SAN DIEGO - Choosing a health club can rank high on the confusion meter. Membership contracts, pricing options, and availability and variety of classes can all factor into which club you join. And with winter workouts just around the corner, knowing what to look for in a club is even more important.
"People need to find an exercise environment they enjoy," said ACE executive director Ken Germano. "So with summer ending and people heading indoors for exercise, picking a quality club is key to sticking with your program."
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) offers the following advice to help consumers sort through the myriad of fitness club options:
- CLASSES: If classes are what keep you motivated, make sure the club offers an eclectic mix you like and that they are offered at a time of day that fits your schedule.
- STAFF: Personal trainers and group fitness instructors should be certified through a nationally-recognized certification organization like ACE, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA). Credible certification can assure you the instructor meets the guidelines to provide a safe and efficient workout. ACE offers referrals to certified fitness professionals via its web site, www.acefitness.org.
- HOURS: Lots of health clubs open early and stay open late. Before you join, though, make sure your club is open when you plan to go. Then visit the club at the times you intend to work out. Check whether the club is too crowded or if there are long lines for equipment at that time.
- PAYMENTS: Many clubs have a variety of payment options. Find a payment schedule that meets your budget needs, and take advantage of any sign-up specials. If you are joining a new club that hasn’t opened yet, make sure that any deposits or payments are held in an escrow account until they officially open.
- LOCATION: You’re more likely to use a club if it is close to either your home or workplace.
- REPUTATION: Before you join, talk to current members about their experiences with the club. The Better Business Bureau can tell you if the club is a member or if any complaints have been registered against it. Added security comes if the club is a member of the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). IHRSA clubs must oblige by a code of ethics that protects the health and safety of their members, as well as protects consumers from unscrupulous business practices. To find an IHRSA club in your area, call (800) 766-1278, or click on www.healthclubs.com.
- LITTLE DETAILS: As you tour the club, pay attention to details. How clean is the facility? Is the music too loud? Is most of the equipment in working order? Too many "out of order" signs may indicate poor maintenance. Make sure the club is a place where you would enjoy spending time.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation’s "workout watchdog," ACE conducts university-based research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at www.acefitness.org.