Fitness à la carte

Gyms that cater to different ways of working out
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02.Rules and regulations

The great outdoors

If air-conditioned comfort isn’t your thing, structured outdoor fitness classes are proliferating in parks and on beaches around the country. Outdoor group training, particularly boot camp-style workouts complete with yelling and pushing to the limits, is conducted by personal-training companies or individuals, or affiliated with regular gyms.

More recently, informal or casual groups have sprung up, often organised by social media or on websites such as Meetup. The idea is that anyone can come along, and they often emphasise the social as well as the physical aspects of exercise. Some involve costs, and some are free, with people taking turns to devise workouts.

They can be a great way to introduce variety and fun into an exercise regime, but organisers or leaders aren’t beholden to the same health and safety standards as registered professionals, and may not have liability cover. Your best bet, according to McCallum, is to ensure that exercise professionals hold a current qualification, registration, and appropriate insurance. “If the exercise professional is not appropriately credentialed then there is a higher risk of liability and injury,” he warns.

"No contract" contracts

“No contracts!” scream the ads. With gym contracts rating high on the alarm bell scale, alongside emails from Nigerian businessmen with loads of money to share with you, the idea of gym membership with no contract is very appealing. But is there any such thing?

Technically, no. If you’re going to join a gym, you’ll almost always have to sign a form authorising the gym to direct debit your bank account or credit card. That’s a contract. You’ll also have to agree to the terms and conditions of using the facility – that’s another contract. The only way to use a gym without signing a contract is to pay per visit.

What this claim likely means is that you don’t have to sign a long-term contract – in other words, you don’t have to sign up for a full year, or some other fixed period. Instead, they just debit your account monthly until you tell them to stop. This can be a good option if you don’t know if you want to commit - although if you are prepared to commit to long-term membership, it may be cheaper per month, and they’ll often waive joining fees and provide other benefits (such as regular program reviews).

Before signing up to anything, including “no contract” contracts, check the cooling-off period, their cancellation policy (how much notice you have to give, and whether it has to be in writing or in person), conditions and allowances for putting membership on hold (illness, injury, holiday and so on), and any financial penalties for breaking a term contract early.

What’s next?

Women-only gyms have been around for many years now, including the leading chains Fernwood, Curves and Contours. More recently, many large gyms have introduced “ladies only” areas, largely in response to a perceived market need. The idea is to provide a non-intimidating exercise environment while still delivering the services and facilities associated with a large fitness centre.

Similarly, many larger, traditional gyms have responded to consumer desires with 24-hour or extended-hours access, fast workouts, and the latest indoor and outdoor workout crazes.

Fitness Australia points out that the fitness industry is constantly evolving, with different niche markets developing. Andrew McCallum predicts that while the industry will always have full-service facilities, some of these services will also branch out to include on-site allied health services, such as physiotherapy and podiatry.

More information

Fitness Australia is the main peak body for the fitness industry in Australia; the other is Physical Activity Australia. Member gyms and fitness professionals agree to their codes of conduct.

Find out how much and what type of exercise you need for good health by checking out the National Physical Activity Guidelines.


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