/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Are you wasting cash on an unused gym membership?

Close-up of gym shows on treadmill

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to get fit? How’s it going… not so well? Brits are wasting millions of pounds on unused gym memberships – not the best use of our money in these cash-strapped times.

A couple of weeks back I wrote about the cost of joining a gym. A survey showed that a third of people thought it was too expensive – I didn’t disagree.

I’ve been gyming since my uni days, which back then came with the advantage of a student discount.

But I have a dirty secret – I’m still paying for that same (unused) gym membership I started all those years ago. It’s come with a pretty unhealthy repeated direct debit.

Naturally, I haven’t been stupid enough to pay full price all this time. Instead, I’ve had my contract on a ‘freeze’ fee at just a few pounds a month. Why? The contract’s with one of the big gym franchises and if I wanted to re-enrol I’d be able to carry over my student rate monthly subscription. Plus, there’s also that cancellation fee.

Nevertheless, there’s no hiding the fact that this contract should have been cancelled a long time ago. And it’s not just because I’ve been too lazy to get on the treadmill for quite some time – I’ve now joined another, completely different gym at a knock down £27 a month.

Millions wasted on unused gym memberships

Many of us make the New Year’s resolution to get fit or lose weight, but how long do we actually follow through? A couple of months? A year at best? Do we cancel our gym membership? No.

Research by online accountants Crunch.co.uk has found that three-quarters of the 3,000 people it asked weren’t keeping their get-fit resolutions. This means that a staggering £37m is being wasted on gym memberships, exercise and slimming classes every year in the UK.

Forgotten direct debits deduct cash months after we’ve ditched the dumbbells, causing the average adult to lose £303 a year, with another £158 spent on unused sports equipment.

Just do something about it

And we’re in a recession – we should be saving money, not wasting it! Which? Convo commenter Danny had to take action when cash was short, ‘When a change of circumstances meant we had to drastically cut back financially, my gym membership unfortunately had to be sacrificed,’ he said.

Yes, you might join the gym with good intentions, but if you don’t end up going, what’s the point? So here’s the dilemma – are you going to cancel your unused gym membership, or are you going to get up and go?

If it’s the latter, check out our tips to save on gym membership, such as trying to find a cheaper gym (if you can) or going with someone else to egg you on. Otherwise that money will keep draining out of your account while you continue to pile on the pounds.


Here’s a tip: go to a decent sports shop (i.e. not Sports Direct or JJB), get someone to examine your feet and recommend a shoe, get some all weather clothing and hit the roads. Even better, go with a partner and make it a regular event at a regular time.

Get a half decent bike, maybe through a Cycle to Work scheme, get a decent helmet, some decent lights, decent all weather gear and hit the roads.

Get some dumbbells and use them.

The initial outlay will have paid for itself in non-existent gym fees within a year. And don’t forget to keep those trainers up to speed, maybe every 3-6 months.

Finally, get into a routine of cooking healthy food – fish and salads and use the internet to make tasty marinades and healthy dressings.

The secret to all of this is the same as going to a gym – routine. Only not as expensive.

I’m a keen runner but also enjoy the gym. My local gym has a ncie approach. I pay-as-I-go (£5) every time but don’t have a subscription membership. However, what they do offer is an incentive whereby if I go ten times, my eleventh visit is free – it works on a simple stamp system.

Chris says:
3 March 2011

Go to one run by a local council – reasonable rates & no tie ins of weird exit fees. You know it makes sense. I’ve used the local one for 2 years & it comes with online system fitlinxx built in so ican “compete” with myself (and occasionally others) in how many calories / weights i can do. Fabulous & i’m fitter now in my 50’s than i was in my 30’s

Talking Heads. says:
4 March 2011

What is the point of this article? All you have said is that if we are not using our gym membership, we should cancel it. The article goes no deeper than that. All your articles are pretty similar. If I met you in a pub, you would probably bore the **** out of me.

Ringo says:
4 March 2011

I have to agree with talking heads. Journalists who are just a mouthpiece for government rhetoric provide nothing for the public. Stop telling us we should ‘cut back’, everyone gets enough of that already, write something politically challenging for crying out loud.

hazelinlondon says:
31 March 2011

I’ve just had an interesting experience. Signed up to a franchise gym which is done in a very automated fashion by monthly direct debit. The contract gets sent direct to your email but at no point during the sale transaction is there an opportunity for the buyer to read the contract. I now find that a) I have agreed to the gym sharing my data with third parties, b) I have declined the offer of a discounted full annual membership (never offered to me in the sales transaction),and c) I cannot cancel until after the Initial Term, a defined term of ‘the minimum duration of the agreement’ which is not otherwise stated anywhere.
Invoke Consumer Credit Act, I think! Any advice? (Other than caveat emptor – I know, I know, I allowed myself to be railroaded.)