Cheap Gym Membership & Fitness
About This Event
We've all been there, signing up to a new gym filled with good intentions and notions of visible abs and biceps. Yet most of us never actually go to the gym and find that contracts are hard to break. This guide will take you through whether you need to pay for a gym at all, and if you do, how to shed pounds whilst saving £££s.
This is a full list of the deals we've found, from the latest free trials and pay-as-you-go deals to no-frills gyms from £10-ish/month. Plus, learn what to watch out for with contracts, and what to do when membership goes wrong.
Update: Gyms are now closed. Most of the larger gym chains are automatically freezing payments and memberships until your gym re-opens. If you're due a refund for days in March you weren't able to use, many gyms are saying this will be credited once the gym re-opens. We're still updating our information and checking facts, but here's the information we've found from each gym's website:
Whether it's feeling the urge to undo Christmas overindulgence, or thinking about your 'beach bod' in spring, many of us suddenly feel the need to join a gym at certain times of the year. However, joining on a whim can often mean you end up in a lengthy contract with a gym membership you don't use.
Don’t get caught up in the fitness hype
First things first, never think of a gym membership in terms of its monthly cost but a yearly expenditure instead. For instance, a £50/month membership will set you back £600 over the year. And don't forget to factor in any administration or joining fees to the monthly charge.
If you're throwing away cash on an unused membership each month and are out of contract, cancel, otherwise the only thing you'll be keeping trim is your wallet as these.
Before you join the gym or a fitness group, 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.
Xercise4Less: free 5-day pass
Xercise4Less has 51 branches, mostly in the north of England, including Leeds, Wakefield and Wigan. It usually offers a free 1-day pass, but if you fill in this form you can currently get a free 5-day pass.
The pass is available to new customers, over the age of 16. The pass can only be used on consecutive days and will expire after 14 days.
DW Fitness First: free 4-day pass
Get a Blagged free four-day pass by registering with DW Fitness First* (formerly just Fitness First), until Tue 31 Mar. You'll receive an email with a barcode which you can use straight away. The four-day pass has to be used on consecutive days and cannot be split up. Over-16s only.
Anytime Fitness: free 1-day pass (3 days for some)
You can get a free one-day pass (three-days for some, depending on location) if you register with Anytime Fitness. There are 170 branches across the UK (over 4,500 worldwide) - find your nearest.
Better leisure centres: free 1-day pass
You can get a free one-day pass by going to the Better website - find your nearest leisure centre. Once you've signed up, you'll be able to print your voucher or show it on your smartphone to redeem.
The free pass is only available to non-members, and you'll need to book an introductory session before you can use the gym. The pass has to be used on the day of your introductory session.
Nuffield Health: free 1-day pass
You can get a free one-day pass at selected gyms by filling in the form on the Nuffield website - check if your nearest club is participating, as those promoting the offer can vary.
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.
Énergie Fitness: free 1-day pass
You can get a free one-day pass for Énergie Fitness when you select your chosen club from the list (find your nearest) and fill in the form. To get to the form, select your chosen club, scroll down to 'Get a Day Pass', click 'Find out more' and fill in the form. You'll then be emailed your day pass which you'll need to print and take with you.
The day pass will enable you to access all facilities that your chosen club has to offer, which could include gym, classes, pool, sauna etc. It's one day pass per person and it can be used at any time.
Freedom Leisure: free 1-day pass
Freedom Leisure has 82 leisure centres (77 of which are offering this free 1-day pass) across England and Wales. Fill in the form and your chosen centre will contact you to arrange what day you'd like to use the pass. Once you've collected your pass, you can use the facilities for the day.
The pass will get you access to everything that the centre you've chosen offers, including gym, swimming pool and classes. However, facilities do vary between centres. You'll need to use the pass within 28 days of completing the form and it’s for over-16s only.
Fusion Lifestyle: free 1-day pass
Fusion Lifestyle has nearly 100 branches (71 of which are participating in this offer), mostly in London and south-west England. Fill in the form to get your free 1-day class pass if you're new to the gym.
Some locations are excluded, see Fusion Lifestyle for more info.
Q-Hotels: free 1-day pass
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 20 health clubs across England and Scotland. Find your nearest health club.
MoveGB: £1 a week membership
Get a £1 per week membership by registering your email address and postcode with MoveGB. You'll initially pay £1 for your first seven days and will then be billed according to the billing cycle you've chosen during sign-up. MoveGB has told us that you're able to cancel your membership online at anytime, if you choose.
MoveGB doesn't have its own clubs, but rather gives you access to selected gyms, yoga studios, climbing walls, swimming pools, leisure centres etc. If you go via the above link, all venues shown are participating in the £1 a week membership offer. You can attend each venue once, and most venues will refresh their pass every 1-3 months so you can attend again.
If you'd like to revisit any of the venues whilst waiting for your pass to refresh, you can get access on a pay-as-you-go basis, with discounts of up to 30% off usual rates.
You'll feel the biggest benefit of services like MoveGB if you like your workouts to have a bit of variety. However, if you prefer to stick to the same gym nearest your house or place of work, MoveGB recommends you sign up with that particular venue directly.
Free 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.
Be Military Fit: free 7-day pass
These outdoor boot camp style sessions can really put you through your paces. Simply fill in the Be Military Fit free 7-day pass form by Sat 1 Feb.
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 7-day deal - as long as you enter the code MSE2020.
You can go to an unlimited amount of outdoor classes, within 7 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.
Green Gym: free outdoor gardening sessions
Green Gym is a scheme where you can sign up to do some gardening in your local community, with a strong focus on health and wellbeing. There’s over 70 Green Gyms in place across the UK, with the ability to request one in your area (find your nearest Green Gym).
The sessions are completely free to join and welcome all ages and abilities. Complete with a warm-up and cool-down in each session, you can improve your strength and stamina while being guided in practical outdoor activities.
To take part, find your local Green Gym and give it a call before arriving.
Park Lives: free yoga, pilates, Zumba & more
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, Dundee, Newcastle, Newham in London, Swansea, Southampton 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.
Our Parks: free yoga, Zumba, boxfit & more
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.
There are 28 different classes to choose from, including yoga, pilates, Zumba, bootcamp, dance, tots' tennis and kids' fitness. 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.
Parkrun: free weekly timed 5K run
If you go online to free physical activity provider Parkrun you can sign up to take part in completely free weekly timed 5K runs at selected parks (find your nearest) across the country, usually at 9am on Saturday mornings.
You don’t need to be Mo Farah to participate, Parkrun welcomes all abilities. You don't even have to run, you can walk if you prefer and kids and dogs are also welcome. Once you’re registered you’ll be allocated a barcode which you’ll need to print out and bring with you to the park as this will be scanned to give you an accurate 5K time.
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.
Hussle* (formerly PayAsUGym) acts as a 'gym broker', selling pay-as-you-go passes for more than 2,700 gyms across the UK - from local council-run centres to posh spas. In some cases, it's cheaper to buy a day pass via Hussle than to go direct. It also offers a 10% discount when you buy five passes and 15% when you buy 10.
As an example, the Bannatyne Health Club in Russell Square is £13.50 per visit via Hussle, but it's £15 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 Hussle is if you change your mind or can't make a session, you can cancel for a refund. For full details on how to cancel, see its Help section.
Call the gym to check it's not cheaper direct. If you use Hussle, please tell us your experiences.
Here are some examples of pay-as-you-go gym options for around £5:
- The Gym - day pass from £4.75. The Gym has around 150 branches in England, Scotland and Wales. Gyms are open 24 hours a day and MoneySavers say equipment is plentiful and high quality.
- Anytime Fitness - day pass from £4.50 (if you've used your free day pass). Anytime Fitness has over 150+ gyms across the UK.
- Énergie Fitness - day pass from £5. If you've used your free day pass, Énergie Fitness has around 100 gyms across England, Wales and Scotland where you can get a day pass from £5.
You can also buy no-contract, monthly rolling memberships on Hussle, which give you access to multiples centres (depending on how much you pay per month). These vary from £10.49 to £199.50.
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.
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:
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.
If you can't get a short-term membership direct from your local gym it's worth going via gym membership broker Hussle* (formerly PayAsUGym) which sells five-day, 10-day and unlimited 'Monthly+' passes for more than 1,500 gyms, including Nuffield Health, Bannatyne's Health Clubs and Livingwell.
While a one month pass for Bannatyne Health Club in Russell Square, London costs £54 direct, there's a £20 joining fee. From Hussle, it's a bit more expensive at £59.40, but there's no joining fee.
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.
With a Monthly+ pass, you can buy flexible, monthly rolling memberships on Hussle, which give you access to multiples centres (depending on how much you pay per month). The Monthly+ Pass gives you unlimited access to thousands of gyms across the UK.
Different gyms have different Monthly+ Pass prices and are separated into different tiers based on the gyms' own membership prices. The price of a Monthly+ Pass varies in price from £10.49 to £199.50.
When you convert Clubcard vouchers into Tesco Boost* tokens they're worth up to three times as much as when you spend them in-store.
£5 in vouchers gets you £15 to spend at Hussle* (formerly PayAsUGym).
There's more on maximising Clubcard points and reclaiming lost vouchers in our Tesco Boost guide.
What to watch out for in contracts
If 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 and then, which have legal weight and, if possible, get them to sign to show the promise.
For further reading, see the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), but here's a quick list of what to check:
- 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?
Use an outdoor gym
There are hundreds of local council-funded outdoor gyms that are completely free to use. Check out our blog on what kind of equipment they have and how to find your nearest one.
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.
Rules tend to be 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.
- Your contract should not be longer than 12 months. In 2011, the High Court ruled it was unfair for gyms to tie in members for more than one year (see the Tens of thousands can cancel gym memberships and More gym-goers will find it easier to cancel contracts MSE News stories). If your contract's longer than a year, you may be able to challenge it.
You can also check to see if the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidelines on unfair terms apply. We've listed some of them below:
- You MAY be able to cancel if your gym's made big changes. The 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 guidelines say 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 – Pure Gym (which has taken over 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.