Tips To Avoid The Fitness Funk - BBB - Scam Alert - January 2007

By Mayo McDonough


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With the new year upon us, people of all ages make resolutions to get fit, lose weight and improve their health. Plenty of options exist, like joining a gym, beginning a diet plan or participating in a fun health or fitness program. When eager consumers jump into health and fitness contracts without fully understanding the terms and conditions, New Year's resolutions become New Year's headaches.

This year, make it your resolution to become an informed consumer and take time to think through your needs before joining a health or fitness program. Consider these tips:

- Determine whether your fitness goal is to build endurance, increase strength or lose weight. How would you like to accomplish these goals? Do you enjoy swimming, weight-training or yoga? Do you want a diet or lifestyle change? Consult with a medical professional before setting fitness goals, especially if you are taking medications or have a health problem.

- Consider your budget. What amount can you comfortably devote to physical fitness? Can you afford to pay daily, monthly or annual fees for a program?

- Shop around. Do some research to find out what programs are offered in your area. Ask friends and family to recommend facilities or programs they have used.
Pick three that appear to align with your fitness goals and budget and look up their company BBB Reliability Reports at www.bbbvi.ca

- Check out the facilities. Visit each facility on a day and time you plan to use it to see how crowded it is. Is the facility conveniently located? Do you like the equipment, classes, amenities and hours of operation? Are you comfortable with the atmosphere and clientele? Note the cleanliness and condition of the equipment, workout area and locker room, as well as staff availability. If food supplements are offered, ask if you can test them first to ensure you don't have a food allergy.

- Talk to other facility users. Are they satisfied? Have they experienced any problems? Do they have any suggestions or recommendations for programs you might enjoy?

- Interview staff. Are staff members friendly and helpful? Ask about their qualifications, certification and education.

- Get the details. Is there a membership contract? What is the cost? Can you pay month-to-month? Are there extra fees, clothing, food or equipment you might need? Is there a trial period or drop-in option to see if the facility meets your needs? Are personal coaches, advisors or trainers available? Do they cost extra?

- Review the contract. If you decide to sign up for a program, be sure to take the time to read the terms and conditions of use or the membership contract. Walk away from facilities that pressure you to sign up on the spot. Ask for a sample contract to take home and read it thoroughly. Does the contract list all the services, facilities and the hours of operation? Is everything the salesperson promised in the contract? What's the total cost and payment schedule, including enrollment fees and finance charges? What are your cancellation rights if you move away, are injured, or the facility closes? Will the unused portion of your fees be refunded? Those details should be in the contract.

- Know your rights. Health and fitness contracts are also known as "continuing service contracts." In B.C., there is legislation regarding what is and isn't allowed to be in this type of contract. You have the right to cancel by written notice, for no reason, within the first 10 days of signing the contract. You should also make note of the expiry date of your contract and know your cancellation rights. For more information on continuing service contacts visit the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority at www.bpcpa.ca

There are many great health and fitness facilities to chose from. But, like in every industry, there are some con artists as well. Don't fall for claims that are too good to be true. Staying healthy, getting fit and losing weight takes hard work, commitment and patience. Be realistic with your goals, do your research, find a facility that meets your needs and you will be much more likely to make your New Year's resolution a reality!

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