Many of us will find ourselves wondering whether it’s worth getting a gym membership as our mouse hovers over the sign-up button, questioning whether the benefit can really be worth another significant monthly outlay.
It is worth getting a gym membership as long as you can afford it. Your health is one of the things that should absolutely be prioritised above money. The physical, mental and social benefits of a gym membership far outweigh the monthly cost which can be very cheap with some shopping around.
A lack of interest, a fear of looking stupid and how expensive it can be are all common reasons given for why people won’t invest in a gym membership. Regardless of how often you think you’ll realistically attend, a gym membership is almost certainly worth the cost.
Is it worth getting a gym membership?
It is worth purchasing a gym membership. The health benefits alone far outweigh the monthly cost of membership and a gym membership along with attending with some degree of consistency can yield significant benefits in terms of fitness, strength, appearance, confidence and happiness.
Here on TheProgressionPlaybook, I would typically advise saving on expenses as often as you can, particularly those frustrating monthly subscriptions. The logic looks something like this – the more you save, the greater the surplus between your income and expenses, the more you can invest and the faster you will become financially independent.
However, the exception to this rule is anything that will almost certainly improve your health and a gym membership certainly falls into this category.
There are numerous websites and peer-reviewed research papers which detail the incredible physical benefits of exercise and specifically resistance training including improved strength, better flexibility, better balance, higher bone density and improved body composition which is linked to the prevention of numerous diseases.
So whilst yet another monthly subscription may seem like a good thing to avoid, this £20-100 a month expense really pales in comparison with the possible benefits. Of course, purchasing the membership is only one half of the equation and the hard part is actually going to the gym and working on a programme consistently.
This is a personal finance website, so naturally, the focus is usually on money. But it’s worth being clear – when prioritising resources, money comes below both time and health. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself whether you would swap places with a 90-year-old billionaire?
A gym membership and a bit of discipline to go a few times a week will almost certainly improve your health. It may seem like going to the gym would reduce your available time but my instinct is that the physical and mental benefits of exercise on things like concentration and focus will actually give you more time in a positive mental state.
How much will a gym membership cost me in the UK?
A gym membership in the UK will cost anywhere between £20 and £100 per month depending on the location, quality of the facilities and the package you opt for. Annual subscriptions will help lower the average monthly cost but locks the user in for a longer period.
Clearly, top-spec gyms or gyms located in central London will come with a price premium but most decent quality gyms can be joined for around £30 per month. In the grand scheme of things and in the context of the various benefits mentioned above, this monthly outlay is manageable for most people.
What type of gym to sign-up for depends on your preferences and how often you think you will realistically attend. If you are confident you are a 4 or 5 times a week type of gym go-er, splashing out on a more expensive membership with swimming facilities will probably be worth the added expense.
My advice is to perform a quick calculation about how much you are likely to be paying per visit. If you are paying £30 per month and only going once a week, you are paying £7.50 a session which is quite expensive. However, if you go 4* per week, you are paying less than £2 per session which seems like pretty good value, especially given how long you’re there for and what facilities you use are not limited.
The gym is an example of a service where the value of the membership goes up in line with how often you go, as you pay less on average per visit.
For this reason, making the financial commitment of actually signing up to a gym rather than the more wishy-washy “I’ll work out at home” line, forces you to actually exercise so you feel like your subscription isn’t being wasted.
How often should I go to the gym to make a monthly subcription worth it?
A gym subscription increases in value the more often you go as the cost per visit decreases. If your membership costs £30 per month and you go twice, that is £15 per visit. If you go 10 times, it is just £3 per visit. To make the most of your membership, go as often as is beneficial to your goals.
When it comes to exercise and particularly resistance training, don’t overlook the importance of rest days. Some will take the above message too literally and go to the gym 30 times a month, reducing the cost to just £1 per visit and extracting as much value out of the membership as possible.
Ironically, by doing this, you lose some value as by not taking rest days, you won’t give your body a chance to recover and build muscle, which takes away from the real purpose of a gym membership.
What are the benefits of a gym membership?
The benefits of a gym membership include the obvious physical advantages such as becoming stronger, fitter and more flexible. Going to the gym can also have significant mental health benefits due to the chemical responses in the brain of exercise. The gym also offers the opportunity to socialise.
The research is pretty clear on the physical benefits of exercise and more specifically resistance training. Lifting weights will increase your muscle mass and bone density which has significant benefits in terms of flexibility and balance as you age. The links between exercise and the prevention of numerous diseases are well documented.
Adding muscle mass is also more aesthetically pleasing and can lead to increased confidence in social situations.
Mentally, the gym can be a great outlet for relieving stress and the chemical and hormonal responses to exercise play a large part in strong mental health.
For me though, the greatest benefit of a gym membership is developing a habit which trains your discipline muscle. If you can commit to a consistent, challenging exercise regimen over time, you will have demonstrated discipline and feel more confident in being more disciplined in other areas of your life.
How can I save money on my gym membership?
You can save money on your gym membership by signing up for an annual rather than monthly subscription. It is also worth seeing if your employer offers a gym discount benefit. University students can often attend gyms for reduced rates. For independent gyms, see if you can negotiate on the monthly fee.
A gym membership will almost certainly cost you financially to some degree but that’s not to say there aren’t steps you can take to reduce the cost.
Even a modest £30 per month gym membership will set you back £360 per year which is not a trivial amount.
If you are confident of using the gym over a period of more than a year, see if you can sign up for an annual pass which will be cheaper per month than a rolling monthly subscription. Ask the gym staff if there are any other deals or promotions you could take advantage of.
A common employee benefit is the gym discount whereby the employer has struck deals with the major gym chains. Consult your company portal before signing up to a gym to see if there are any discount codes for gyms local to you. Some employers may even have a gym on-site that’s free to employees.
Is going to the gym worth it or can I stay fit at home?
You can stay fit by exercising at home. However, gym memberships offer better equipment and the financial commitment helps to convince you not to let the membership go to waste. Whilst daunting to some, the atmosphere of working out with others with a common goal can be hugely motivating.
I have nothing against working out from home and I’ve seen many people be very successful with this approach. However, working out at home does have a number of challenges including monotony of the same exercises, lack of real resistance (not the same weights as in a gym) and distractions from family and home life.
My preference is a gym membership which allows you to get out of the house for an hour a day and exercise with superior equipment, progressively lifting more weight which is a fundamental principle to build muscle and strength.
Whilst attending a gym may be less flexible, my instinct is this habit is actually easier to keep, particularly after you get into a routine. Once a visit to the gym becomes habitual and a part of your day it becomes much easier to stick to than the more vague concept of a home workout.
What’s the maximum I should pay per month for the gym?
The maximum you should pay per month for the gym is highly dependent on your exercise needs and financial situation. A run-of-the-mill, decent quality gym membership should be below £50 per month. Any more than this and you should be expecting supplementary facilities like a pool, sauna and cafe.
For the average gym-goer who is just interested in spending an hour a few times a week building some muscle, a gym membership should cost up to £30. However, for expensive inner-city areas like London, this may raise up to £40+ per month.
For those interested in more, gym memberships can rise to £100+ per month with added facilities like a swimming pool, saunas, spa and restaurants on-site. What level of gym membership you decide to pay for will depend on your level of free time and preferences.
If you are paying more than £40 per month for the gym and are attending less than 5 times per month, you should consider if a cheaper gym membership may be more appropriate to cut down on the all-important price per visit metric.
Should I get an annual gym membership rather than monthly?
Purchasing an annual gym membership rather than a rolling monthly subscription can be a great way to save money. However, only opt for this choice if you are confident you will live in the area and attend the gym consistently for the full year. Cancellation fees can be expensive.
To encourage customers to sign-up to the gym and lock them in for as long as possible, gyms will often offer annual memberships at much cheaper rates than a rolling monthly membership.
For example, a gym may offer a £30 a month membership or a £300 for the year membership which works out to £25 per month and would therefore save you £5 a month. If you can afford the initial cash hit of £300 and are confident of using this gym for that period, this is the best choice.
Don’t be afraid to be cheeky and ask for any other deals. If you’ve been a loyal customer for a few years, see if you can get a discount on your membership for the next year.
How much will it cost to build my own home gym?
You can work out from home very cheaply. However, building a home gym that is comparable in quality to a public gym will be a hugely expensive task, likely racking up into the thousands. Gym equipment is surprisingly expensive, for example, a gym bench alone will likely cost at least £100.
If you are content with bodyweight exercises or using a few bits of equipment, working out at home can be a good cheap alternative. However, buying a fully equipped home gym will likely cost into the thousands which equates to 5-10 years worth of gym memberships so is usually not worth the outlay apart from those with significant cash to spare.
As always, please remember I am an Accountant, but not your Accountant. In this post (and all of my others) I share information and oftentimes give anecdotes about what has worked well for me. However, I do not know your personal financial situation and so do not offer individual financial advice. If you are unsure of a particular financial subject, please hire a qualified financial advisor to guide you.
This article has been written by Luke Girling, ACA – a qualified Accountant and personal finance enthusiast in the UK. Please visit my ‘About‘ page for more information. To verify my ACA credentials – please search for my name at the ICAEW member finder. Please comment below or contact me here to get in touch with questions or ideas for future posts.