It’s that time of year when we vow to halt our backsides’ quests for world domination. Filled with good intentions, we descend on LA Fitness in our droves, baulk at the prices, succumb to the hard sell and tie ourselves into costly 12 month contracts. When the year is up, we’ll have parted with colossal sums for a few hours on a step machine.
These days gym membership need no longer be the wallet-crippling extravagance they have been in the past. Thanks to the rise of the discount gym, we needn’t shell out upwards of £50 each month. Here are some of the major players in the low cost gym market and what we think of them…
£17/month to cancel your contract at anytime (+£29 joining fee)
£189 annual membership (no joining fee)
Early pioneers in the low-cost gym market, FitSpace Gyms hit the UK 5 years ago and have continued to expand ever since. There are currently 8 clubs in the UK (Belfast, Lincoln, Nottingham, Cardiff, Bournmouth and several in London), but there other clubs are on the way. In signing up, you’ll get access to all of the other FitSpace Gyms in the country.
The catch: Like most of the gyms featured here, this is a ‘no frills’ gym, so don’t expect to find saunas, spas or swimming pools in any of the outlets. The Bournemouth club offers 20 free classes per week, but that’s pretty unusual. None of the other clubs offer classes, although some do have ‘virtual’ spinning classes, where fitness fanatics peddle in front of a projector screen. If you want to take advantage of the lowest membership fee, you will need to sign up to an 18 month contract, which is a long time to be tied in for.
For more information, visit their website.
The Gym Group
Price: Day pass £5/visit (no joining fee)
Generally £15.99 or £16.99/month depending on location. The Gym Group clubs in Bournmouth, Swansea and Edinburgh offer cheaper rates, while the prices creep up to £19.99 for some London clubs (all +£20 joining fee)
£19.99/month access all gyms (+ £20 joining fee)
Student discount price packages are also available, as long as you have a valid NUS card.
Winner of the National Fitness Award’s Budget Gym 2011, the Gym Group currently operates 18 gyms nationwide, with 6 more gyms due to open in the near future. Like Pure Gyms and Anytime Fitness Gyms, these clubs are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making them ideal for people who struggle to get to the gym during normal operating hours. The Gym Group won’t tie you into a contract, so you can cancel your direct debit at any time. A few outlets run free classes, notably the Ealing club, whilst others run ad hoc fitness challenges and workshops with instructors. The Birmingham club has recently introduced virtual yoga and pilates classes, where an instructor appears on a projector screen.
The catch: Like other no frills gyms, you’ll need to bring your own padlock and towel to any Gym Group outlet. If you’re expecting a full class schedule, you might be disappointed. Check your local outlet to see what’s on offer.
It’s also worth noting that these gyms are extremely popular. So popular, in fact, that some have to operate a waiting list policy, which means you won’t be able to use the gym immediately after signing up. One way of securing a limited spot at one of these gyms is to sign up before the gym opens. You will be debited 14 days after you’ve signed up and that initial payment will cover your first month’s membership at the gym. You then won’t be debited again until the second month after the gym has been opened.
For more information, check out their website.
Prices: £5/day for day pass (no joining fee)
£15.99/month for gym access (+ £25 joining fee)
£32.99/month for gym and class access (+ £25 joining fee)
The brain child of the airline maverick Stelios Haji-Iannou, easyGyms are going to be rolled out nationwide in the near future. At the moment, there are only two clubs – one in Wood Green, North London and one in Slough. These gyms offer classes, good quality new machinery and, unless you have prepaid for 12 months membership, you can cancel your contract at any time.
The catch: Currently only available in two locations, this isn’t an option for anyone who doesn’t live in North London or Slough. The gym plus class price package is costly for a supposedly low budget gym and Stelios takes his ‘no frills’ approach seriously. Don’t expect locks on the lockers (you’ll need to bring your own padlock) and expect to be turned away if you don’t bring a towel to wipe down your equipment. As with most budget gyms, there are no pool or sauna facilities.
For all the latest, visit the website.
Pay As U Gym
Prices: From £4-£19.50/day pass (no joining fee)
Variable/30 day pass (no joining fee)
Variable/90 day pass (no joining fee)
Variable/180 day pass (no joining fee)
If you can get over the text speak, Pay as U Gym is ideal for Londoners who don’t use the gym regularly. Pay as U Gym has partnered up with hundreds of London gyms, offering day passes to use their facilities. By topping up your Pay as U Gym online account, you’ll be granted credit which can be exchanged for an ePass to use at a partner gym of your choice. You can buy both swimming and gym ePasses. You won’t be tied into any contracts or direct debits. Pay as U Gym also offer 30 day, 90 day and 180 day pass options for people who are committed to using the gym more regularly.
The catch: Pay as U Gym is only available in London and can work out to be rather pricey. While some day passes are a modest £4, others are an eye-watering £19.50; pretty extortionate for a supposedly wallet-friendly gym option. It’s also worth reading your chosen gym’s small print. Some ePasses will only entitle you to use the gym OR attend a gym class. To access both, you would need to buy two ePasses, which sounds rather excessive.
For more details, visit the website.
Prices: £17.99/month outside London (+ £25 joining fee)
£24.99/month in London (+£25 joining fee)
Pricier than FitSpace, Pure Gyms are still best in class in the budget gym market. There are currently 23 clubs across the country, with more clubs opening this spring. The gyms are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making them ideal for people who struggle to get to the gym during conventional operating hours. These large gyms offer a large array of new machines and over 40 free classes per week. You won’t be tied into a contract and you can cancel your direct debit at any time. Signing up grants you access to all of the clubs nationwide, although if you’re on the lower price package you won’t be able to use the London-based facilities.
The catch: Another ‘no frills’ joint, these gyms have been likened to correctional facilities in some reviews. Don’t expect swimming pools, saunas, cafés or paper towels to wipe down equipment.
For more information, take a look at their website.
Prices: Variable from £26.95/month for the Bristol Clifton gym to £32.95 for the Hemel Hempstead club (+ £30 joining fee in both cases)
Only open in a few locations in the UK (Bristol, London and Hemel Hempstead), around 300 more clubs are promised nationwide in the near future. These gyms are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and are well stocked with plenty of cardio and weight machines. Signing up grants you access to the other Anytime gyms.
The catch: Anytime Gyms don’t market themselves as budget gyms – so naturally they’re pricier. According to reviews, staff levels can be limited, resulting in questionable customer service. You’ll also be tied into a 12 month contract, unless you opt to pay extra per month for a shorter 6 month option.
For more information, visit the website.
Do you use a low-cost gym? How have you found it? Or are you thinking of signing up?