Looking for your next fitness home? Here’s how to get the most out of your membership.
Maybe you’re finally ready to commit to regular exercise. Perhaps you recently retired, and your calendar freed up. Or maybe you’ve relocated and are looking to put down roots at a new gym.
No matter your motivation, you’re on the hunt for a fitness center or exercise class that can help you get started safely. It’s an exciting opportunity—a chance to take control of your health, discover new interests, and meet new people. Plus, you have more options now than ever.
So, how do you find your perfect fit? Start by asking yourself these five questions.
Question #1: What Are My Goals?
This is the first question you should ask when you start your search, says Katie Collard, a fitness expert in Washington, D.C. Knowing what you’re trying to achieve will help you narrow the field of possibilities—and ensure you find the right fit.
Looking to have fun and make friends? The gym you pick should have an ample class list with plenty of beginner-level workouts. If you’re lucky, they’ll have classes tailored for older adults.
Want to improve your endurance and build muscle? You’ll want a gym with cardio machines, like treadmills, ellipticals, and recumbent bikes. You’ll also want strength machines and free weights, like dumbbells and kettlebells. Many gyms also offer resistance bands, stability balls, TRX bands, and other great fitness tools.
Need to work on your flexibility or take it easy on your joints? Keep your eye out for a stretching area or a pool for swimming or water aerobics classes.
Question #2: What Workouts Do I Love and Loathe?
Yes, having access to the latest trendy workout is awesome. But that doesn’t really matter if you hate it.
“If it’s not enjoyable, you’re not going to stick with it,” says Scott Kratochvil, a fitness expert in Fridley, Minnesota. You’ll likely feel disconnected during workouts or skip them altogether. That amounts to a lot of wasted time.
That said, if you don’t know which workouts you like or dislike yet, an opportunity to explore different ones may be just what you need. You may be surprised at the range of options, from chair yoga classes for better balance and mobility to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for experienced exercisers who want a challenge.
Another good reason to branch out: if your health has changed recently and you can’t do your go-to workout. This can happen, for example, if you’re struggling to exercise with arthritis or recovering after a fall.
If that’s the case, your first step is to talk to your doctor about what’s safe for you. But rest assured, with proper guidance, exercise is safe—and beneficial—for almost everyone.
Question #3: Is It in a Convenient Location?
Modern equipment and a warm sauna might seem like enough incentive to drive 30 minutes, but that logic quickly evaporates when your alarm blares in the morning or if traffic is bad.
“A gym can have the coolest classes, but if it’s not convenient, you’re not going,” says Pete McCall, a personal trainer and author of Smarter Workouts.
Convenience is crucial. Pick a facility close to your home or work. And if the gym is next to work, ensuring it has showers and a changing area can expedite the transition from work mode to sweat mode and vice versa.
What else to consider: Traditional gyms aren’t your only option. You may find terrific exercise classes at fitness studios, community organizations, and other locations in your neighborhood.
Question #4: Are the Instructors Trained and Supportive?
If you’re interested in group fitness classes or private personal training, get to know the instructor or trainer. This will help you stay safe. And if you’re paying extra for it, like you typically do for personal training, you’ll want to make sure your money is well spent.
Many people skip this step, Kratochvil says, but it’s important. “How do you know they’re going to be the right fit for you?”
Ask instructors about their fitness background. Are they trained? What types of people do they typically work with? For example, some instructors specialize in working with older adults or people with chronic conditions.
Good instructors can also help you modify exercises so you can do them safely. If you want to take a class, show up early, and chat with the instructor beforehand about your personal goals and any health issues or injuries.
“Whether that instructor blows you off or actually helps you during class can give you good insight as to whether or not you should return to that class,” Collard says.
Get more tips in our guide to finding the right group class.
Question #5: What’s the Cost, and Are There Any Discounts?
Everyone loves freebies and special perks, but you may not learn about them unless you ask. And again, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll find.
SilverSneakers, for example, is a health and fitness program that’s included with many Medicare plans—at no additional cost to you! It includes:
- A national network of gyms and other participating fitness locations
- Classes designed for seniors and led by supportive instructors
- Live virtual classes, including cardio, dance, yoga, Zumba, and more
- On-demand workout videos that you can play anytime
If you don’t have access to a fitness program like SilverSneakers, many gyms offer a free trial membership or discounts at certain times of the year to help you save money.
Have any friends who absolutely love their gym or exercise class? It can’t hurt to ask for insider info. If you’re lucky, you may get free guest passes or membership discounts for being referred by a friend.
Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly
SilverSneakers members can go to thousands of gyms and fitness locations across the nation, plus take SilverSneakers LIVE online classes that are designed for seniors of all levels. If you have a Medicare plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.
Not eligible for SilverSneakers? You can still get 200+ free SilverSneakers On-Demand videos and stay in touch with us by creating your online account.