Getting active is fun. If you have decided to join a gym, or your health practitioner has recommended a regular workout, this guide will help you choose the best gym for you. Smaller cities and towns may not have as much choice as larger cities, but it is important not to compromise your safety.
Staying motivated over time can be a challenge so make sure you are happy with your choice before you commit your time and money. The advice below will help you get started. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff questions either – if you are unsure about anything, just ask.
Location, location, location
Choose a gym or fitness centre that is most convenient for when you need to use it. The gym must fit your way of life and routine – if you prefer going to the gym before or after work then find one close to your work. If exercising with a friend helps you stay motivated, check out what suits them too.
Find out when the gym or fitness centre is open and whether it is when you are most likely to exercise. Most gyms and fitness centres are open seven days a week, and some are open 24 hours a day (but this may mean the facility is not staffed at all times).
It is essential that your exercise routine fits your needs and is safe for you, particularly if you are over 65 or have medical conditions that may affect the types of activities you may do.
Choose a gym or fitness centre that you feel comfortable in, and where the staff are friendly and welcoming. Ask whether staff have training for any specific needs or medical conditions you have.
Payment and contracts
Most gyms and fitness centres offer a variety of payment options, including monthly or weekly payments. Often this method is preferable to paying lump sums in advance. There is some protection in weekly payments – if the centre goes out of business, you simply stop paying!
If you are signing up to a contract for a set period, make sure you read the contract between you and the gym or fitness centre before signing. Consider the following.
- Does the payment schedule suit you – is it lump sum up front or pay-as-you-go?
- Are you able to have a trial session before committing?
- Do you have to join for an extended time period?
- Are all fees clearly outlined?
- What are the penalties for cancelling your membership?
- Can you transfer your remaining membership to another person?
- Are you eligible for any discounts, eg, for Green Prescription patients, students or older adults, or off-peak access?
It is a good idea to visit the gym at the time you intend going – this will show you how busy it is likely to be when you are there. Things to consider include if:
- there is enough equipment to go around
- the equipment is up to date and well maintained
- there is music to exercise to (and if it is to your taste)
- there is something to look at while you are exercising.
A personal trainer can help you to stay motivated. Many gyms and fitness centres have personal trainers available for an additional cost. This will range from $50 to $90 per hour, with an average of about $65 per hour. Some personal trainers will also offer half-hour sessions too, so be sure to ask. Consider sharing the training session with a mate, as the costs can be shared between you.
If you feel you would benefit from a personal trainer, ask the staff who they recommend and why.
Regular check-ins are a great way to track progress against specific and measurable goals. Ask your instructor to help you set some achievable goals and test them regularly. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, set an achievable target and check your progress against this over a defined time period.
Group activities and classes
If you are interested in group activities and classes, look for gyms that offer the activities you’d like to do. Classes range from low-impact aerobics, yoga and pilates through to equipment-based classes, such as step, pump and indoor cycling.
Check out both the timetable and room to make sure it meets your needs and comfort levels (eg, space, music, intensity of the class and airflow).
Some gyms may offer small group training at the same time each week for a structured programme. Small group training can be a cheap way of getting personalised attention during your workout.
Other facilities and services
Consider what you are looking for in a gym or fitness centre, and whether you require any other facilities or services. Consider the importance of the following.
- Are there other facilities, such as a spa, swimming pool, massage service, sauna or crèche?
- How busy are the other facilities?
- Do you have to pay more to use the other facilities?
- What are the hygiene standards like?
- Are the changing rooms and showers clean?
- are there hairdryers, and storage spaces for your clothing?
- Is there advice and health education materials, such as nutritional information, stretching advice, tips to keep you motivated?
- Do they offer referrals to health practitioners, such as physiotherapists, in case of injury?
Registered facilities and trainers
The New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals is an independent non-profit organisation that operates a register of facilities and individuals that meet internationally benchmarked standards. You can check out if your facility or individual is registered on the New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals website or call 0800 55 44 99.