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Cheap Gym Membership

Free gym passes & memberships from £10/mth

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Sarah M | Edited by Gary

Updated 29 Apr 2016

Far too many people lock into costly unbreakable contracts and then end up never using the gym. This guide will take you through whether you need to pay at all, and if you do, how to shed the pounds while saving £££s at the same time.

This is a full list of the latest free trials, pay-as-you-go deals and no-frills gyms from £10-ish/month. Plus see what to watch out for with contracts, and what to do when membership goes wrong.

Don't commit unless you'll use it

As summer looms, many of you pledge to get fit and join a gym. But a few months later, as the sun (and your enthusiasm) fades, half of you will disappear from the treadmills.

Don't be a gym dropout

Gyms aren't cheap. Those surging with good first-time fitness intentions should remember there's a good chance motivation may dwindle.

If you're locked into a contract, you could be paying £100s a year for nothing.

Never think a gym costs £50/month. If you're considering a year's contract, always multiply it by 12 and think of it as a yearly cost.

Remember, £50/month over 12 months is £600. And don't forget to factor in any administration or joining fees to the monthly charge.

#gymfail

If you're throwing away cash on unused membership each month and are out of contract, cancel, otherwise you're only keeping your wallet trim as these #gymfail tweets show:

Paid £270 for a year's membership, went for one swim. Most expensive swim ever.

I used to pay £102/month for a family gym membership for 1 year - I only went five times.

Grab free gym passes

Before you join the gym, grab a free trial to test whether the new fitness regime's for you. You can also ask a mate whether their gym gives them free guest passes, and work out with them for free.


Fitness First: free 3-day pass

75 clubs in England and Ireland

Get a free three-day pass by registering with Fitness First*. You'll then get an email with your voucher. You'll need to activate your offer by calling the club you plan to to go to. Find your nearest Fitness First*.

Valid at all First Blue and Platinum clubs, but not Black Label clubs. Over-16s only.

Fitness First also runs a 'bring a friend free on Friday' offer which gets a mate in for a free workout. You just need to sign them in at reception. (Excludes Tottenham Court Road, Baker Street, South Kensington, Clapham Junction Station, London Bridge Cottons, Thomas More Square, Highbury, Angel, Streatham, Charing Cross and Gracechurch Street branches.)


FitSpaceFitSpace: free 3-day pass

8 clubs in England

Smaller chain FitSpace* has eight branches in England. It's a no-frills gym, but several MoneySavers are fans.

Just fill in the form by 30 June 2016 to get your free MSE Blagged 3-day pass.


Nuffield Health: free 1-day pass

75 clubs across England and Scotland

Anyone can get a free one-day pass by filling in the form on the Nuffield website - find your nearest club.

It's one pass per person and you must book an appointment at your local Nuffield Health gym in order to take up the offer. The pass is only valid for seven days, so wait until you're ready before you sign up.


Xercise4Less: free 1-day pass

35 clubs across England and Scotland

Xercise4Less has 35 branches, mostly in the north of England, including Leeds, Wakefield and Wigan. Fill in the form to get your free 1-day pass.

Xercise4Less also offers free exercise classes for 3-5 year olds. This is an ongoing offer, and you don't need to be a member - simply register your child online to take part.


Q-Hotels: free 1-day pass

24 clubs across England and Scotland

Get a free one-day gym pass for you and a friend by filling in your details on the Q-Hotels website.

Q-Hotels is a chain of 4* hotels which has 24 health clubs across England and Scotland. Find your nearest health club.


Total Fitness: free 1-day pass

17 clubs in the north of England

Request a free one-day guest pass by filling in the form at Total Fitness.

There are 17 branches in the north of England, including Chester, Hull and Liverpool.


Thistle Hotels: free 1-day pass

13 clubs across England and Scotland


Request a free one-day gym pass by filling in your details on the Thistle Hotels website.

Thistle Hotels is a chain of hotels, which has 13 leisure clubs across England and Scotland. Find your nearest leisure club.

Free bootcamps & outdoor classes

If you prefer to work out in the great outdoors, there are plenty of completely free classes you can attend in parks across the UK.


BMFBritish Military Fitness: free 7-day pass

140 locations across mainland UK

These outdoor boot camp style sessions can really put you through your paces. Just fill in the British Military Fitness free seven-day pass form by 31 Dec 2016.

Do note that while the form may appear to be for one free class only, your confirmation email will have all the correct details of the seven-day deal - as long as you enter the code MSE2016.

You can go to an unlimited amount of outdoor classes, within seven consecutive days. You must be 16 or over and not a current or past BMF member. Find your nearest.

Your pass starts on the day you fill out the form online - so wait until you're ready to get started before signing up.


parklivesPark Lives: free yoga, pilates, Zumba & more

Outdoor classes across England & Scotland

If you go online to free fitness initiative ParkLives, you can sign up for completely free exercise classes for adults and children held in more than 130 outdoor locations across Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, Newham in London and Nottingham (find your nearest park).

There are 69 different classes to choose from, including yoga, pilates, Zumba, bootcamp, family rounders & baby ballet. Classes like this would normally cost £5-£10ish, but it's worth bearing in mind that all ParkLives sessions are outdoors - so if you fancy taking part, wrap up warm.

See our Park Lives deal for more info.


parklivesOur Parks: free yoga, Zumba, boxfit & more

Outdoor classes across London & Bedfordshire

If you go online to free fitness initiative Our Parks, you can sign up for completely free exercise classes for adults and children held in more than 50 locations across London and Bedfordshire (see ‘more info’ below for the full list).

There are 28 different classes to choose from, including yoga, pilates, Zumba, bootcamp, dance, tots tennis and kids fitness (see ‘more info’ for all classes included). It provides free group exercise classes mostly in parks, but also in community centres and libraries during winter.

Classes like this would normally cost £5-£10ish, but it's worth noting that some of the calmer classes in particular, would normally be indoors.

See our Our Parks deal for more info.


Pay-as-you-go from £5

Paying as you go can work out more expensive. Yet if you've used up free passes or you're new to gyms, it can be worth paying a little more for a few months until you're sure you'll continue.


PayasUgym.co.ukPayasUgym

PayasUgym* acts as a 'gym broker', selling pay-as-you-go passes for more than 2,000 gyms across the UK - from local council-run centres to posh spas. Gyms which feature on the site must offer at least a 10% discount on the cost of a day pass compared to going direct.

As an example, Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is £9 per visit via PayasUgym, but it's £10 per visit if you go direct.

Just enter your postcode to browse nearby gyms, which each have a star rating from other users. Then register and load your account to buy passes. It sends an email and text message - flash either at reception within 30 days of buying. What's good about PayasUgym is if you can't make a session, you can cancel for a refund.

Call the gym to check it's not cheaper direct. If you use PayasUgym, please tell us your experiences.


Here are some of the main pay-as-you-go gym options:

  • The Gym - day pass from £4.99. The Gym has more than 70 branches in England, Scotland and Wales. Gyms are open 24 hours a day and MoneySavers say equipment is plentiful and high quality.

  • Simply Gym - day pass from £6. A fairly new player, Simply Gym has 12 centres including Cheltenham, Reading and Wrexham. It offers classes to non-members for £4, and a day pass is £6. However if you go via gym broker PayasUgym*, you can currently get a discounted day pass for £5.40.

  • Pure Gym - day pass from £5.99. No-frills chain Pure Gym has more than 150 branches across the UK, including several in London, Edinburgh and Manchester.

  • EasyGym - day pass from £6.99. If you live in Birmingham, Cardiff, Southampton or London (and like the colour orange), EasyGym is another option. It offers day passes from £6.99, depending on the location of the club.


Slash the cost of gym membership

So, you've decided a gym membership is for you. Here's a comprehensive set of tips to ensure you pay as little as possible.

No-frills gyms from £10/month

If you can do without saunas, jacuzzis and fit gym instructors, there's been an explosion in no-frills gyms, with prices from £10-£20/month. You can usually cancel any time and MoneySavers' feedback is hugely positive.

More are opening every month, so if you can't find one near you, check again later. The other boon is that there's often no minimum contract length, though you may need to bring your own towel, shower gel and padlock for the locker!

Read more on cheap-as-chips chains:

Consider special short-term memberships

Longer trials are a good halfway house between paying as you go and signing up for a year's contract. They're usually more expensive than annual memberships, but you're free to go elsewhere once the trial's up, or to stop paying if you no longer go.


Fitness First: one-month membership

You can get a one-month membership at Fitness First from £19, depending on where you live. Find your nearest club.


PayasUgym.co.uk PayasUgym

If you can't get a short-term membership direct from your local gym it's worth going via gym membership broker PayasUgym* which sells five-day, 30-day and 90-day passes for more than 1,500 gyms, including Simply Gym, Bannatyne's Health Clubs and Active4Less.

While a one month pass for Simply Gym in Reading costs £19.99 direct, there's a £20 joining fee. From PayasUgym, it's a bit more expensive at £25, but there's no joining fee and once your month's up, that's it.

Many are discounted, but how good it is depends on your local gym - just do a search in your area to find details. Always check what the gym offers directly too.


Exchange loyalty points for gym passes

nectar

Nectar Swim

Nectar Swim* lets you exchange your points for a pass to a local pool.

Normally, 500 Nectar points are worth £2.50 to spend at Sainsbury's. With Nectar Swim it's 300 points for a kids' pass or 500 points for an adult. You can also get a family pass (two adults and two children) for 1,500 points.


clubcard

Tesco Clubcard

When you convert Clubcard vouchers into Tesco Boost* tokens they're worth up to four times as much as when you spend them in-store.

Nuffield Health* accepts £18.50 worth of Clubcard vouchers for a one month trial membership and £5 in vouchers gets £15 to spend at PayasUgym.com*.

There's more on maximising Clubcard points and reclaiming lost vouchers in our Tesco Boost guide.

Cut the cost of year-long contracts

Swanky gyms want you to think contract prices are fixed. They're not. The gym sector is fiercely competitive, so there are tons of ways to slim down the price such as:

Haggle, haggle, haggle

Check if your employer offers cheap corporate membership

Get a mate to refer you

Find special new gym rates

Go off-peak

What to watch out for in contracts

Gym contract fine printIf you're signing up for a year, remember sales staff often work on commission. So if their slick patter says "if you're ill you can freeze membership, or take a holiday", ask to see it in the contract.

If they say, "It's not there, but it's fine", make notes there which have legal weight and, if possible, get them to sign to show the promise.

Here's a list of what to check. For further examples, read this useful publication by the Office of Fair Trading (the OFT has since been replaced by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), but its guidance is still relevant).

  • Be wary of 1yr+ contracts. This is the biggie. Be wary of contracts longer than 12 months. Also check that they don't renew it automatically.
  • Check what notice you need to give. Even when you're out of contract, gyms often require 30 days' notice to cancel. Make sure you understand these conditions.
  • Ask what happens if your circumstances change. Check the policy if you are ill or injured, move house, get pregnant or change jobs. Think about the proof you'll need, such as a doctor's letter. Can you freeze your membership or transfer it to someone else?
  • Ask what happens if your favourite service stops. If you're only joining because the gym offers a creche, Zumba dance classes or certain equipment, check if you're allowed to cancel if this is withdrawn.
  • Note whether the contract automatically renews. Most contracts for gym membership automatically continue once the initial membership period expires. Make a note of the date by which you should inform them if you don't want this to happen.
  • Check others' feedback. If you're taking a free trial, ask folk in the changing room if they're happy with the gym's contract or service (wait till they're decent first!).

Work out without a gym

You don't need to join a gym to get buff. If you're on a budget, read these quick tips on working out without a gym:

Free apps and online fitness videos

If you have a smartphone, or can workout at home in front of your computer, there a plenty of free workout apps and online videos you can use to get fit for free. Take a look at our Deals Hunters blog to see our Top 10 free fitness videos and smartphone apps.

Free Sweaty Betty classes

Women's fitness shop Sweaty Betty offers free pilates, ballet and other fitness classes (for men and women) at more than 30 branches across the country. You need to sign up for its free membership card, then call or pop into your nearest store to book a session.

Buy some running shoes and run outside

Rather than paying for the privilege of being sandwiched between two sweaty blokes while listening to dodgy house music, run in the park for free. All you need is a pair of trainers. For free weekly 5k timed runs, check out Parkrun.

Do a work-out outside the gym

Examine your fitness requirements. You can run, cycle, do light weights (with those bottles of pop), yoga and a lot more without gym membership. Why not do workout DVDs with friends or see if there is an Outdoor Gym near you?

Buy your own weights or equipment using special discounts

Amazon often offers 75%+ reductions, yet it directs people to other areas, sending them to products with higher profit margins instead.

There's a geeky way to manipulate Amazon's web links to display all heavily-reduced bargains. All you need to do is fiddle with Amazon web addresses (URLs) to bring up lists of knockdown prices, eg, running gear 75%+ off*, fitness equipment 55%+ off* & Sportswear 75%+ off*. See the Amazon Discount Finder guide for full details.

If you are looking to start free weight lifting though, bear in mind it can be dangerous, so seek medical/professional help before you do yourself any injury!

Join the Debt-Free Wannabe Running Club

Join the Debt-Free Wannabe Running Club, where MoneySavers support and help each other reach their goals.

Tennis for free

Children, young people and families can get free tennis coaching sessions and free use of thousands of tennis courts across the UK with Tennis For Free. Free coaching sessions run at weekends and are suitable for all ages, with equipment also provided for free.

Your gym cancellation rights

Escaping a gym contract can be more difficult than outrunning Usain Bolt (even when he's only warming up). Sadly there's no one-set of rules when it comes to your cancellation rights, though gym-goers have been given more protection in recent years.

What rules there are are based on a hotchpotch of different guidelines, codes of conduct and legal precedents, so it's rarely black and white. But you SHOULD normally have some protection.

You can also check to see if the Office of Fair Trading's (OFT's) guidelines on unfair terms, some of which we've listed below, apply. The OFT has since been replaced by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), though these guidelines are likely to still be relevant.

  • You MAY be able to cancel if your gym's made big changes. The OFT's guidelines say contracts are unfair if they allow clubs to supply something different from what was agreed, unless the change is minor. So if, for example, your gym closes its creche you may be able to leave.
  • It's unfair if they've drastically hiked prices. If your contract says the club's allowed to make unrestricted membership fee hikes, this is likely to be considered unfair.
  • The gym shouldn't auto-extend your contract. The guidance says it's unfair to automatically extend contracts, relying on people's inertia or ignorance.
  • Membership terms should be clear. The OFT (now the CMA) told gyms that contracts should clearly explain minimum membership periods and notice periods. If the wording's unclear, you may have a case.

The following three rules should also apply. Six of the big chains – LA Fitness, Dave Whelan Sports Ltd, Harlands Group Ltd, Fitness First, David Lloyd's and Bannatyne's – agreed to them after an OFT investigation in 2013. They're also written into UKactive's code of practice, which more than 3,500 members are signed up to.

  • If there's a change in circumstance you MAY be able to cancel. If a change in circumstance such as serious injury or job loss makes going to the gym difficult or unaffordable, you may be able to cancel mid-contract – though it'll depend on the nature of the change in circumstance.
  • The gym shouldn't say it's a fixed contract length if it isn't. If membership automatically continues on a rolling basis after the initial period expires, the gym should be clear about this.
  • The gym should be transparent about key membership features. For example, it should be clear about your cancellation rights, and this info should be provided upfront as part of the sales process.

If you think your gym isn't complying with these standards you can report it to the CMA.

MoneySavers' cancellation successes

Here's what some of you said when we asked you to let us know if you managed to cancel your gym membership:

My gym cancelled my membership during the 12-month contract period. I just went in and asked if they could because I was having to move away, and they did it straightaway, no problem.

I've been a member at Virgin Active for years, and now I've a new job, it's difficult to get out during the day, the classes I love have changed time so I'm hardly going these days. I decided to cancel and I was ready to argue. But I got an email to say it's all sorted and my membership will cease. Easy peasy!

A friend was four months into a 12-month contract and wasn't using the gym much. I advised him to write a letter asking if they would allow him out of the contract as he wasn't getting full use of his membership. A week later, he thanked me and said the gym had been brilliant and allowed him to terminate with no penalties.

Let us know how you got on in the Cheap Gym Membership forum discussion.

How to complain

If your gym's breaching the contract or it contains unfair terms, you've every right to fight back. It's always worth trying to complain in person first, but if that doesn't work...

Free tool if you’re having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It’s totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver can escalate it for free to UKactive, the trade group for gyms.

If your gym isn't listed on the Resolver site yet, or you prefer to complain direct, try following the steps below:

Step 1: Complain in writing

Step 2: Complain to UKactive

Step 3: If all else fails: take 'em to court