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July 12, 2021 9 min read

A gym membership is one of the best investments you can make in yourself. It's hard to put a price on your health. At the same time, at what point is a gym membership too costly?

With that said, we're sharing what the average cost of a gym membership is.  Plus, we’re breaking down the factors that affect the cost of a gym membership, how to make the most of membership, and alternatives to memberships. 

That way, you can make that investment in yourself without breaking the bank. Here's everything you need to know about the costs of a gym membership!

Gym Membership Application Form Concept

What Factors Affect the Price of a Gym Membership?

You don't need us to tell you that some gyms are of higher quality than others. Sometimes, you walk into a fancy health club that feels more luxurious than a spa or hotel. Then, there are times you walk into a gym and, while they have the right equipment, they feel dirty and lackluster.

But what factors play the most significant role in the quality and therefore cost of a gym membership? We put together a list of some of those factors, and here they are (in no particular order):

  • Quality, diversity, and amount of exercise equipment available
  • Availability of group fitness classes (pilates, yoga, etc.)
  • Availability of specialty classes (CrossFit, bodybuilding, etc.)
  • ​Availability of personal training
  • Locker room and wellness amenities (sauna, steam room, etc.)
  • Specialty facilities like a pool or basketball court
  • Cleanliness
  • Location and access to other locations

Again, these are just some of the factors that can make a gym membership more or less expensive.  But, of these factors, which are the most important to have in a gym membership?

What Factors Matter the Most?

Of course, not everyone wants the same thing out of their gym experience. For some, fancy perks like a steam room motivate them to come to the gym and are just as important as having access to workout equipment. Others simply want a place with basic free weights and squat racks. 

However, when it comes down to it, what makes a gym higher quality is the quality of its fitness facilities. While having fancy perks can be fun and motivating, they don't make as much of a direct impact on your fitness goals as having plenty of diverse equipment at your disposal.

The great thing about this is that most low-cost gyms have everything you need to be successful and reach your goals. You truly don't need to spend tons of money to get access to gyms with high-quality fitness facilities.

In the world of gym memberships, you can choose to spend tons of money that goes towards extra perks. Or, you can spend less and get everything you need and nothing of what you don't need.

The Average Cost of a Gym Membership

The cost of a gym membership is usually the combination of two things:

  1. A monthly (or annual) membership free
  2. An initiation fee

First off, most gyms have either a monthly membership fee or an annual fee. While a monthly fee is more common, some gyms will offer a discount if you pay for an entire year of membership upfront. And, these membership fees cover most if not all of the gym amenities.

Second, some gyms have an initiation fee. For lower-cost gyms, the initiation fee tends to be significantly lower. For higher-end gyms, the initiation fee is typically higher and is used to cover the cost of a welcoming training session with a personal trainer or access to one of the more unique exercise classes.

The Cost of a Gym Membership at Popular Gym Chains

America is home to dozens of popular gym chains. The odds that you can find at least one of these in or near your hometown are pretty high. Here is a list of some of America's most popular gym chains and their total annual membership costs for a single person membership (in no particular order):

  • Planet Fitness: $188 - $279 
  • Gold's Gym: $348 - $461
  • LA Fitness: $454 - $520
  • ​24 Hour Fitness: $480 - $650
  • ​YMCA: $426 - $578
  • Anytime Fitness: $493 - $673
  • ​Lifetime Fitness: $877 - $997
  • Equinox: $2,116 - $2,860
  • Crunch Fitness: $179 - $299
  • XSport Fitness: $775

Keep in mind that these total annual costs include the cost of monthly (or annual) fees and initiation fees if required.

The Average Gym Membership Cost

Among these popular gym chains, the average annual cost of a membership is $622 on the low end and $782 on the high end.

Monthly, that comes out to about $52 on the low end and about $65 on the high end. There is quite a large range in the cost of gym memberships.

For example, the overall cheapest gym is Planet Fitness, and its least expensive plan comes out to $188 annually. Monthly, that is equal to less than $16. On the other hand, the most expensive gym is Equinox, and its least expensive plan comes out to $2,116 annually. Monthly, that is equal to almost $177.

Moreover, while it's important to look at the average cost of a gym membership, don't let it deter you from buying a membership if it looks too expensive. Because, the reality is that the average cost of a gym membership among popular US gyms is much higher than some lower-cost gyms such as Planet Fitness, Crunch Fitness, and Gold's Gym. 

For example, the average low-end membership costs $52, yet you can go to Planet Fitness for $16. Additionally, don't forget that the above gyms are major US chains. Depending on where you live, there could be several other options for gym memberships, including small, locally-owned gyms. Oftentimes, those local gyms are less expensive than chains.

There is a gym membership out there that can fit almost any budget. What you need to decide is what matters most to you in your gym membership. Do you just need the basic cardio and weight lifting equipment? Or, do you need high-quality services and amenities in addition to exercise equipment? Your preferences will determine the cost of your ideal gym membership.

Is a Gym Membership Worth It?

As we've already talked about, making investments in yourself and particularly your health is one of the best investments you can make. However, is it worth spending money on a gym membership in today’s day in age?

Despite the benefits of having a gym membership, a few factors might make one question the value of having one today including:

  • The rise in fitness-related technology
  • Cleanliness of gyms
  • The odds that one cancels their membership

First off, there has been a huge increase in fitness technology in recent years. And, specifically, at-home fitness technology. Things such as exercise apps and at-home workout equipment like the Peloton have gained major traction. For some people, having these technologies at their fingertips makes the value of a gym membership go down, especially when the technology is free.

Second, the recent pandemic has brought about a new awareness of the cleanliness of fitness facilities. For a long time, gyms have been considered one of the easiest places to contract germs. This increased awareness has made people question whether or not they should go to the gym out of fear of getting sick.

Or, whether or not they should switch to a higher-end gym with every day thorough cleanings. Lastly, it's a well-known fact that many people who open a gym membership don't end up using it. In fact, studies show that about 50% of people who open a gym membership cancel within 6 months of starting.

Stats like that would make anyone question whether or not they are committed enough to open a membership. Given these three major considerations, it's important to ask yourself whether or not opening a gym membership is worth it at all. Especially when you can find ways to do both aerobics and anaerobics without ever stepping foot in a gym.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Gym Membership

If you do decide that a gym membership is valuable enough to purchase, then there are some ways that you can make the most out of that investment. Here's how to make your gym membership stretch as far as it can go:

  1. Figure out exactly what you're looking for: Before buying any gym membership, we suggest figuring out what you value most in a membership. Up above, we listed some of the factors that play the most significant role in gym quality and cost. Go through each of those and decide whether or not you need them in your membership.
  1. Refine your fitness goals: One way to help you figure out what you're looking for from your membership is to update your fitness goals. With a better understanding of what you want to accomplish, it'll be easier to decide what you need from membership to help smash those goals.  For example, if you’re brand new to fitness and want to lose weight, then choosing a membership that includes free classes may be a good idea.
  1. Take advantage of every offering: We suggest using every single piece of equipment available in your gym. If there's something you're unfamiliar with, find a personal trainer or ask a staff member for guidance. And, if your gym offers classes, take as many classes as you possibly can. Not only will you get a good workout in, but you'll also have the opportunity to make new friends. Lastly, if your gym is higher-end, then consider using all the luxury amenities. Make every dollar you spend on your membership worth something.
  1. Use guest passes: Most gyms offer a couple of free guest passes when you initially sign up. Use those guest passes by inviting a friend or two to join you in a workout. Having someone to work out with can help push you harder.
  1. Get into a regular attendance schedule: Last but not least, make your workout a priority. Rather than going about your day and spending only your leftover time in the gym, block out a section of your day for exclusively working out at the gym. Like any other part of your day, mark your workout time on a calendar. When you take your workouts seriously, you'll be more serious about committing to the gym.

How to Save Money on Your Gym Membership

If you want to save extra money on your gym membership, there are a few simple ways to do so.  Here are our top money-saving tips:

  1. Sign up with a friend or partner: If you have a close workout confidant in your life, then sign up for a two-person gym membership with them. Most gyms offer a discounted membership if you sign up with two people. Or, if you have a family, some gyms offer family memberships. Then everyone in your family can go for a cheaper rate.
  1. Refer someone to membership: Have you ever received an email from one of your favorite stores offering you a discount if one of your friends buys something from them? If so, many gyms offer similar deals. If you can refer one of your friends for a membership, then the gym will take a cut out of your fees. It's a win for both you and the gym.
  1. Opt for a studio gym membership: Attending a traditional gym or fitness center isn't for everyone. Some people prefer to work out from home but also enjoy the occasional group exercise class.  For those people, joining a specialty spin, yoga, or pilates studio might be best. Instead of wasting money on a gym membership that they won’t use, they can pay a similar or cheaper monthly fee to take a set amount of classes at a studio each month.
  1. Negotiate: Finally, don't be afraid to negotiate a price with the gym. Their goal is to recruit more gym members. And, if you communicate that their price is too steep, they may be willing to cut it back a bit for you. It's definitely worth trying to save some money!
Home gym with punching boxer,cyle and other fitness equipment

Alternatives to the Typical Gym Membership

If you're still not convinced of the value of a gym membership, then there are other ways to work out with little to no cost at all. And, perhaps the best, most cost-effective way to exercise without a membership is to do home workouts.

There are a few ways you can upgrade your home workout from just basic jogging and resistance training including:

  • Watching YouTube videos
  • Subscribing to a fitness app
  • Purchasing home gym equipment

First off, YouTube is a free workout gold mine. Countless certified trainers post workouts online for no cost at all (other than watching an ad or two).  If your main goal is to save money, then you can't go wrong with YouTube.

Second, whether you have an iPhone or Android, you can scroll through your app store and find tons of free and paid fitness apps.  Everything from running to yoga to Tabata apps is available.

Third, there's always the option to purchase home gym equipment.  These days, you don't need to spend thousands to get the good stuff.  With options like FaceBook marketplace and Amazon, you can buy either used or new equipment at a very reasonable price.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your budget, there is a gym membership out there that fits your ideal price range. Money shouldn't stand in the way of you making that important investment in yourself.

Just remember that you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a good quality membership.  It’s all about deciding what you need to reach your fitness goals and going from there!

Bonus tip: Dumbbells are one of the most valuable pieces of gym equipment.  To up your dumbbell game and make the most of your gym membership, try our  19 favorite dumbbell exercises!