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Is A Gym Membership Worth It?

Is a Gym Membership worth it?  Should you be spending money on a monthly gym membership?

Hello Financial Freedom Seekers!

Today I’m fielding a question from a reader asking if a gym membership is worth it.  Basically, they are wondering if they should be spending money to pay for a monthly gym membership.

Is a Gym Membership Worth It: My Personal Experience

In my own life, health is very important to me. I personally have being and maintaining a healthy body as the number one priority in my life.

Why is health such a high priority for me?

Because if I’m not maintaining a healthy disposition, then all else fails by the wayside. If I make $1,000,000 per year but come down with a life-threatening disease because I’m not taking care of myself, what is all of that money truly worth?  I would argue very little.

Therefore, health – above all else – is of prime importance to me.  This desire to stay healthy is a big part of the reason that drives my goal towards being financially free. I never want to be in a position where I have to work relentlessly to pay for a living and in the process end up neglecting my body.

With all of that being said, my answer is naturally tilted towards saying yes to anything that will keep me healthier. All else being equal, I am fully in favor of having a gym membership in your life.

However, we only want to do this with eyes wide open.  Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of having a gym membership.

The Benefits to Having a Gym Membership

Benefit #1: Increased motivation by being around others that are working out.

It is truly motivating being around others who share my commitment to making the most of their lives by staying in good physical shape.

Though there are people of all different shapes and sizes exercising, they all share the common goal of either getting back into shape or maintaining good physical condition.

It is inspiring to see someone who is at the top of their game and maintaining it as well as someone who is obviously out of shape but for whatever reason says it is time to get back to where they want to be. I know that I personally thrive in that type of motivational environment.

Benefit #2: Increased incentive to work out because you’re paying for a service.

Whenever I make the choice to belong to a gym, I know that I will be paying for that month of service.

Knowing that I am already spending the money on the membership, it is nearly impossible for me to justify wasting those dollars that I’m spending.

Once I make the cash outlay to pay the monthly fee as well as the initial joiners fee, there’s something in my brain that says, “okay, I paid for it, I better get my money’s worth.”

As a human being, it’s only natural to demand value in return for our hard work.  We can see this playing out in many different arenas, both good and bad.

Here are two very different scenarios that play on the idea of getting our money’s worth:

Paying for and wanting to exercise = good.  

Paying for a buffet and needing to eat our fill = bad.

Rather than utilize the psychological tendency for more around eating, let’s harness that willpower and direct it towards our benefit: we can now use the same psychological tactic in our efforts to get in shape. Once the money is spent on the monthly gym membership, it is now time to get the fullest use out of it.

Benefit #3: Access to equipment that you would otherwise not have available.

Whenever I workout, I enjoy a variety of excise methods. I enjoy lifting, running, biking, playing basketball, and the occasional core class (not really but I just tell myself I do).

With these multitudes of various activities, I find that it is challenging to purchase or obtain access to all these facilities through my everyday life.

Therefore, the gym is my ideal workout situation. Not only am I exercising, but I get the variety of exercising that I seek. One day I might lift, the next day I might play basketball, followed by another day where I just do cardio and switch from the track to the bike to the stair master.

I find that this variety workout keeps my exercising fresh, my body challenge, and my motivation levels high.

Benefit #4: Team classes that you would not have on your own.

At the gym, there are multitudes of team classes that can keep you motivated, even during the challenging times of exercise. By having others exercising around you, it is only natural to push past your own limitations into the realm of vast self-improvement.

Even though I am more of a solo exerciser, I still find myself drawn to certain classes and activities that keep me engaged in a team environment. Anytime there is a good pick-up basketball game going on, I look to see if I can join.

Or perhaps I begin chatting with some of the other fellow members in the gym and before I know it, I have a new weightlifting buddy. While this is not as team-oriented as the classes, it is still has team elements that keep me motivated, engaged and exercising inside of a community environment.

Benefit #5: Exercising outside of your place of residence can help bring about a good energy and a motivational boost.

In my own place of residence, I have an exercise bike and I am debating on getting a treadmill. It is enjoyable to watch a game or movie while biking and staying in shape.  

However, I find that having my exercise equipment and my place of residence can be challenging from a “separation of duties” perspective.

When I come home from a day out on the job and go straight into exercising at home, I can begin to feel as though I never had a break.  

By only having work-home, work-home, repeated over and over, there can be a sense that something is missing in my everyday life. Therefore, a great benefit of the gym is that I have that buffer time between work and being at home.

Benefit #6: Belonging to a gym allows me to decompress and de-stress through exercise before arriving home.  

Case in point: I recently joined my local YMCA.  It is right next to the place where I am doing my consulting job at Red Wing Shoe Company, and after only a few days of exercising there, the benefits have been outstanding.

Oftentimes, the days are very stressful with a lot on my plate, lots of moving parts, and strict deadlines to adhere to. Now, instead of doing a day’s work, driving home, then and winding down in front of the TV or with dinner, I head straight to the gym and get in a great workout.

I’m finding that this is a great stress reliever in my life and has been highly beneficial. It also helps provide that buffer between work and home, and helps me to release pent-up energy built up throughout the day.

What are some of the drawbacks of a gym membership?

So perhaps you now think that a gym membership is worth it. However, to be fair to ourselves, it is now time to look at the flipside of the coin and explore some drawbacks of belonging to a gym.

Drawback #1: Paying for monthly service which you do not own.

Obviously, the first and biggest drawback is paying for a monthly gym membership in which you are ‘renting’ a service and not owning it.  While health is enough of a return on investment in and of itself, from a financial perspective, it is ‘dead money’ because it offers no returns.  

As a Financial Freedom seeker, my goal is to maximize every one of my dollars. If I am paying for a monthly gym membership in which I am not obtaining any ownership or return on capital, it is a challenging proposition. While a gym membership is certainly beneficial, paying for that gym membership, especially in a year-round good climate, is definitely a discretionary expense.

What else could we do with the $50 or $100 that we spend a monthly membership? I know that there are a lot of high-quality stocks that I could find to invest in that would grow with time and payment dividends.

Drawback #2: You do not need a gym membership to stay healthy.

Paying for a gym membership is a discretionary expense because we do not need a gym membership to stay healthy.  

Though belonging to a gym certainly helps our cause to greater health, there are a multitude of ways to stay healthy outside of paying for monthly expensive gym membership.

We could:

  • Take a walk around the park
  • Do push-ups and sit-ups in the morning
  • Buy some dumbbells that we use for a good lift each day
  • Go to the local park and play pickup basketball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, etc.

Although a gym membership is definitely a nice thing to have, it needs to be classified as a luxury in many cases.

Drawback #3: Opportunity cost with deployed capital.  

Similar to point discussed above, the amount that we spend on our gym membership cannot come back to us.

If we are spending $100 a month on the gym membership, that is money out the door with no return on investment, other than us being in better physical condition.  

Do not get me wrong – being in better physical condition is a wonderful thing. But strictly from a numbers perspective, it is money that we can no longer deploy into active or passive income ventures – i.e. investing, building a business, earning interest, etc.  

Drawback #4: An idle gym membership.

There’s nothing worse than spending money on something that we are not utilizing in our daily life. I have heard countless stories from individuals who have a decent amount of money spent on their gym membership.

However, these same individuals utilize it very infrequently or perhaps not at all. If you are someone who gets to the gym very rarely or not at all, then having a gym membership, might not be worth the monthly nut.

Drawback #5: Feeling obligated to exercise instead of enjoying the process.

I know that for some people who have a gym membership, the idea of being able to go and work out begins to become an obligation rather than a sense of enjoyment and purpose.

If you have an expensive gym membership that you are paying for every month and you begin to have a sense of trepidation right before you workout, having that monthly gym membership might not be for you. If we do have a gym membership, it is something to be enjoyed and should drive a sense of pleasure and purpose in our lives.

So is a Gym Membership Worth It?

Overall, if you are someone who does not need the gym membership to stay active and in shape, I say kudos to you. There are plenty of ways to stay in Tip-Top condition without the need to pay a monthly fee to belong to a gym.

However, if you are like me, and enjoy lifting, playing basketball, and being able to run on a track even when it’s raining or snowing outside, then a gym membership just might be for you.

The key is not to view the gym membership as an obligation, therefore forcing yourself to go exercise at the gym, but rather see the gym as just another arsenal in your tool belt to stay in great shape.

It would benefit you to begin to see the gym as an investment in your health instead of an expense that you pay. After all, your health is your wealth.


What do you think? Do you have a gym membership? Why or why not? Comment below and let’s get the conversation started!

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