Choosing a Fitness Center
Fitness centers can provide you with many benefits motivation and companionship are among the most important. A fitness center may also offer expert instruction and supervision as well as access to better equipment than you could afford on your own. All fitness centers, however, are not of the same overall quality, and every fitness center is not for every person. If you’re thinking of joining a fitness center, here are some guidelines to help you choose a club that’s right for you.
• Look for an established facility that’s within 10-15 minutes of your home or work. If it’s farther away, your chances of sticking to an exercise regimen start to diminish.
• Visit the facility at the time you would normally exercise. Is there adequate parking? Will you have easy access to equipment and classes at that time?
• What child care services are available, and how are they supervised?
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• Look around to see if there are other members who are your age and at about your fitness level. Some clubs cater to a certain age group or lifestyle, such as hard-core bodybuilders.
• Observe how the members dress. Will you fit in, or will you be uncomfortable?
• Observe the staff. Are they easy to identify? Are they friendly, professional, and helpful?
• Check to see that the facility is clean, including showers and lockers. Make sure the facility is climate controlled, well ventilated, and well lit.
• Find out if the facility offers some type of preactivity screening as well as basic fitness testing that includes cardiovascular screening,
• Determine if personnel are trained in CPR and if there is emergency equipment such as automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on the premises, An AED can help someone who has a cardiac arrest,
• Ask if at least one staff member on each shift is trained in first aid,
• Determine if the personal trainers and fitness instructors are certified by a recognized professional association such as the
ACSM, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), NSCA, or ISSA. All personal trainers are not equal; more than 100 organizations certify trainers, and few of these require much formal training,
• Find out if the club has a trained exercise physiologist on staff, such as someone with a degree in exercise physiology, kinesiology, or exercise science. If the facility offers nutritional counseling, it should employ someone who is a registered dietitian (RD) or has similar formal training.
• Ask how much experience the instructors have. Ideally, trainers should have both academic preparation and practical experience,
• Buy only what you need and can afford. If you want to use only workout equipment, you may not need a club that has racquetball courts and saunas,
• Check the contract. Choose the one that covers the shortest period of time possible, especially if it’s your first fitness club experience, Don’t feel pressured to sign a longterm contract,
• Make sure the contract permits you to extend your membership if you have a prolonged illness or go on vacation. Some clubs have exchange agreements that allow you to train in other cities while on vacation or business.
• Try out the club. Ask for a free trial workout, or a one-day pass, or an inexpensive one- or two-week trial membership.
• Find out whether there is an extra charge for the particular services you want. Get any special offers in writing.
• Tour the facility. Does it offer what the brochure says it does? Does it offer the activities and equipment you want?
• Check the equipment. A good club will have treadmills, bikes, stair-climbers, resistance machines, and weights. Make sure these machines are up to date and well maintained.
• Find out if new members get a formal orientation and instruction on how to safely use the equipment. Will a staff member help you develop a program that is appropriate for your current fitness level and goals?
• Make sure the facility is certified. Look for the displayed names ACSM, American Council on Exercise (ACE), AFAA, or International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).