Your new year resolution to lose weight by purchasing a gym, yoga, or dance studio membership might only make your wallet slimmer. So a pay-as-you-go plan might be a better idea.
A steadily growing industry for the past decade, the number of fitness center memberships in the United States reached 60.9 million in 2017, a 33.6 percent increase from 2008, according to a report by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). But all of these memberships are not necessarily working out.
After paying $150 to join a gym and lock in a $14.95 per month deal, Cristina Aguirre, 30, who normally visited an Xsport Fitness gym in Chicago, Illinois, encountered trouble when it came to adjusting her membership and feared it would be money out the window during her absence when she was temporarily relocated for work.
“It took about three attempts to pause my membership since I was moving away for six months,” Aguirre said, noting that she wanted to keep her membership due to the fees she would have to pay to start it up again when she returned to Chicago.
Whether people relocate, have emergencies that do not allow them to exercise, or simply find they do not have enough time to visit regularly, many have discovered it is hard to pause or break out of a membership. They end up still out the money when they are not exercising.
That is why despite the rise in memberships, there is also a surging trend to pay-as-you-go, meaning you only pay per session instead of a monthly or yearly membership, when it comes to fitness.
“I am not that committed to doing these things. I’ve bought memberships thinking it is so much cheaper, but it’s not,” said Lucy Huang, 28, who has since switched to the pay-as-you-go route.
Huang visits Yoga To the People in Saint Mark’s Village, New York, which offers sessions on a donation-based rate, starting at $10.
“It’s really good yoga, the vinyasa style that I like, so I’m getting my money’s worth,” she said, adding that the gyms she has been to do not offer “real yoga” and charge in addition to a membership in order to participate.
The pay-as-you-go trend in fitness has shaped a number of new gym, yoga, and dance studio business models which aim to allow visitors to participate at their convenience, in terms of time and money.
For instance, the founder of Fit4Dance, a dance locale in Brooklyn, New York, Laci Chisholm, decided on a combination of membership-based and pay-as-you-go offers at her dance studio, where she is also an instructor.
“Single classes encourage different people to come,” according to Chisholm. “There might be one class they like and they’ll come while it’s available, or they might be traveling in, or it’s the only day of week when they can come. In that case, they save money buying only those.”
At $18 per class or $99 for a monthly Fit4Dance membership, Chisholm makes the distinction that, on the other hand, committed people who sign up for unlimited monthly classes save more because they go more.
“Because they come so often, I’m able to break down each class to see how much they’re bringing in,” she said. That break down showed her that some visitors only end up paying $10, $5, or $2 per class, saving them at least $8 each visit compared to the single-class price.
Single classes end up being more profitable for studios and gyms, but memberships are guaranteed money for them since it is money that will go in every month, even if you don’t.
Ultimately, there are several factors to consider (work, commitment to fitness, travel, or how experimental you are feeling) in order to choose the right membership, or lack of, for yourself this year.