How to get cheaper gym membership
Whether you genuinely want to keep fit and healthy, or you're just in it for the Snapchat fodder, here's how to bag your gym membership for less.
Avid gym-goers not only get to burn off steam, stress and calories, but they also earn ultimate kudos too. Sadly though, ultimate kudos doesn't come cheap.
The average gym membership in the UK comes in at a whopping £40 a month. We've smashed our money-saving brains together and have found options that'll set you back around a tenner – a quarter of the average national price.
Add saving on a gym membership to money you could make from just walking everywhere and you'll be fit as a fiddle in no time at no extra cost!
What’s in this guide?
Cheapest gyms for students
Here's our pick of the top budget gyms:
The Gym Group
Prices start from: £79 for six months
Joining fee: none.
The Gym Group offers students a six-month membership from just £79, although the price will vary depending on your location.
While your membership won't get you into all of their locations, it will give you access to any two of your choice – perfect if you're keen to join a gym both at uni and at home.
Prices start from: varies by location
Joining fee: varies by location (free with some offers).
Pure Gym's monthly memberships vary in price depending on where you live, but their student discount is available in all of their gyms.
It's worth checking out to see whether UNiDAYS have any special offers on memberships before joining – they sometimes do 50% off the first month with no joining fee.
Alternatively, you could choose to get up to 30% off a fixed term student membership – although this will include a joining fee.
Prices start from: varies by location
Joining fee: free for students.
The cost of a Better membership will differ depending on where you live, but the good news is that as a member you'll get access to all Better gyms in your area.
Better's student memberships have no joining fee, no minimum contract length and give you discounts of up to 30% on activities that aren't included in the scheme.
Prices start from: varies by location
Joining fee: none.
Xercise4Less are a pretty big chain with over 30 branches across the UK, but they're most commonly found in Scotland and the north of England.
They offer special prices for students from time to time, so keep an eye out for any deals. But even without the discount, Xercise4less' prices are never that high (hence the name).
Membership here will get you access to free classes every month, as well as separate gym areas exclusively for women, should you wish to use them.
Prices start from: around £10/month (check with your university)
You'll often find that university gyms are priced pretty competitively. And, as they're run by the uni, they'll often offer more flexible membership choices (such as the option to only pay for term time).
An added bonus is that you obviously won't have to travel far to get there, and could probably squeeze a quick workout in when you're between lectures.
The downside of using your uni gym, however, is that campus gyms tend to get quite overcrowded. What's more, you're likely to feel obliged to indulge in chit-chat with everyone you know when you're sweating from every pore and unable to breathe.
Prices start from: around £20/month (check locally)
Council gyms are also a very good bet for a cheaper option. While the equipment might not be to the same standard as you'd find in private gyms, they usually offer a student gym membership (and who doesn't love a student discount?).
To look for gyms near you, start with your local council.
Whichever way you look at it, going to the gym is always going to cost you a fair bit of dollar. But that doesn't mean you can't get fit without spending money.
From DVDs to fitness apps, home workouts to going for a run in the great outdoors, there are tonnes of ways to keep fit without parting with any cash. And if you're not content with just saving money while you exercise, there's even more good news – some apps will even pay you to get fit!
Ways to save money on a gym membership
Here are some extra ways to get a cheap gym membership:
Use your student discount
We've said it many, many times before, and we'll say it again – always make sure to ask about student discounts. Even if they aren't advertised, that doesn't mean they aren't available.
You might need to get yourself a TOTUM/NUS Extra Card before you can get any discounts (not all gyms accept a valid student ID, annoyingly), but it'll be well worth it for all the dollar you'll save.
Check the length of the contract
Nowadays it is somewhat easier to get out of lengthy gym contracts if your circumstances change. But it's still not a dead cert, and you need to read through the small print carefully.
It might work out cheaper per month to go for a 12 month contract, but this is a waste of your money if you won't be around during the summer, or will have graduated before the time is up.
You should always check how long the contract is, what the cancellation notice period is and what happens if your circumstances change (e.g. leaving your course and moving home).
Also make sure to check whether your contract renews automatically every year (in which case you should set yourself a reminder to cancel, otherwise you might get caught up in another contract).
Haggle for a cheaper gym membership
Your local gym might be run by a squillionaire, but that doesn't mean your custom isn't important to them. After all, how do you think they got so rich in the first place?
Feign interest, play hardball and don't be afraid to walk away if the price isn't right. You'll be surprised how much you can get knocked off the 'final price'.
We've even heard stories of students managing to dodge paying the initial sign-up fee. All you need to know is how to haggle like a pro.
Take advantage of free trials
Everyone loves free stuff, right? Well, one great thing about gyms is that they're generally always happy for you to try for free before you buy.
Add them all together, and this means you're likely to have a decent amount of free gym sessions while you shop around all the gyms in your area.
Free gym passes
Try pay-as-you-go gyms
If you're not sure whether the gym will be a worthwhile expense, or you go so infrequently that paying a monthly membership doesn't really make sense, it's definitely worth considering a pay-as-you-go gym.
Several council-run gyms will offer this option. Alternatively, you can use websites like Hussle which list thousands of gyms offering a pay-on-entry service.
Having said that, it doesn't always work out cheaper using PAYG. If you do decide to make it a regular thing, make sure you sign up for a full membership – otherwise you'll end up paying out extra cash unnecessarily.
Try to take note of how frequently you go and do the maths to see which option works out cheaper.
Use 'no frills' budget gyms
If you're not bothered about having a sauna, a pool, or any of the other luxury frills that can come with a gym membership, there are a whole range of great budget options that offer equipment that's just as good.
Another bonus with these gyms is that there's no contract, just a monthly payment, and you can leave at any time.
As with pretty much anything that involves parting with your hard-earned cash, make sure you shop around for the best deal on your membership.
Sites like Hussle offer a 'gym finder' function that allows you to search for all the gyms in your area, as well as which ones have good deals going.
Remember to take into account any extra expenses like travel costs, too. It won't always work out cheaper to go further afield for a cheaper membership!
Assess your usage
Before you sign up to that all-singing, all-dancing package, stop for a second and think about what you really need. Would you ever actually go to classes? Is a sauna really essential? Will you make use of those inclusive sessions with a personal trainer?
If you don't think you'll use a service, ask them to knock it off your package and reap the financial joy. If they won't knock it off, take your custom elsewhere (or at least pretend to) – this is all part of the haggling process!
Use friend referrals
If there's one thing gyms love more than getting you signed up, it's getting your friends to sign up too.
Often you'll find that a gym will offer a good deal if you agree to signing up a few friends as well, so everyone's happy!
Make sure you also check if you know anyone who's already signed up to that gym before you do, even if they're only on your "only speak to when drunk" list. There could be a cheeky discount on the cards.
Try guest passes
This one's less a case of saving money, and more a case of getting a bit more bang for your buck. Always check if you can have some free guest passes that you can dish out to some of your friends, so you have some company at the gym for a session or two.
The beauty of this, of course, is that you can offer a guest pass in exchange for a guest pass at your friends' gyms too, so you can try out a few different places if you're getting a bit bored of your gaff.
Pay up front
If you've got some money in your savings, or feel like you can budget your Student Loan appropriately, then it's always worth paying upfront. This almost always works out cheaper.
It does mean that you'll feel compelled to go often enough to get your money's worth, but that's probably a good motivator, right?
We only suggest going for this option if you're serious about going to the gym and are sure you'll keep it up. Don't fall into the trap of signing up after Christmas as an incentive to shift some turkey-induced pounds – this doesn't work, and you'll probably only end up going twice throughout the whole year.
Some gyms offer an off-peak membership (although most don't shout about it). As a student, you're in a great position in that you're able to be a bit more flexible with time than someone who works 9–5. So why not take advantage of it?
Going off-peak does mean that you'll be working out with pensioners most of the time, but this is also a good thing – after all, they're less likely to judge you for having a face like a tomato on the treadmill.
Off-peak gym hours are normally weekdays 9am – 5pm, and from the afternoon onwards at weekends.
Tip: Don't push yourself too hard. Finding the time to study, exercise AND socialise can be tricky, but remember to give yourself some downtime.