01.New Year's intentions
The silly season is over, and it’s that time of the year when we resolve to do things differently.
It could be a commitment to exercise more, give up smoking or make some simple lifestyle changes to save money and to live more sustainably.
We take a look at some common traps to watch out for such as:
For more information about Health myths, see General health.
As soon as the holiday period is over, streets, gyms and swimming pools across the nation are full of well-intentioned folks trying to get fit and shed a few kilos. But by Easter, many of these born-again exercisers have swapped the gym or the park for the couch and some chocolate.
A recent Australian report by IBISWorld shows that “going to the gym” is now listed as the second most popular activity after walking, and it’s projected that in the current financial year Australians will spend $2.9 billion on the fitness industry. At the same time we continue to rate as one of the most obese nations on the planet, so it seems that while many of us might actually join the gym and pay for memberships – we aren’t necessarily going.
And new gym chains continue to pop up like mushrooms, offering something for everyone. There are the glitzy chain gyms like Fitness First and Virgin Active, women only gyms such as Fernwood, and the latest fad the 30-minute workout gyms such as Fit ‘n Fast.
Many gyms do require members to commit to costly memberships and a past CHOICE investigation revealed that many gyms use aggressive sales techniques to sign members up and even more aggressive techniques to try and keep you on, should you decide that you don’t want to go anymore.
Before you rush to sign up at a gym why not stop and consider the alternatives? Swimming is cheap and offers a great low impact workout, running can work for some, and the cheapest and easiest exercise of all - walking.
For more ideas see our article on exercise myths and tips, and even a guide on how to set up your own home gym for less than $100.
Trapped – check the fine print
If you have your heart set on the gym be wary of special offers, promotions and verbal promises.
- Never take the salesperson’s word when it comes to offers and always take the gym contract home and read all the terms and conditions before you sign up. When CHOICE conducted a shadow shop of gym sales tactics some of the gyms refused to hand over the contract they expected the member to sign. This contravenes the code of practice set out by the industry body Fitness Australia and should ring alarm bells for the consumer.
- If you do have the contract watch out that the fees listed on the contract are the same as the price that has been quoted to you, in particular check the administration fees for setting up or renewing your membership. These are non-refundable even if you cancel the contract during the cooling-off period.
- Cancellations can also cost - many gyms charge up to $300 to do so.
What to consider before joining a gym
- Consider your needs. Is the gym convenient to get to? What will happen if you move or change jobs? Does it provide childcare if you need it? Does the gym have enough machines/lockers/space? Visit the gym several times and at the times you plan to visit.
- Check if the gym is a member of Fitness Australia at www.fitness.org.au or call 1300 211 311. Members must comply with the Fitness Code of Practice which includes providing a copy of the contract to members and a cooling off period upon joining.
- Don’t be pressured into signing up on the spot. Consider a casual membership for a month or a few visits to see if the gym is right for you. Be wary of special offers, promotions and verbal promises.
- Many gyms ask for payments by direct debit but even when your membership expires it doesn’t mean the direct debits will stop. Check the contract before you sign. If the fitness centre continues taking payments, talk to your financial institution asap.
- If you need to cancel your membership, check your contract to see what is required. Even if the contract requires you to visit the centre to cancel in person, it is also wise to do it in writing. Then you can prove the date you requested for the membership to end.
There's an app for that:
Couch to 5k
Available for iPhone, iPod and Android this handy little app will help get you into shape using a simple three-day-a-week workout program spanning nine weeks. It will guide you through an interval training session step by step as well as playing music of your choice.