Are Gym Memberships Worth The Money?

For the past 8 months I’ve paid $150 for a gym membership. It’s the most I’ve ever paid for a gym membership and a number of times on my budget videos people have questions whether the gym membership was worth it or if I could get out of it. It’s made me wonder monthly if gym memberships are worth the cost in general.

Why pay for a gym membership?

Unfortunately, as most of us get older we start to gain a few pounds or find it’s harder to lose weight than it once was. Now that my friends and I are in our 30s we have to focus more on what we eat and how much we workout. Being active is important to not only our physical health but our mental health as well.

While being active is very important many wonder why you need to pay for a gym membership when there are plenty of ways to workout for free. If you can do free workouts via YouTube, run through bodyweight exercise or go for a run outside, why would you spend money to achieve fitness?

For many of us we struggle to workout at home and motivate ourself to be active. There is not an internal drive to be active especially when we view our homes as a sense of calm and relaxation. To achieve the level of fitness we need we must instead seek out an environment that encourages action – hence paying for a gym membership.

Personally I’ve got to stay active to help with my mental health and dislike working from home. While I do go for walks often I struggle with running and find myself much more active in a group class environment or with a personal trainer at a gym. Since I know my personality and need to stay active this means I need to belong to a gym.

I’ve had a lot of experience trying to decide if I want to keep my gym membership or let it go to help reduce budget expenses. Ultimately I’ve always decided that the gym membership has been worth it for me, whether I’m paying $10 a month or $150 a month by asking myself a set of questions regarding each membership.

Questions to answer about the cost of gym membership:

When trying to determine whether or not your gym membership is worth the cost, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much does your gym membership cost?  Deciding whether or not a gym membership is worth the cost involves look at exactly how much it costs. There are a variety of gym types that cost different amounts. Your local 24/7 basic gym will cost less than a YMCA membership which will cost less than a Crossfit membership. My current gym costs $150 per month but previous gym memberships cost me $10-$25 per month. Whether or not your membership is worth it depends on both the amount it costs and if that cost fits in your budget or not.
  • How often do you use your gym membership? Gyms make money by selling memberships that are never used. This is a well known fact and they depend on it to stay afloat. For every one person in the gym they need to have memberships for 5 more people that never come in. It’s a strange business model but it works and keeps many gyms in business. If you want your membership to be worth the cost then you need to actually get in the gym and use what you pay for. I believe my gym memberships have been worth the cost because I utilize the gym anywhere from 3 to 6 times a week depending on my schedule. There has not been a week where I’ve used it less than 3 times and since I struggle making myself workout at home the gym membership solves my issues because I will actually use it.
  • How convenient is your gym membership? If you use your gym membership regularly then you need to also consider whether the gym is convenient enough for you. Is it close to work or home? Do you have to go out of your way to get there? Even if you use a gym a lot there may be a more convenient option for you that is cheaper. If you have a gym membership that is so convenient it seamlessly fits into your routine then it is likely worth the cost.
  • Do you have the money for a gym membership? This is the most important thing to consider when trying to determine if the cost is worth it. If your gym membership will make it hard for you to get by each month then it is not worth the cost. You shouldn’t have to choose between a gym membership and necessities like food or utilities. If you don’t have the money for luxuries and consider the gym a luxury then you should not have a gym membership. Getting into better shape does not have to cost any money at all. However if it is instead a necessity for you because it is the only way you will stay active then you should try to find a low cost membership that fits in your budget.
  • Will you be stuck in a contract for a long period? Unfortunately gym membership contracts are one of the downsides to joining a gym. You sign up for one year or more in many locations before you are certain that the gym will be the right fit long term. Remember to consider not only if you can afford the gym for the first month but 12 months down the road. Before signing up look into what options you have in case you change your mind or no longer feel the gym fits your needs.

Those are the things that I think you should consider when trying to decide if a gym membership is worth the cost or not. It’s how I looked at the question and decided my gym membership was in fact worth the cost in most situations.

Do you actually need a gym?

So maybe you are considering a gym membership but you are on the fence. You don’t necessarily think you have to have one or you aren’t sure the perks are worth the cost. Do you have to actually belong to a gym to be fit?

The answer of course, is no! You don’t need a gym membership to be fit at all! In fact, there are plenty of reasons to skip it altogether.

Reasons why you might want to skip a gym membership:

  • Skipping a gym membership will save you money
  • You won’t have another monthly bill
  • Gyms can get boring over time
  • Working out at home can save time
  • There are a lot of germs in gyms and they aren’t always clean
  • There are many free or lower cost ways to workout without a gym membership

Here are a few ways to get fit without belonging to a gym:

  • Do YouTube workouts that are put out there for free
  • Join a free local running club that meets weekly (or more) for accountability
  • Buy a bicycle and join a regular cycling meetup to get fit in a group or just bike along on streets or trails
  • Play loud music and dance around by yourself or with your family every day
  • Find ways to be more active naturally like walking more to complete errands
  • Buy a treadmill or elliptical for your home (even one for $2,000 will pay off after just a couple years)
  • Buy home gym equipment you can use to workout with daily

Having a home gym or being able to workout regularly at home for free comes in handy especially during times when gyms may be closed. You will never lack for a workout during a holiday or when gyms are forced closed by natural disasters or health emergencies.

Answering the question about whether gyms are worth the money really comes down to your personal situation (like most things in personal finance!). It depends on your situation, your health, your motivation, your budget.

Whether or not a gym membership will be worth the cost to you is only a question you can answer because there is no right or wrong answer to the question!

Mary is the founder of Pennies Not Perfection where she shares her journey to build wealth through online income. She quit her day job in 2021 after she paid off her debt and doubled her 9-5 salary.

Mary's favorite free financial tool is Personal Capital. She uses their free tools to track net worth and work toward to financial freedom.

Her favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, where she built a custom portfolio for free with no fees. She shares her portfolio growth and savings progress every month on YouTube.