as push-ups, squats, and lunges, which also are better with a friend. You also can find a fitness-focused Meetup group to join for free, or round up your pals to plan a meeting schedule to work out and support one another.

Do you know any other times when a gym membership isn't worth it? Let me know in the comments below.
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