7 Things to Consider Before You Pay for a Fitness Subscription Service

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Updated on Wednesday, January 24, 2018


You’re not the only one seeing Beachbody On Demand and Sweat With Kayla ads all over your newsfeed. January is prime time for fitness subscription services to attract new users like you who might have declared to get more exercise this year, like nearly 40% of U.S. adults.

You may be tempted to sign up for a trial run for one or more of these services. Here are a few factors you should consider before the free trial ends and you’re forced to decide whether to pay for the service, or stop using it.

#1 Will you be motivated to use it?


If you’re going to pay for a fitness subscription service, you want to make sure it’s one that will keep you interested and motivated enough to use it regularly and validate your purchase.

If you’d like some support developing a regular running habit this year, for example, apps like Couch to 5K or Zombies, Run!  may help you stick to your goal.

Couch to 5K starts you off with a beginner’s running plan to build your new habit, so creating a workout from scratch is out of your hands. All you need to do is open up the app and follow the plan. You can also select a virtual running coach who motivates you during your run.

If gamifying your workout will help you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you may want to try out Zombies, Run! In this app, you are one of the last survivors of a zombie apocalypse and are sent out to collect supplies to rebuild your town, like food and medicine. You’ll run while the plot of the story is narrated to you through your headphones. If you’re chased by zombies, you have to speed up; you’ll collect the supplies along your run. The game is split into seasons and missions. As of this writing, Zombies, Run! is on season six and there are more than 200 missions for you to go on. The pro version of Zombies, Run! grants unlimited access to all six seasons of the game and all playing modes for $3.99/month or $24.99/year.


Maybe the commute to and from the gym is your hurdle. If so, you may skip leaving the comfort of your home for the gym and opt instead for an online fitness streaming service subscription, like BeachBody On Demand (starting at $39 for a three-month subscription) or Fade 2 Fit($99.97/year or $19.95/month). You won’t need to worry about getting dressed, getting to a class before it fills up and you’re locked out or working your schedule around the gym’s off-peak times so you can use your favorite machines. You can just press “play” and get moving in your PJs.

Streaming services have the added benefit of being available on your time, so if you want to work out at 5 a.m., but your local gym isn’t open until 6 a.m., you can still get your workout in.

Whatever you decide, you want to make sure the fitness service you sign up for is a practical and convenient choice that you can fit into your lifestyle.

#2  Are you really saving money vs. going to a regular gym?


Do the math before you sign up for any recurring subscription payment to make sure it’s your best option, financially speaking.

If you want to practice yoga, for example, you could sign up for a monthly online yoga class subscription and practice in the comfort of your home or on the go. However, if there is a gym in your area that offers a yoga class for $15/month at a time you can attend, you may be better off signing up for the gym.

This decision, of course, would also depend on other factors. If you are beginner, you may like the guidance a yoga teacher offers in class, whereas if you have some experience with yoga, you may like having the flexibility to practice anywhere, anytime, so the extra $3 a month may be worth paying.

On the other hand, if a gym membership in your area is $55/month but you only go to the yoga classes and hate the crowds, you may decide to end your membership and sign up for an online yoga streaming service instead, like Gaia for about $10 a month.

#3 How long is the trial period?


Most services offer free trial periods so you have an opportunity to try the service before you pay for it. For example, you get 14 days to use BeachBody on Demand before you’re charged $39 for Beachbody’s quarterly all-access membership. Trial periods vary from service to service. Some are a week long, others a month. If you plan to pay for a service, make sure it’s something you will have time to actually try during the trial period.

If you want to sign up for a service with a week-long trial period, you may want to make sure you will have a chance to try out the service a couple of times to see if you like the workouts, have a space to do them, time and reasonable access to the equipment you need before the subscription activates.

But be careful when signing up for free trials. Most apps also have you enter in your card information when the trial starts so they can automatically start charging you for the subscription if you don’t opt-out right after the trial ends. That’s not so great if you didn’t get a chance to use the service during the trial.

Trial runs are usually one-time only, so you want to choose a week or month during which you will have time to make a new habit. If you didn’t get the opportunity to really try out the service during the trial period, you may not be sure if you’ll make it a habit. Why pay for something you “might use?” That’s just as bad as signing up for an expensive gym contract and never going.

#4 Can you cancel if you’re not into it anymore?


You may be extremely interested in the app or video subscription service you’re using now, but there’s a decent chance you may change your mind; 40.5% of the respondents in a recent study by eHealth publisher, JMIR, said they stopped using some health apps because they lost interest.

You don’t want to keep paying for something you don’t use, so make sure you read the fine print of the service’s cancellation policy before you decide to enter your card information. If you have to prepay months in advance, for example, are you eligible for a refund if you cancel a 12-month subscription, charged monthly, at the 6th month? You need to first find out if you’d even be able to cancel the subscription midway through or if there’s a no-refund policy hidden somewhere  in the terms of use.

All that said, don’t try to just accept the terms without skimming through the cancellation policy.

#5 What’s the ‘true’ cost of using the service?


Do you already have the equipment you need to get the most out of the service? If, for example, you sign up for a weight-training video subscription service paid annually — so you’ve already paid for the service for 12 months — do you already have a set of dumbbells, workout clothes and a space to practice or the other things you may need to get started?

Factor in the costs of obtaining the equipment you’d need to fully use the service offerings and if it will fit into your budget. If you don’t already own the items, you may need to save a bit of money before you decide to commit.

#6 What other services are you already paying for?


Subscription services add up. And, because they are usually paid for with automatic payments,  they are easy to forget about. Avoid breaking your budget.

Take a few minutes to look through your transactions and tally up how much subscription services are costing you monthly. Make sure you consider all of your subscriptions during the calendar year. If you have an annual subscription for example, divide the amount by 12. If the subscription is weekly, multiply what you pay by four. See where that figure falls in relation to what you’d ideally like to spend monthly on subscription services to make your decision.

You can also take this opportunity to look at what other fitness services you may already have subscribed to but may have forgotten about. If you do, cancel the service you no longer use. If you chronically sign up for free trials and end up paying for services you don’t use, consider using a service like Trim to analyze your subscriptions and cancel them for you.

#7 How do you complain if you get ripped off?


Again, there are hundreds of fitness subscription services out there. Many apps or services are new and may be too good to be true. Make sure you know where and how to get help if you feel you didn’t get what you were promised.

In November 2017, the Federal Trade Commission reached a $1 million settlement with the creators of the Pact app for allegedly billing consumers without their consent and not following through with promised financial rewards.

Consumers who used Pact could make “pacts” to exercise or eat well for a certain number  of times per week and agreed to be automatically charged an amount ($5 to $50) each time they didn’t complete the activity.  Those who succeeded in meeting the weekly goal were promised a cut of the money collected from those who didn’t complete their pacts.

Consumers alleged Pact charged them even when they completed their pact for the week, or when they had already cancelled the service. Pact was also accused of not properly informing consumers on how to cancel the service or stop recurring payments.

If you decide to sign up for a fitness subscription service that doesn’t follow through with its promise to you, file a complaint with regulatory agencies like the FTC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or Better Business Bureau. You may also want to leave an honest review for other potential users if possible.

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