KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It's that time of year, getting in shape is on the brain, and joining a gym is a big commitment, not just for your body but your wallet too. If you're not careful, you might sign up for more than you hoped for. 

"Sometimes when they're pitching it, all the amenities they have, you get excited. Then, you get home and think about it and say 'Am I really going to use it?" said Tony Binkley, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee. 

Brinkley advises against signing a year-long contract upfront. If the gym closes, you're out of luck.

"We typically say to go on a monthly basis," Binkley said. 

Visit the gym in person first, specifically around the time you think you'll be working out. A dirty gym might be a sign of trouble.

"If it's not clean, they may be understaffed and that could be an indicator of financial issues," Binkley said.

In Tennessee, there's a three day grace period for big purchases like a gym membership. 

"There’s a three day right of rescission for most things you can buy. You’ve got about three days to make that decision. Usually, that happens when you feel pressured," Binkley said about when most people tend to second guess their decisions. "It gives you three days to think about it. Don't feel pressured. If you do, that's why the law is there." 

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The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance also shares these tips for gym memberships:

  • Read the fine print. Know what you’re getting. What are the terms and conditions? How do you terminate and what are the costs?
  • Shop around. Compare the services and prices offered by different companies and at various locations.
  • Visit. Drop by the health club or spa during the hours you would normally use it; inspect the equipment you would use.
  • Try before you buy. Some facilities offer free trial periods to prospective members so they can sample the services and equipment before making a decision.
  • Budget. Ask whether there are initiation fees involved or if it costs extra for classes, fitness evaluations, personal training and other special services.
  • Ask the right questions. What is the duration of the contract? When and how will you be billed? Is the membership transferable to other business locations? Do they offer discounts for family members, or credits for referring friends? What are your rights if the club is taken over by new management?
  • Don’t be hasty. Before you sign a contract, take a copy home with you and read it through – carefully. Make sure you understand every term before you agree.
  • Think ahead. As with any other membership, health club contracts can carry hefty cancellation fees. Find out what it will cost you if you terminate the contract prematurely, move to another area or sustain an injury. These details should all be in the contract.