Before you join a gym or sign up for a bunch of fitness classes, think realistically about what activities you are likely to participate in and how often you’ll do them. If you have never exercised before or haven’t in ages, will you stick to a new regimen? Most people who join clubs stop using them after only a few months—but keep right on paying for a long time. Many gyms and fitness studios let you try them out for free for a few visits, or offer short-term memberships or small packages of visits to let you dip your toe into cardio/yoga/weightlifting/etc. without a big commitment. Start by taking advantage of these intro offers.

If you still want to join up, our ratings of clubs for quality and price should help you choose a gym. We found that some charge more than twice as much as their competitors for about the same facilities and amenities. Because many clubs offer several membership options—and may offer the best deals only if it’s necessary to close a sale—make sure to ask for the best available rates. Before signing any contract, ask about cancellation and freeze rules, and make sure any promises made put in writing.