Gym Membership Costs: The Facts Your Gym Won’t Tell You

A man works out with a trainer in a gym

Here’s what you need to know about your gym membership. | Phil Walter/Getty Images

Millions of people shell out money month after month for a gym membership. Of those that do, relatively few actually bother to ever go. And for those who do, there’s a thought that inevitably creeps into their heads: “Why the hell am I paying so much money for such a miserable experience?” Well, going to the gym doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. It also doesn’t necessarily need to be an expensive one. But for a lot of people, gym or health club memberships put a dent in the monthly budget.

When it comes to getting into shape, money and budgeting has to be taken into account. You’re not only going to be paying to work out, but also for healthier foods, workout gear, and maybe even some equipment of your own, be it dumbbells, kettlebells, or a Shake Weight. The point is, getting in shape is going to require some investment. Not just in terms of time and effort, but monetarily as well.

But those costs can far exceed expectations. And for that reason, you should probably know what to expect before deciding to get serious about getting in shape.

An article from Bloomberg dug into this very topic recently. By looking at the cost of exercise, including gym memberships, the piece is a treasure-trove of interesting facts and tidbits related to the fitness industry. Using that as a starting point, we used information from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association to dig up some stats and figures about gym memberships and their associated costs.

Here are 10 facts we think that you should know.

1. How much does the average American spend?

Money emerging to pay for a gym membership

Woman getting cash together to pay for a gym membership | iStock.com/dolgachov

The data shows that the average American spends more than $50 per month on a gym membership. The exact figure is $54, and according to Bloomberg, is roughly 1.2% of the average median household income. So, the typical American is spending more than 1% of their yearly income at the gym. Also of note, one in five (or 20%) of Americans are actually dues-paying members at a gym or health club.

2. Gym membership prices are on the rise

People exercising in gym

Don’t be surprised if your gym membership goes up a few dollars. | iStock.com/nd3000

We know the average American is paying $54 per month for a gym membership. Where does that figure come from, and why does it seem so high? Well, it seems high (to some) because it is — the average price of a membership has risen considerably over the past several years. In fact, average dues have risen 17% in the past two years alone. And back in 2011, the average price was only $43.

3. More and more people are signing up

A man doing squats

Has your gym become a little crowded recently? | Phil Walter/Getty Images

What’s behind the price spike? It’s simple economics: There’s been a spike in demand. When demand is up, supply becomes strained, and prices climb. In other words, more and more people want and have gym memberships, leading to price increases. As Bloomberg reports, more than 1 million people per year are signing up. That puts the overall number of American gym memberships at around 55 million and counting.

4. January is an expensive month to join

Months and dates shown on a calendar

You guessed it, most people join a gym in January. | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

Demand is increasing, which means prices are increasing. And as you can probably imagine, demand is highest during a certain time of year: January. Many people make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, and sign up at a gym as a result. Health clubs know that, and because of it, tend to raise prices during that stretch. If you want to save money, don’t wait until January to become a member.

5. They’re getting at your wallet using psychology

Team KRAVE member and health and wellness expert Jillian Michaels hosted a fitness workout

Do you own a sweatshirt with your gym logo or name plastered on it? We thought so. | Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Many businesses use psychological tricks to suck more money out of you. Gyms and health clubs are no different. The Bloomberg report notes one specific way in which health clubs do this: By cultivating “tribal” experiences. You may notice people wearing merchandise related to a specific gym or workout type, like CrossFit. This isn’t by accident. By adopting you as one of their own, many gyms can get you to buy merchandise and spend more money.

6. The industry is growing rapidly

money

Health and fitness is a huge market right now. | Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

If you still don’t get it, let’s spell it out: The fitness industry is blowing up. Fast. As we’ve covered, demand is rising, and people are evidently willing to spend more and more for memberships. But the one thing that really stands out is how many gyms are operating as of early 2017. Right now, there are more than 36,000, with more to come. That’s an increase of more than 20% since 2011.

7. “Budget” gyms are growing

Inside of a Planet Fitness

Although some gyms can break the bank, others are a lot more conservative in price. | Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Planet Fitness

If that $54 per-month average struck you as extremely high, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are thousands of budget gyms that are sweeping the country, offering members low monthly prices. You know the common ones — Planet Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, etc. These lack some amenities of other higher-end joints but still allow you to put the work in. Average prices at these clubs are usually less than $20 per month.

8. Luxury gyms?

man picks up a dumbbell from a rack

If you thought $54 was expensive just wait until you hear about luxury prices. | iStock.com

What about those “luxury” gyms? You may not have even know such a thing existed, as they’re out of the average American’s price range. But they’re out there and can cost as much as $200 per month to join — or more. These chains aren’t as widespread as the budget clubs, but there’s likely one in your city. Bloomberg names one specifically, Equinox, which has 86 clubs after opening 10 new locations last year. Check it out to see the difference between a Planet Fitness and a “luxury” gym.

9. Specialty gyms can be outrageously expensive

Models stand around a SoulCycle cycle

Don’t even get us started on the cost of specialty gyms. | Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Budget gyms and luxury gyms — there are numerous types. And one of the fastest-growing types of club is the specialty gym, or those dedicated to one specific type of exercise. CrossFit can fit into this category, as can other popular chains like SoulCycle or FlyWheel, both of which offer spin classes. But they’re not cheap. SoulCycle, for example, costs $34 per class. Go three times a week, and you’re looking at more than $4,400 per year (including a discount).

10. The business model depends on you not showing up

A customer works out at a 24 Hour Fitness center

When was the last time you actually went to the gym? | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Finally, and you might already know this, a lot of these health club chains depend heavily upon one thing. That you will continue to pay them, all while not showing up to use their facilities. Seriously, there are millions of people who pay for memberships but simply never go, subsidizing the costs for those who do. NPR’s Planet Money team did a podcast about this very topic, too. Without this subset of their client base, many of these businesses would go under.

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