Getting into better shape is at or near the top of most everyone’s New Year’s resolutions list.

Because it can be expensive to join gyms and health clubs, the Better Business Bureau serving southwest Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and the Kansas plains advises consumers to treat a gym membership like any major purchase and do their research before signing on the dotted line.

“While joining a gym can be a great investment in your health, billing and collection issues, along with overall unhappiness with membership contracts continue to be the primary reason for consumer complaints,” BBB President and CEO Jim Hegarty said in a press release. “Picking the best workout facility for your personal interests can be a difficult choice, so check each one’s rating on our website at”

The BBB suggested asking the following questions before you join a gym:

>> What are the terms of any introductory offers? Gyms often use special introductory offers to attract new members. Make sure you understand the terms and what the price will be once the introductory period is over.

>> Will my membership renew automatically? Many times people who join a gym don’t realize that their contract renews automatically and that they would have to take specific steps to cancel their contract.

>> How can I get out of my contract? Getting out of a gym contract isn’t always as easy as getting into one, so make sure you understand what steps you would need to take to cancel your membership before joining.

>> What happens if I move? Gyms have any number of different policies when it comes to how moving will affect your membership. It might depend on how far away you’re moving and if they have other locations nearby.

>> What happens if the gym goes out of business? Ask the gym to explain what will happen to your money if they suddenly close down.

The BBB offered the following questions to ask yourself when looking at potential gyms/health clubs:

>> What are my fitness goals? Determining your fitness goals in advance will help you select a facility that is most appropriate for you.

>> Is this location convenient? If the gym is across town, you’ll be less likely to work out.

>> Can I really afford this every month? Monthly gym fees add up and, after any introductory periods are over, the price could jump higher than your budget can handle.

>> Am I feeling pressured to join? Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join right away.

>> Did I get everything in writing? Read the contract carefully and make sure that all verbal promises made by the salesperson are in writing.

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