Choosing the right fitness centre or activity program is like finding a restaurant. Both involve researching the venue, asking around for personal recommendations and ensuring the location is convenient. But unlike trying a new restaurant, signing up to a fitness centre membership can be a big financial commitment. Picking the right facility or setting for you is the key to sticking to your new fitness program.

There is such a diverse range of fitness centres or organised activity programs to choose from. While having such choice means there is generally something for everyone, it is important you do take the time to do some research, so you can make an informed choice.

Importantly, if you are returning to exercise after a long break, if you’re overweight, aged over 45 years or have a chronic medical condition, you must consult your doctor before starting your new fitness regime.


You need to shop around before you commit to a membership. Some tips to consider when researching different facilities include:

  • Do your research – read reviews to compare prices and services
  • Ask for a free trial period – try out some classes. Are there enough activities that you like and that meet your personal fitness goals? Boredom can set in if you don’t have enough variety in your exercise routine – are there enough different activities to keep you interested?
  • Ask for qualifications and recommendations – make sure the instructors and personal trainers are qualifiedand registered.
  • Take a thorough tour and ask questions – is the facility clean? If a lot of equipment is out of order, ask how long they have been out of service. If it’s been over 2 months, consider going to another gym
  • Check hours of operations – make sure the club hours suit your schedule. Visit at the time of day you’d want to attend. Classes shouldn’t be so full there’s no room to move, or so empty they may be cancelled
  • Read the fine print in the contract – make sure it meets your consumer rights

Other points to consider include:

  • Would you feel comfortable exercising in this particular environment?
  • Are the staff friendly and helpful?
  • Are there lockers for your valuables?
  • Are there child minding facilities?
  • Does the facility seek feedback from consumers on the quality and safety of its services?

The facility should have professional staff with the appropriate education and training related to the duties they perform. Factors to consider include:

  • Do staff members have appropriate training and certification that are recognised by the fitness industry? Exercise professionals should hold current registration with a recognised industry association like Physical Activity Australia.
  • If you have special needs, do staff understand your health conditions and can they meet your needs? Are they able to modify equipment, facilities and programs if required?
  • Is the gym floor constantly supervised?

The fitness centre or provider should operate in accordance with the Code of Ethics, fitness industry Codes of Practice, scope of practice developed by industry, and consumer and business laws developed by the government. It’s also important to protect your investment by joining a centre or provider that is reputable and financially sound. Find out how long the fitness service has been running. Generally speaking, a long-established service is less likely to go out of business. It is also important to ensure the fitness centre or service has adequate insurance, in case you are involved in an accident.


When you decide to take out a fitness centre membership or enrol with a fitness service, factors to consider include:

  • Find out exactly what the membership fee is and what it includes. Are there different membership options and are all the fees for services clearly stated? You should receive a fully detailed membership agreement.
  • Ask questions. Will you have to pay extra for childcare and towels? Some fitness centres offer discounts to concession holders or for members who want to train in off-peak times.
  • Is a fitness assessment and personalised exercise program part of your membership? Is your program reviewed on a regular basis and will extra charges apply? Do new members receive an orientation and instruction in using the equipment and facilities?
  • Does the facility provide you with a written set of rules and policies that govern the responsibilities of members, as well as the facility?
  • Many clubs have a variety of payment options – find a payment schedule that suits your budget and take advantage of any sign-up specials.
  • Do you have a ‘cooling off period’ after purchasing the membership – just in case you change your mind?
  • Find out if you can suspend or use your membership in other locations if they are part of a national gym franchise.

Before you join a fitness centre or program, you might also want to stop and think if it’s the right activity choice for you. Factors to consider:

  • Don’t think that spending money on a gym membership will motivate you to exercise. It probably won’t. Joining a fitness centre or program doesn’t make you fit and healthy – exercise does.
  • Evidence suggests that expert supervision does enhance the health benefits of exercise.
  • If you’re not interested in the activities offered through fitness providers, find activities that you think are fun and convenient. You may enjoy inline skating, dancing or playing sport, or speak to a personal trainer who offers outdoor or mobile services, or even group training.
  • Getting started with an exercise routine doesn’t have to involve machines or equipment either – walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise available and it’s free.

For further guidance in choosing a fitness facility, contact:

Reproduced in part from the Better Health Channel.