What to Look For in a Health Club

Health, Home & Family
on July 8, 2001

If you need more exercise but find yourself putting it off or resisting it, then a good health club might be the answer. Not every town has one, but they are generally easier to find than ever today.

Finding a good one is fairly simple once you know what to look for, says George McGlynn, an exercise physiologist. Whether youre looking at a YMCA, or a for-profit club, keep your needs in mind and consider these essentials:

Does the gym have individualized and supervised weight training, aerobic exercise classes, yoga, weight control, and nutrition programs? All of these are worth looking for. Child care also is helpful.

Dont sign any contracts. Always look for a month-to-month arrangement or ask for a trial period. If you are given a free trial period, get confirmation of this in writing. Some health clubs offer family or other discounts, so ask about these perks. Ask also about payment options and extra fees. Talk to current members who can answer specific questions about the clubs quality.

Find out what equipment and amenities the club offerssuch as free weights and exercise machines, a swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna, steam room, running track, aerobic exercise room, and so forth. Does the aerobics studio have suspended wooden floors to help prevent joint and other injuries? Look for sufficient locker space, with showers and changing areas.

Be sure the clubs hours of operation suit your schedule. Is the gym a coed facility, and what are the crowded times? Visit the gym during peak hours (such as lunchtime or after work) to see if equipment is available when youll need it. Make sure also that its hygienic and smells clean.

Ask about the background of any trainers youll be using. Ideally, instructors should be certified by the American College of Sports Medicine, with a background in physical education, exercise physiology, athletic training, or physical therapy.

Aerobic instructors should have certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, the International Dance Exercise Association, or the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. At least half of the instructors should also be trained in CPR and first aid.

This sounds like a lot of work, but regular exercise is one of the best things you can give yourself, so you want to find a gym or health club that works for you and where you can feel at home.