There is no doubt that life at the moment is stressful for most of us. An unstable economy and rising prices means we have to stretch our hard-earned money even further. Many little luxuries that you used to enjoy have to be given up to set aside more money for increased bills and even food. Yet we still need to enjoy life, relieve stress and fit some exercise into our hectic schedules.

The government recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week and many of us choose to achieve our exercise goals at the gym. Realistically, though, how many people get their money’s worth from a gym membership? Would we be better off cancelling the gym contract, finding other ways to exercise and using the money saved for something more useful?

A Waste of Money

For many people, gym membership is a waste of money. This doesn’t include the gym enthusiast who attends maybe five times a week for an hour or more and makes full use of all the facilities, including classes, saunas or any other extras offered. It does apply to the individual who enthusiastically signs up to an expensive contract, with little or no chance of cancelling it and attends regularly for a month but then never goes again.

Furthermore, if you try to get out of your contract you are likely to be hit with a hefty cancellation fee. Gym contracts are notoriously unfair to the consumer and some have been challenged in court.

This is how gyms make their money. They sign up as many people as possible, tie them into a contract and assume (probably quite accurately) that a sizeable majority will not attend regularly, if at all. You have just handed a gym perhaps £500 a year for nothing.

Then there are the gyms which charge sky-high prices but have been a little too greedy and find that they are oversubscribed as more people than anticipated are actually making use of their membership. As a result, the customer suffers because there is a lack of space in the changing rooms, no free lockers or showers and queues to use the equipment. So perhaps you are paying £500 a year for an inadequate service.

Unless you are a dedicated enthusiast, who must have access to specific equipment, a gym membership is usually a waste of money. There are cheaper and more enjoyable alternatives to getting exercise.

Alternatives to the Gym

Save the money you would have spent on the gym and try exercising for free outdoors. Take up jogging or cycling and the only expense will be the initial outlay on some basics, such as trainers and a bike. It is free to run or cycle and most places will have parks, cycle routes or other scenic areas in which to enjoy exercise for free.

If you are confident you will use it and have the space you can also buy some basic gym equipment to use at home. An exercise DVD is an inexpensive one-off purchase which can be used time and time again. Or you can try your local leisure centre, which may offer classes or gym access on a pay-as-you-go basis. Save up that gym-membership money and use it cover unexpected expenses, or better still put it towards a holiday.

This guest post was contributed by Francesca

Evan’s Note: I have struggled with the topic of how much is too much to spend on a hobby and in particular gyms.  I have friends that are paying $120+ a month at a very trendy (and amazing) gym by me, which I think is NUTS. But at the same time I take Krav Maga for the same price per month and that doesn’t seem crazy since I can’t get that education elsewhere.

Notwithstanding if you are using the gym and helping out your health can it really be considered a “waste”