words by Sarah Benton

Gym membership is expensive: fact. All gyms are created equal: fiction. There are some new kids on the block taking the gym world by storm. 

Low cost gyms are no longer creations of fiction. According to Sheffield Hallam University’s Leisure Forecast report, low-cost gyms are the way of the future. Over the course of the next five years new, low-cost, 24-hour gyms will be springing up across the country offering affordable pay-as-you-go membership plans. The days of hefty joining fees, high monthly fees and overcrowding between 6-8pm are seriously numbered.

How do they work?
Members pay an initial joining fee of around £20-£30. Monthly fees are then charged on a rolling basis via direct debit. There are no contracts; members can cancel their monthly payments at any time or freeze their membership if their circumstances change for just a short period. Members are then issued with a membership pin code that offers access to the gym 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Options and Costs
Membership at Pure Gym, one of the biggest low-cost 24-hour gyms, starts at £10.99 per month and rises to £24.99 depending on location. There is an initial joining for of £25.

The Gym, Pure Gym’s main competitor, charges £10.99 per month with a £20 joining fee.

For comparison, the average private health club costs £43.38 per month according to the 2011 State of the Fitness Industry Report. This rate usually comes with a minimum membership period of 12 months and sizeable joining fees.

Is quality compromised to cut costs?
John Treharne, CEO of The Gym says, ‘while there are no bells and whistles like towels, plush carpets and café areas, our members are guaranteed more than 200 pieces of the latest Matrix equipment presented in a clean and safe environment. For many, this is all they require.’

Low-cost gyms also offer personal training, free gym classes and tailored made fitness programmes just like any other gym. Stripping back all the unnecessary extras that don’t actually improve the workout environment allows The Gym and Pure Gym to offer affordability and flexibility without compromising on quality.

‘There is a common misconception that low cost means a compromise in service’ adds Treharne. ‘This simply is not the case. We have made staff savings by creating a model that does not require onsite receptionists and administration staff. All out staff, employed or self-employed, are qualified gym instructors or personal trainers. Meeting member expectations when it comes to service, cleanliness and safety remain absolutely core to our offering.’

Who are they for?
Anyone over the age of 18 can join, however, Peter Roberts, CEO of Pure Gym, says the model is aimed at ‘those who have never joined a gym before, as well as providing an affordable and flexible yet high quality option for those who expect more from their memberships but do not want to commit to long-term contracts’.

Downsides and limitations
At the moment there are only 24 The Gym sites and 25 Pure Gym sites open in the UK. However, between them there are another 35 opening soon or in the pipeline.

Despite being open 24 hours a day, gyms are only staffed during daytime hours and these times vary from gym to gym. This shouldn’t be a problem as CCTV and alarms linked to emergency services are located throughout the gym, but some may be put off from training ‘out of hours’.

The gyms can feel a little impersonal at times due to low staff numbers and the transient nature of memberships.

Find out more
The Gym operates in locations across the UK from Ashford in Kent to Swansea in Wales. You can find out more at thegymgroup.com.

Pure Gym has gyms all over the UK from Aberdeen in Scotland to Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. Visits its website puregym.com for mode details.