Angie's List: Checking your gym contract

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Picking a gym can be a workout. Different facilities have various specialties and prices, all of which can be overwhelming to the consumer. Additionally, many gyms may require you sign a contract.

"If getting fit is the top of your New Year Resolution list, be sure you understand what you are signing yourself up for before you sign up for a gym, especially if you haven't been an avid fitness person before," said Angie's List Angie Hicks. "You want to make sure your contract has flexibility in case you change your mind."

Read the document carefully and don't sign it immediately. Take the contract home and take the time to make sure you understand the fine print, including what happens if you break it. If you do change your mind, most states provide specific gym and health club cooling-off protections for consumers, typically ranging from three to five days.

"If you're interested in starting a fitness routine this year, but don't know what's going to work best for you, ask for some trial passes at a gym. Go with a friend on a buddy pass. You might find just buying the treadmill and having it at home, which has worked well for me over the years, might be your best bet."

If you're hesitant about getting into a long-term commitment, consider a club or classes that don't require a contract. Many centers offer contract-free plans with access to many amenities.

"Our membership benefits include free babysitting while you work out, six months free wellness coaching," said gym spokesperson Linda Martin. "We also have group exercises classes that are complimentary with your membership and anything from Zumba to cycling to water aerobics. We really want to get members engaged right away so some of the mistakes we see is they don't take advantage of all of the complimentary things that we offer with the membership."

Ask how an injury or move to a new area might affect your contract. Some gyms allow members to suspend or cancel a membership in the case of an injury or permanent disability, while others may not. And remember, before starting any fitness program talk first to your doctor.

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