Why you shouldn’t join a gym now

Jessica Wood explores the pros and cons of joining a gym in the New Year and asks whether January is, in fact, the best time to join a gym.

‘New Year, new you’, is an adage that many people share at the beginning of each year. This often gears people up to make drastic lifestyle changes, which often entails joining a gym, going on a diet and cutting down or cutting out the vices enjoyed the year before.

But is it really a good idea to join the masses in joining a gym at the beginning of January? Usually, gyms offer you a reason [read: carrot]. To entice people to join there are often special deals splattered on gyms’ websites and other advertising paraphernalia, saying something like: ‘Join now and get the first month free’.

Before signing on the dotted line and committing yourself to a fixed term contract, make sure you do the following:


  1. Read the fine print: Gyms usually make it difficult to get out of your contract. Make sure that you understand the terms and conditions, and what you are liable for.
  2. Evaluate your financial circumstances: You should consider whether you are going to be able to afford the monthly membership fees. If keeping fit and a healthy lifestyle are not at the top of your priorities, perhaps joining a gym isn’t for you.
  3. Establish whether you can truly commit for the entire term: Another thing to consider is any personal or professional changes that might be taking place in your life. If you are moving to another suburb, or if your company is thinking of sending you away on secondment then hold of committing for too long. See if your gym is willing to let you sign on a month-to-month basis so that if something changes you can give notice without worrying about paying for the rest of the contract term or being penalised.
  4. Know your rights: The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) of 2008 allows for a reasonable cancellation fee to be owed to the supplier in the case of a contract being prematurely terminated.


Unfortunately, no standard cancellation fee applies, leaving the word “reasonable” open to interpretation. “There is no guidance as yet and as far as I am aware, no “general practice of the industry”. There would in any event be a sliding scale i.e. if you cancel on day one, the gym has lost out on a large amount, but this is not as true after a year,” says Adv. Neville Melville, Consumer Goods and Services Ombud.

However, consumers have a right to a cooling-off period after agreeing to a contract. According to the CPA, consumers have five working days after signing up to a service if they were made aware of the deal as result of a direct marketing campaign to rescind a contract without reason or penalty. Cancellation of the contract must be presented in writing to the service provider.

If no direct marketing applies, you can cancel a service within seven days after the date of the conclusion of the agreement, according to the CPA.

The gym is liable for returning any payment made by you, the consumer, within fifteen business days of the cancellation of a contract during the cooling-off period.

Moneybags says:

Before joining a gym, consider whether this is the best route for you. At this time of year the gyms are full of people wanting to start living a healthier life. Queuing up for the rowing machine or squeezing into a packed Pilates class is not for everyone.

If joining a gym is something that you are seriously considering, shop around for the best contract, and wait until the mad rush to join a gym has passed. This will also give you time to reconsider and make an informed decision.

Also consider less expensive ways of keeping fit. Take up running, walking or hiking. The equipment needed is minimal and you can run or walk around your neighbourhood, meaning you don’t have the added inconvenience of travelling to the gym before you can exercise.