Gyms starting to sweat membership in 2009


It's gotta suck being a high-end gym these days.

Here we are, the start of a new year, everyone's got a list of resolutions including firming and toning and losing all that holiday fat...and no money to pay for it.

Little wonder gyms and health clubs are slashing their membership fees.

According to the Los Angeles Times, lapsed members of the upscale SportsClub/LA were recently invited to return to the fold without having to pay the one-time initiation fee, which can be at least $600, and no membership dues for two months. For some, that means savings of at least $330.

Curves, the health-club for women, is offering 50% off joining and two months free of charge. Gold's Gym started out the new year with no membership fee and the offer of four free days of expert workout advice.

"Gyms realize these are tough economic times, for themselves as well as their members," Joe Moore, chief executive of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Assn., a fitness trade group, told the Times. Indeed, the association's blog wrote that 2009 will see health clubs scrambling as members balance their physical health with their fiscal health.

According to Moore, it's the mid-range gyms and health clubs that are hurting the most. But I suspect that higher-end gyms will start to feel the burn before it's all over. The credit crisis is affecting all levels of wealth, and even the well-off will start looking at monthly budgets and figuring out that the gym membership is less important than mortgage or car payments.

Especially as more people begin to realize that walking -- simply walking -- is a great form of exercise, with the best price tag of all: free.

Can't live without your workout? Moore suggests members go to their gyms and ask about decreased fees and expenses. A lot of gyms are now only too happy to work with customers in order to keep them, he said.