Gym Scams: The Methods Your Gym Uses to Rip You Off

Have you ever noticed how advertisements for gyms make it seem like you’ll be entering a utopia of health? Everyone’s smiling, the personal trainers seem super helpful, and best of all, everyone seems to be in great shape. Once you actually join a gym, you may realize that the facade was too good to be true. The monthly membership prices you’re roped into are enough to keep that smile off your face.

Whether you’re already a gym member or you’re just signing up, be wary of these seven ways your gym may be trying to rip you off.

1. They won’t let you cancel

Two people stretch on top of mats at a gym.

The employees are trained to keep you in. |

Make sure to read between the lines and ask direct questions before signing their contract. Gyms will give you a hard enough time if you try to cancel because you “don’t go enough,” let alone if you have a legitimate inability to use their services. For example, if you move away or if your doctor says you shouldn’t go, some gyms will still prevent you from cancelling because “it’s in the contract.”

2. Even if you cancel, they may keep charging you

A man lifts weights at a gym while laying on a bench.

Keep an eye out for any extra charges. |

If you manage to part ways with your gym, keep an eye on your bank account. In a survey of 10,000 gym members, 38% who have cancelled a membership in the past three years reported major problems, including continuing to be charged after their membership had been cancelled. It’s one thing to try to prevent the cancellation from happening, but continuing to charge members post-cancellation takes the rip-off to a whole new level.

3. Their ‘certified’ personal trainers

Sports people are doing box jumps at a gym.

Personal trainers might not be worth the high cost. | Vadimguzhva/iStock/Getty Images

Be wary of the certifications your personal trainer may claim to have. It’s apparently a “completely unregulated industry,” according to Walter Thompson, Ph.D. If you’re paying even more on top of the gym membership, you’ll want to make sure the trainer you’re working with is legit.

On top of requesting the criteria managers use for hiring trainers and their years of experience, you’ll want to ensure their certification is accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Some acronyms you want to look out for include: NSCA, ACSM, NASM, and ACE.

4. They try to sell you products

Young woman working out with dumbbells in gym.

You’ll be tempted to buy smoothies and workout gear at the gym. | GeorgeRudy/iStock/Getty Images

If you are working with a personal trainer or a sales advisor, don’t be surprised if they try to sell you on some of their in-house products. Your gym might carry protein powders or supplements for you to purchase. While it may be convenient, they just want even more money out of your pocket and don’t want you spending it anywhere else. Plus, the person selling you on the product may not hold nutrition or dietetics certifications. In fact, “most fitness professionals are prohibited from giving specific nutrition advice,” according to the American Council on Exercise.

5. Their insane membership prices

A woman works out her shoulders at a gym.

You’re paying an arm and a leg to get in. | Boggy22/iStock/Getty Images

Your gym is definitely getting more money out of you than it should, even if yours is considered to be inexpensive. The average gym membership price is $58 per month, on top of any other crazy fees required when signing up. Even gyms like Planet Fitness with their $10 per month contract are making a pretty penny, because they know 67% of members don’t use their gym memberships.

With this in mind, it makes sense that gyms would sign up 10 times the number of members than they can fit in their facility at a time.

6. They rope you into monthly contracts

Young woman smiling in an exercise room.

It’s taking a toll on your bank account. | VladTeodor/iStock/Getty Images

In conjunction with jacked up membership prices, your gym has probably tried roping you into a monthly contract. The few people who actually use their gym memberships tend to only go twice a week anyway. If you fall into the zero to two times a week category like most of us, try to avoid the monthly contract.

According to Stefano DellaVigna, Ph.D., “gym users with monthly memberships can end up paying 70 percent more than on pay-per-visit plans (often in the form of a 10-visit pass).” Make sure you actually know all your choices before going with the membership option.


7. Your life could actually be in danger

Colorful dumbbells on the gym floor.

You can easily get sick at the gym. |

When it comes to your health, gyms should be taking every precaution possible. Whether or not you have health issues that you know of, you’re guaranteed to be exerting your body, which isn’t to be taken lightly.

In the event that serious cardiac issues occur, all gyms should have an automated external defibrillator on the premises. The Annals of Emergency Medicine confirm that chance of survival is over 90% with the use of an AED. However, ABC News reports that “fewer than a dozen states require gyms to have one on the premises,” let alone someone who is actually trained to use it.


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