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Q: We do not have an area for workout equipment at home. In turn, we want to consider joining a gym. Covid-19 is a concern; what advice may BBB provide?

A: There are many factors to consider. If your goal is to lose weight, get in better shape or improve your overall health, deciding to join a gym may be the first step. However, don't just sign up at the first gym you see or visit. Before signing on the dotted line, research all options first.

Get the most from a gym membership by considering these tips from the Better Business Bureau:

Determine your fitness goals. Determining your goals in advance will help you select a facility that is most appropriate for you. Consult with your physician before embarking on a new fitness regiment, especially if there are medical conditions that might be a concern.

Figure out your priorities. What is most important to you? Will a convenient location and extended hours help you stick to your fitness plan? Will a variety of equipment or classes keep you motivated? Do you work out while traveling and prefer a chain with numerous outlets? Determine your top priorities before you start shopping around.

Check BBB.org. Read what previous customers have to say, and see how the businesses respond to complaints. This information may help you narrow down the list of gyms you want to tour in person.

Take a tour. Make sure the gym has the equipment, classes and trainers you need or expect. Pay attention to things that are important to you, whether it's the cleanliness of the showers or the availability of Wi-Fi. Ask questions and make sure you understand all the rules. Ask about busy times, wait times for equipment, whether classes require pre-registration, availability and cost of trainers, etc. Ask how the gym staff is keeping up with COVID policies and maintaining the cleanliness of the facilities.

Ask questions about limited free trials. Gyms often give a one-week free pass for potential members; this is a great way to see if the gym is a good fit for you. Try the gym at different times to see how crowded it is and whether there is a wait for certain equipment. Check out classes if they are offered.

Don't feel coerced. Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join right away. A reputable gym will give you enough time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities, do some research, and make an informed decision.

Calculate the true costs. Gyms often use special introductory offers to encourage new members, but the price could go up more than you budgeted once the initial period is over. Make sure you understand what the regular monthly fees will be and what they include.

Understand the terms. Read the contract carefully before signing. Make sure that all verbal promises made by the salesperson are in writing. What matters is the contract and the terms within it, so don't just take a salesperson's word for it. What happens if you move or the gym goes out of business? Will the membership renew automatically at the end of the term? What is the cancellation policy and under what circumstances?

Go to BBB.org to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, report a scam and read additional tips.

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.

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Jim Winsett of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga / File photo
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