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Health Care & Insurance

Six-Pack Abs for Less

Take advantage of gym promotions, but read the fine print.

Losing weight and getting in shape are common New Year’s resolutions. But before you commit to a pricey gym membership that you might rarely use, try a few on for size, read their contracts carefully, and ask lots of questions. Otherwise, the only thing that might get thinner is your wallet. January is a make-or-break month for the fitness industry, so it’s a great time to shop for deals, says David Reiseman, vice-president of Gold’s Gym. Many clubs offer a free trial visit or a complimentary seven-day pass.

Look for discounts on enrollment fees, too. Anytime Fitness, the largest coed fitness chain in the world, is cutting its enrollment fee in half at some clubs and waiving it at others. Curves, a gym for women only, slashed its $199 initial service fee in half and is offering the first 30 days free. And Gold’s Gym is waiving enrollment fees in January.

Some strings attached.

Clubs often offer a bonus of one month’s free enrollment when you sign a contract for a year, and they will often discount monthly fees if you agree to charge your credit card automatically or prepay your membership. But that can be risky. Internet bulletin boards are rife with complaints about charges that continued after gym memberships were canceled and about unreimbursed membership fees paid to new clubs that never opened.

New members aren’t the only ones who can get deals. With an industry retention rate of just 50%, clubs are offering concessions to current members, too-such as letting them put their membership on hold while they are on vacation or out of work. Ask about package deals on personal training that are cheaper than individual sessions or premium spa services for the price of a basic treatment. Take advantage of any discounts your employer has negotiated with a particular fitness club and ask your health insurer whether it offers a fitness rebate if you join a gym.

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Do it yourself.

Exercising at home is even cheaper. Once you have purchased the equipment, you’re done. Search Craigslist or a community e-mail list for used equipment. Treadmills, NordicTracks and rowing machines are listed for as little as $100.

If you own Wii Fit already, you can upgrade to the new Wii Fit Plus for $20. Or you can buy the game and balance board for $100. Wii Fit offers strength training, aerobics, and yoga and balance games to give you a varied workout at home.