LONDON, December 21 /PRNewswire/ --

- Virgin Active Offers Healthy Advice on Joining Gyms in 2008

At a time when it is feared that mortgage debts are rising as quickly as obesity levels, Virgin Active has come up with suggestions to help people make an informed investment when joining a health club. The ideas that follow will enable individuals to remain financially sensible whilst trying to combat a tightening pinch around their waist lines as well as their wallets.

Top tips:

- Make sure that a sales representative fully explains the terms and conditions to you before you sign. If you don't have time, take the contract home and go through it at your leisure so you know what you are committing to.

- Look out for information on minimum commitment time periods, cancellation policies and membership 'freeze' options.

- Clubs realise that people can be sick or they can go away on holiday so make sure they have an option to accommodate this so you just pay a minimal fee to keep your membership open and are not charged extra.

- Decide the times of the day that you like to work out and pick a gym that fits.

- Choose an innovative club with lots of group classes to keep motivational levels high.

- Always ask for a tour to check equipment, cleanliness and friendliness of staff.

Steve Dick, head of sales at Virgin Active UK comments, "We have options for 12 month memberships as well as having flexible monthly membership options which is popular with first time gym users. Of course those who sign up to a longer period get better value for money on a monthly basis, but it is also important to be realistic and understand your own personality and lifestyle routine. If signing up for 12 months may seem daunting, going for a more flexible monthly option may be the right choice for you."

Thinking about joining a gym?

It is important that people spare themselves enough time to think thoroughly about joining a gym before signing on any dotted line. According to Virgin Active, the important questions to consider are:

Is the gym I want to join close to work or home?

Decide which suits your lifestyle better, for example, if you prefer to work out at lunchtime make sure the gym is close to work, or if you like to work out at the weekends and evenings then a club close to home would be better. The more convenient the location, the easier it will be to fit into your lifestyle and the more likely you will use it.

What facilities does the club have?

Most clubs will have the basics but its important to look out for new innovations, new classes - a varied selection of work out equipment and fun classes will help keep motivation levels high instead of thinking about a long slog on the treadmill. Powerplate is extremely popular at the moment so ask about this and any other innovations.

What about their fitness innovations?

Ask the membership consultant that tours you around the facilities about what sort of investment the operator makes into new fitness products and services. The Fitness, Exercise and Wellness industry is very fast moving and the best operators out there will work continuously to keep up with the latest trends and further develop their offering to bring these trends to you.

Should I insist on a tour of the club?

This sounds basic but always ask for a tour. Look beyond the gym floor and get a feel for the place. Pay particular attention to how many staff are available or present during your visit. Check out what they are doing. Are they out and about chatting to, and helping members? Do the staff look like they are vibrant, motivational, fun and enjoying their jobs? Does anyone make eye contact with you or say hello/come to speak to you when you are on your tour? These are all indicators of how well you will be supported if you join the club so it's crucial to check the staff out!

Is the gym and equipment clean? Is there equipment out of order? Gyms get a lot of usage particularly at the beginning of the year after the Christmas period, so it's a good idea to visit at peak time or first thing in the morning to see how well the club copes with usage and cleanliness! Do they have provision for the members to do their bit and clean the sweat off the machines etc? It's also worth asking about busy periods and how the gym copes with peak times - i.e. are there queues for the equipment?

What is the atmosphere like in the club? It is worth asking about the music levels (if you don't like loud music for example). Check out the type of people that are members of the club. People are generally drawn to places with similar people to themselves so you should get a good indication of the type of people that are members from your tour. Ask members about the club, the staff, the service etc. Don't be shy; it's important you find the right fit for you so you LOVE training there!

Is taking classes important?

Did you know that anything up to 40% of members take part in classes? If you haven't considered them because "I'll try them once I get a bit fitter" or "I just want to do my own thing", then I would urge you to re-think! Group Exercise classes are one of the very best ways to get involved in your new club and can seriously help you to achieve your goals.

Make sure you get access to a class timetable to study before you join up. How often is it reviewed and new things introduced? If you need more information ask to speak to the Group Exercise Coordinator or Fitness Manager who should be able to explain the program. Check that the classes that you would want to attend are available at times that you will be visiting the club also.

When you look over the timetable check if they offer any gym floor based classes also. These are a great way to get involved in smaller, more intimate classes and are often short duration bursts that can be highly motivational and educational.

How many members are there?

A busy club makes for a great atmosphere. However on the other extreme you don't want to queue for equipment or changing room lockers. Visit a club at a time when you would be going there so you know what it is like at that particular time of day. And join a facility that offers you the best exercise variety (equipment, classes, pool, spa, etc.)

What are the terms and conditions?

Make sure that a sales representative fully explains the terms and conditions to you before you sign. If you don't have time, take the contract home and go through it at your leisure so you know what you are committing to. Look out for information on minimum commitment time periods, cancellation policies and membership 'freeze' options. Clubs realise that people can be sick or they can go away on holiday so make sure they have an option to accommodate this so you just pay a minimal fee to keep your membership open and are not charged extra.

Are there any other expenses involved?

Most clubs will ask for a one off joining fee and as long as you budget your monthly fee and are aware of the terms and conditions, there should be no other expenses. You can go as often as you want which is the great flexibility and potentially great value a gym contract can offer you.

Should I do an induction?

Introduction to the gym (sometimes called "induction" or "orientation"). Most health clubs will offer you this as part of your sign up process. Even if you are familiar with using gyms it is advisable to take part in this process as you will gain invaluable information about the specific facilities and services on offer to you so that you can get the most out of your journey through exercise and wellness. Ask as many questions as you can about the facilities, services and staff - if conducted in group formats, this will also be a great opportunity to meet other people who are in the same boat as you!

What is a Par-Q?

Par-Q (Pre-Activity Readiness Questionnaire). You will be asked to complete this during your first visit to any gym.Every health club should ask you to complete this initial medical screening form. It is in your best interest to always be truthful with your responses to all questions. Be aware that if you have any contradications to major risk factors, that it is a standard process in all health clubs that, should you have such conditions, that you will not be allowed to join the club until you have gained medical clearance from your GP (a good health club will assist you with this process).

Will I get a program that is tailored to me?

Personalised Program. Before you join a health club, make sure you investigate the support structure in place for you. It is imperative that you are offered a 1-1 appointment with a qualified instructor in order to create a personalised program to set you off on the right track to achieving the goals that you are striving for. A good instructor will ask lots of probing questions and let you guide his/her thought process on what program best suits your needs at that present time and ensure you start at the right level. Therefore make sure you fully explain what your short, medium and long term goals are, and ensure you build a program that is right for you.

How often should I update my program?

A change is better than a rest! Prior to joining it is also advisable to find out how often you can expect to be able to update your program. A good health club will fully explain this process to you in advance of you joining, and ensure that you are comfortable with setting follow up appointments in a timeframe that works for you to continually progress your program and keep you on track to achieving those results. Be aware that the most people fail in the first 12 weeks of joining a health club and a big factor in this is simply due to lack of variety in the workout to keep things fresh, fun and motivating. Check that the club has Fitness Professionals in place with a system that tracks you within this crucial period and supports you to stay on track.

Is Personal Training something I should consider?

Personal Training is not just for the rich and famous. If you want to achieve your goals faster, or you want some real hands on motivation, education and guidance to ensure you make the most of your gym membership, then employing the skills of a Personal Trainer is one of the best tools a health club can offer. Ask about the range of packages available to you through Personal Training. A good place to start is an introductory package of minimum 3 sessions (you will need at least 3 sessions to get a feel for the training and trainer!). Most clubs will offer larger packages at a discounted price and the more forward thinking may also offer you the option to sign up with a Personal Trainer when you join and/or options such as monthly direct debit to spread payments across the year.

Remember to check that your trainer is suitably qualified and talk to a range of trainers and other members at the club to find a trainer that has the skills that match your needs.

Should I join somewhere with a pool and spa?

Make sure you check out if the club has a pool and wet side facilities? Swimming is a great form of fitness that is low impact and works your whole body. If you have a family you may want to enquire about swimming lessons.

Does the club also have spa facilities such as spa pool / Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room etc. This can be the ideal way to finish your trip to the gym and will ease those aching muscles, helping your body recover ready for the next exciting visit!

What about the kid's provisions?

If you have children make sure what's on offer for them. Many clubs will not be catered towards family fitness. Take time to review the facilities and programming on offer for children of all ages. You can expect varying degrees of facilities on offer from on site crèche facilities for the under 3's, to engaging physical and mental activities for the 3-7's to full blown kids and youth fitness classes and concepts for the 8+, often including classes that parents can do with their children. This is a growing focus in the health club industry and more forward thinking organizations will already be offering these types of activities to help in the fight against growing global obesity issue. It's worth finding out what the clubs' policy is whether you have kids or not as it could affect how you use the club yourself.

For more details please contact Cleo Comerford or Laura Wood at Golden Goose PR on +44(0)207-376-0070 or /