Real Life

Consumer: Choosing the right gym

Exercise caution when choosing a gym.

Looking for a gym? Most cities have many to choose from. But some are better – and safer – than others.

A warrant of fitness

There’s no law requiring gyms to have adequate facilities or trained staff, but there is a voluntary standard that many gyms have signed up to.

The New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals is a joint initiative between the fitness industry and the Government-funded training organisation, Sfrito.

To be registered, a fitness centre has to meet certain standards. The staff have to be properly trained and qualified, and must regularly upskill. The gym has to provide a safe environment for exercising, and have a complaints procedure. It’s also bound by a code of ethics to treat you fairly.


There has been negative publicity about being locked into long-term contracts after people wanted to cancel.

Like any contract, your agreement with your gym is legally binding. Make sure you fully understand the terms before you sign up. Can you put your membership on hold or cancel it, or are you bound to keep paying for a particular term? If you do put your membership on hold, is there a fee? What happens if you change jobs or move towns – can you transfer? (This usually entails an additional fee.)

Try to avoid long-term commitments until you’ve used the gym for several months and feel comfortable it meets your needs. Once you’ve signed a long-term contract, you’re committed.


Choose a gym that’s close to home or work. If you’re going in the mornings or lunchtimes, pick one near work. If you’re driving, is there free parking?


If you’re new to the gym scene, you’ll need an all-round fitness and medical assessment. This should include checks for high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis or chest pains. You may also be asked what medications you’re taking. This information will help gym staff develop a suitable programme. If you have a medical condition, consult your GP before you start any physical activity.

Personal goals

A good gym should help you determine why you are joining – to improve fitness and health, lose weight, tone muscles, or train for a particular event. If you set goals, you are more likely to stay motivated. Goals should be “SMART” – that’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and set to an appropriate timeframe.


Check the staff are registered exercise professionals. If you have a medical condition, do they have specific training in exercise suitable for your needs? Are they friendly? Is there constant supervision?


Is the ambience (lights, TV, music) to your liking? What are the showers and changing rooms like? Are there hairdryers and lockers? Is equipment well maintained?

Flexible membership

Joining a chain can be a good idea if you travel around the country, or if you want the option of going to a gym near your home or work. Check you won’t have to pay extra to use another of its gyms. Also, pricing structures may vary between branches, so investigate which branch offers the cheapest joining fee.

Sue Chetwin CEO Consumer NZ

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