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Lose weight, not money in 2016

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It's a new year and for many, that means it's time to make resolutions.

Losing weight and getting fit are always promises people make to themselves this time of year, and many think joining a gym is the only way to accomplish that goal. But there are pitfalls you need to look out for.

"So when we hear from people with complaints about gym membership contracts, it's because they signed something they didn't read thoroughly," says Felicia Thompson with the Phoenix Better Business Bureau.

She says one point to keep in mind before joining a gym is affordability."Ask yourself, can I really afford this every month, because it is definitely a monetary investment. You want to make sure you don't get caught up in the hype of New Year’s resolutions and getting in shape because you'll be charged every month for this membership association."

Besides the cost, you should ask other questions, like, what happens if you move?  Will you still be on the hook for the rest of the contract?

And what about automatic renewals? Do you have to give a written cancellation or take other steps to cancel?  “That's probably one of the most important things to remember is that it might automatically renew," says Thompson.

And here's a big one: What happens if the gym goes out of business? Make sure you ask about a refund policy. And get it in writing.

And don't feel pressured. Tour the facility and make an informed decision before signing anything.

"I’m not in a gym; the gyms would not work for me." Consumers like Bobbi Carter stay away from gyms because of the contracts and monthly fees.

Instead, some people across the Valley are choosing a different, less expensive way to stay fit and even keep social.

"We can tell them about our run groups which is a lower cost option to go ahead and get fit for the New Year."

Linda des Groseilliers runs a fitness group where members learn new ways to get fit, lose weight and stay motivated.

Group members pay a one-time fee of $65 and learn all kinds of new exercises, like sliding your feet on paper plates to simulate mountain climbing. They also get together for scheduled runs.

"We try to guide them through carefully with our run groups," she says. "It's a 10-12 week program and it increases the amount of time that they're running versus walking so that they get there safely."

Getting fit and healthy is always a good idea. Just remember, you don't always have to throw a lot of money at it to make weight loss a reality.

Thompson adds: "There are other alternatives out there, just like there are lots of gym options and just making sure it fits for you and what your goals are."

 Thompson provided 3 On Your Side a list question consumers should ask should they decide the join a fitness club.

Questions to ask the gym:

  1. What are the terms of any introductory offers? Gyms often use special introductory offers to attract new members. Make sure you understand the terms and what the price will be once the introductory period is over.
  2. Will my membership renew automatically? Many times, people who joined a gym didn’t realize that their contract would renew automatically and that they would have to take specific steps to cancel their contract.
  3. How can I get out of my contract? Getting out of a gym contract isn’t always as easy as getting into one, so make sure you understand what steps you need to take to cancel your membership.
  4. What happens if I move? Gyms have a number of different policies when it comes to how moving will affect your membership. It might depend on how far you’re moving and if the gym has other locations near your new address.
  5. What happens if you go out of business? Ask the gym to explain what will happen to your money if they suddenly go out of business.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What are my fitness goals? Determining your fitness goals in advance will help you select a facility that is most appropriate for you. If you have a serious health condition, consult with a medical professional when setting your fitness goals.
  2. Is this location convenient? If the gym is across town, you’ll be less likely to workout. Choose a fitness club that is close to work or home so the location is not a deterrent to getting exercise.
  3. Can I really afford this every month? Monthly gym fees add up and, after any introductory periods are over, the price could jump higher than your budget can handle. Do the math before you join and make sure you can afford a gym membership.
  4. Am I feeling pressured to join? Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join right away. A reputable gym will give you enough time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities and make an informed decision.
  5. Did I get everything in writing? Read the contract carefully and make sure that all verbal promises made by the salesperson are in writing.  What matters is the document you sign, so don’t just take a salesperson’s word for it. 

Felicia N. Thompson, Vice President of Communications
Better Business Bureau serving Greater Arizona

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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