Selecting And Effectively Using A Health/Fitness Facility

The health/fitness facility should provide a variety of equipment and programs to meet your personal fitness goals and interests. First, be sure to establish your exercise/fitness goals before talking to personnel to see if they provide the programs and equipment you seek.


Fitness facilities can offer an attractive, safe and effective venue for exercise and health promotion. The quality of the facilities, staffing and programs vary greatly; therefore, you will want to thoroughly evaluate the facility before making your decision. A quality facility provides a safe environment for exercise. It will allow you to use state-of-the-art exercise equipment and participate in any number of activity programs. Group exercise programs will give you opportunities to meet new people and exercise in a social environment.


Visit several facilities prior to making your investment. Some facilities offer a trial membership for a day or a week. Before joining, take a tour and ask questions. Observe the classes and programs. Take into consideration whether the facility is located in an area that is convenient for you. Also, consider the following:

  • Does the facility offer the type of exercise or program in which you are interested?
  • Do qualified exercise instructors develop the programs?
  • Will staff members modify the programs to meet your needs?
  • Does the facility offer programs to address medical conditions?
  • Does the facility offer programs for the age group in which you are interested?
  • Does the facility offer fitness assessments and a personalized exercise program or prescription?


The staff of the facility should be able to respond to any reasonable emergency situation that threatens the safety of its members. Staff should also provide you with any information regarding potential risks associated with using the facility. Check for these safety features:

  • Does the facility have a posted emergency response evacuation plan?
  • Is staff qualified to execute the emergency response evacuation plan?
  • Does the facility have automated external defibrillators (AEDs) onsite?
  • Is the facility clean and well-maintained?
  • Is the facility free from physical or environmental hazards?
  • Is the facility appropriately lit?
  • Does the facility have adequate heating, cooling and ventilation?
  • Does the facility have adequate parking?


Every adult member should be offered a pre-activity screening. Check to see if the facility provides for or adheres to the following:

  • Does the facility offer a pre-activity screening, such as the PAR-Q, to assess whether members have medical conditions or risk factors that should be addressed by a physician?
  • Aside from an initial general health and wellness screening, does the facility have a health and fitness screening method appropriate for the type of exercise you will undertake?
  • Does the facility offer fitness assessments?


If you have special needs, it is important to see if the staff of the facility can meet your needs regarding modification of equipment, facilities and programs.


The facility should have a professional staff that has the appropriate education and training related to their duties. Professional qualifications should include a college degree in a health-related field such as exercise science, physical education or kinesiology. Any certification should be based upon job-related performance criteria which have been validated by scientific research in the field and analyzed for reliability. Many certification programs do not comply with industry standards. It is important to inquire about how the certification examination was developed and administered and what the prerequisites were for participating in the certification program. Check to make sure the entire staff has credentials and education from credible institutions.


  • Do staff members have appropriate education, certification and training recognized by the industry and the public as representing a high level of competence and credibility?
  • Is there sufficient staff on site?
  • Are staff members easy to recognize? • Are the staff members friendly and helpful?
  • Do staff members receive ongoing professional training?
  • Do staff members provide each new member with an orientation to the equipment and/or facility?
  • Are the staff members trained in CPR, in the use of AEDs and in first aid?
  • Are the staff members knowledgeable about your health conditions?
  • Can staff help me set realistic exercise goals?


If you are interested in a facility with youth programs, they should be appropriately supervised at all times. Check to make sure that the facility meets your needs regarding childcare and youth programs.


Before signing a contract, consider the following:

  • Does the staff pressure you into purchasing a membership?
  • Does the membership fee fit into your budget?
  • Is there a trial membership program?
  • Is there a grace period in which you can cancel your membership and receive a refund?
  • Are there different membership options and are all the fees for services posted?
  • Does the facility provide you with a written set of rules and policies, which govern the responsibilities of members as well as the facility?
  • Does the facility have a procedure to inform members of any changes in charges, services or policies?
  • Make sure you read and understand everything before signing a contract. Do not rely on verbal responses.

Ask a lot of questions so that you will have accurate information when you are making a decision. Making an informed decision can help you avoid choosing a facility that does not fit your needs. Selecting a facility with professional and qualified staff, state-of- the-art equipment and a variety of programs is a sound investment of your money and in your health.

Republished with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine. Copyright © 2011 American College of Sports Medicine.

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