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Gym memberships: more than half report price hikes – Which? News



Price rises might be the reason you fall out of love with your gym membership this February.

In a survey of nearly 2,000 gym-goers in October 2023, 55% told Which? that their gym membership had increased in price in the past two years. 

And, while the average cost of membership among those surveyed was typically £25-50, 10% of people said they’re paying more than £100 a month. 

Gyms that charge these kinds of premiums typically provide more high-end facilities – such as swimming pools, spas and saunas – than more budget-friendly chains. But even with these extras, many users weren’t convinced they were getting value for money.

If you’re happy with a more no-frills gym experience, it’s not all doom and gloom. 22% of respondents were paying less than £25 a month, showing there are good budget options if you shop around.

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Gym costs are hard to compare

We found there can be big differences in price within the same gym chain depending on where it is and what facilities are available. 

At Virgin Active and David Lloyd for example, some branches cost more than four times as much for the cheapest ‘standard’ 12-month membership as others. 

Gym membership costs by brand

We compared the ‘standard’ monthly membership price for each brand in a range of locations to see how much they differed:

  • Anytime Fitness: £24.95 – £56.99
  • Bannatyne Health Club & Spa: £31.99 – £79.99
  • Better Leisure: £21 – £59
  • David Lloyd: £59 – £249
  • Everyone Active: £14.99 – £44.99
  • Fitness First: £38 – £109
  • The Gym Group: £17.99 – £36.99
  • JD Gyms: £19.99 – £29.99 
  • Nuffield Health: £27 – £119
  • PureGym: £17.99 – £42.99
  • Total Fitness: £49 – 66
  • Virgin Active: £61.99 – £275*

Some locations, such as central London or major city-based gyms, are understandably pricier due to higher overheads associated with prime locations, but it’s worth sense-checking where your local gym prices sit on the scale and shopping around to find the best deal in your area.

While a convenient location can be key to building the gym into your daily routine, a bit of flexibility on where you go might help save you money.

Does paying more pay off?

Paying a premium didn’t automatically result in gym-goers feeling like they were getting value for money, according to our survey. Even if features such as facilities were rated highly, users of some kitted-out gym brands still gave lower ratings for value.

Some cheaper gyms, on the other hand, got good ratings across the board, with two of the more budget-friendly chains finishing in the top five for overall customer score.

To see which gyms were rated best value by members, check our full guide to the best-rated gyms

Why it’s worth wangling a gym membership discount

People enjoying a sauna at a gym

Membership prices are often split further into an array of pricing tiers – usually including an off-peak or limited package, a standard package and a ‘premium’ or additional package.

If you can be flexible about when you go, you should be able to save with an off-peak membership. 

There are also discounts for certain groups, such as students or NHS staff, which can be substantial – in some cases around 30%. 

40% of survey respondents told us they don’t pay full price for their membership, so it’s always worth checking what you might be eligible for.

Our pricing research

Our pricing data is based on all available and open locations for each gym brand with prices gathered from retailer’s websites in early 2024.

For comparison, we focused on the cheapest ‘standard’ membership (eg excluding off-peak only). Where 12-month contracts were the only option, we’ve based numbers on that (Anytime Fitness, Bannatyne Health Club, David Lloyd, Fitness First, Nuffield Health, Total Fitness, Virgin Active). The rest are monthly subscriptions.

David Lloyd prices selected are for Plus packages or Platinum and Diamond Plus if Plus was not available as an option. 

Better Leisure prices selected are for Centre memberships (one location) or Partnership memberships (multiple locations) where Centre was not available as an option.

Additional joining fees are not included in our list of membership prices. 

Best exercise bikes – prefer to exercise at home? See our pick of the best-rated fitness bikes

Top gym gripes revealed

People using headphones at the gym

When asked about their biggest issues with their gym membership, the most common response from gym-goers in our survey was the high cost or recent price increases. 

One respondent told us they considered their current membership with a premium gym to be ‘eye-wateringly expensive’. 

It’s worth thinking about how much you use your gym, and what you use it for the most when deciding whether to renew. If you’re paying higher prices for a gym with flashy extras but you only go to lift weights, consider swapping for a budget gym.

Another gripe some experienced, particularly in cheaper gym chains, was not being able to access certain areas or equipment. 

For some, this was due to faulty machines not being repaired quickly enough. For others, there was frustration in regularly finding classes overbooked. But more commonly there was an issue was with gyms being too busy and regularly overcrowded to the point where ‘there aren’t enough machines to accommodate everyone’. 

The best ways around this are either avoiding peak times when going for your workouts, or looking for a slightly more out of the way – or bigger – gym. 

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One in five intimidated by the gym

One in five people in our survey told us they found going to the gym intimidating. 

This is mainly down to a fear of being judged by others when working out, being intimidated by other gym regulars around you or being worried you’re performing a workout incorrectly. 

It can be tough getting out of your comfort zone and starting a new routine, but there are ways to tackle gym nerves:

  • Go with a friend – It’s always comforting having a familiar face around a new environment, and it’s especially helpful if you know someone who’s a regular gym-goer and can show you the ropes.
  • Avoid peak hours – If you go to the gym just after work in the early evening, being surrounded by what feels like a whole city of people working out might not help you feel at home. Aim to beat the crowds in more off-peak times to have more space to yourself.
  • Have a plan – Having to make decisions on what to do next on the spot can be stressful if you’re new to gym training. Going in armed with a plan of exercises and how to perform them ahead of time will help you feel confident in what you’re doing. If it’s your first time at a location, take a tour of the gym to familiarise yourself with the set-up.
  • Prioritise comfort – Don’t feel like you need to wear the latest flashy gym gear. Opt for something you feel comfortable in.

Need more exercise kit? Learn how to set up a home gym and see our pick of the best yoga mats and best paddleboards

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