Why are gym memberships so expensive?

A gym earns between 60% and 80% of its income from membership fees, with members paying around £40 a month in...

A gym earns between 60% and 80% of its income from membership fees, with members paying around £40 a month in the UK and $58 in the US.

But rising living costs can make justifying a gym membership difficult, especially as many of us also make regular car payments, pay for TV and music subscriptions, phone contracts and utility bills, etc. The cost-of-living crisis has forced many of us to take a second look at how much money is leaving our bank accounts each month.  

One YouGov poll found that 5.1 million people in the UK had either cancelled or considered cancelling a gym or sports membership due to rising living costs.  

So why are gym memberships so expensive? 

Defining expensive is difficult. What one person considers costly is a fair price to someone else. It can depend on how much a person earns and their disposable income. It’s also influenced by lifestyle, upbringing, personality, and where that person lives. Crucially, it also depends on whether a gym membership represents value for money, regardless of the actual cost. 

For example, A £100 a month membership used regularly may feel less expensive than a much cheaper one that’s underused. We can further this example by using the UK average. Someone paying £40 a month and going to the gym twice a week is essentially spending around £5 for each session. They may feel that the enjoyment, the physical and mental health benefits, or the sense of achievement outweighs this cost. Or they may not.  

Electric light bulbs hanging from the ceiling

Rising Utility Bills and Rents 

Homeowners aren't the only ones facing increasing utility bills. UK Active writes that gyms, pools and leisure facilities face energy bill increases of up to 150%, suggesting that the entire sector faces bills of between £1 billion and £1.25 billion compared to £500 million in 2019. It's a huge increase. Gyms can be highly energy-intensive places: equipment and software, HVAC systems, lighting, pools, etc., all require some form of power. Others may have saunas and Jacuzzis too.  

According to Hussle, 55% of gym users are worried their gym could close due to rising energy costs. 

We're beginning to see gyms passing some of this cost onto members. In 2022, the Gym Group announced that it was increasing membership fees due to rising energy costs. It expected a £2 million increase in utility bills for the latter half of the year. One website reported that an increase in fees was expected to be around 20%, pushing its current £15.99 a month membership up to £19.99.   

We'll likely see others doing the same. Budget gyms are particularly vulnerable as they already have low-profit margins. It’s one reason Energym is installing electricity-generating indoor bikes in gyms and cycling studios.  

(You can pre-order a RE:GEN for the home too).


Man sitting on RE:GEN in green lit studio


The more facilities a gym has, the more it will cost each month. If you think your gym is too expensive, then it’s worth looking at other options in the area. Cheaper gyms may offer exactly what you need to exercise effectively but at a fraction of the cost. If you’re not using the pool or if you don’t care about unlimited classes or immersive experiences, then finding something that’s less fancy but more functional could help reduce the amount you pay on monthly fees. You may also find that joining a specialist gym (strength training, cross-fit, boutique, indoor cycling, etc.) represents better value for money than an all-rounder.  


Some gym memberships are more expensive because of where they are. Sometimes this may be because smaller towns or rural areas don’t have much competition, or it could be because it’s in an area where living costs are just generally higher. One advantage of being in a city centre is that there’s likely to be far more competition, which should give you a few cheaper options.


Equipment Costs and the price of experience  

The average indoor bike has a life expectancy of around seven years and needs maintenance throughout that period for safety and efficiency. One of the biggest draws to a gym is its equipment and availability, so it’s a cost that can impact the membership price. 
There’s also a growing trend for immersive exercise experiences designed to make working out more challenging and fun. These are more expensive to run and manage than simply lining up a few machines on a gym floor. You’ll see many boot camps and indoor cycling studios starting to use this type of workout style, using smoke machines, lights and even DJs to create an atmosphere more like a nightclub than a workout.  

Business Costs 

Gyms are businesses and face many of the same challenges as any other. We’ve already mentioned the impact that rising energy costs are having, but that isn’t all they have to contend with. Gyms must also pay for staffing (including specialist hiring), insurance, marketing, accounting, décor, etc.  

Why are cross fit gyms so expensive? 

Regular gym membership gives you access to equipment and the option of taking classes. You handle your own training much of the time, which is why memberships are an average of £40 a month in the UK. By comparison, Cross-fit gyms are around £90.

There are several reasons why. Firstly, it's more expensive to become a cross-fit certified trainer than a regular personal trainer. Cross-fit gyms also require more space than many traditional gyms, so they'll be paying for additiional square footage. And Cross fit is a series of pre-planned workouts performed in small classes and under the supervision of a trainer. You often don't get this type of attention during a group class in a regular gyms or during individual workouts with a trainer. So you're not only paying to use equipment but for personal training too.  

How to spend less on a gym membership 

  • Whether you’re already a member or if you’re just starting to research, then it’s worth writing down your fitness goals and working out what guidance, training or support you'll need. You want a facility that aligns with them. Otherwise, you may end up paying for facilities or services you don’t need.  

    Equally, you may realise that it’s worth spending extra to access facilities that are more expensive.  

  • If you don’t go to the gym regularly or if you prefer a short-term option, then some gyms offer daily, weekly and monthly passes. These let you access facilities without signing up for a monthly membership.  

  • Some gyms have membership tiers which include an off-peak option. This restricts the times you can go (9 am until 3 pm on weekdays etc.) but may suit your hours and could significantly reduce the membership cost.

  • Budget gyms can cost as little as £13.99 on a rolling contract. If nothing else, using these cheaper facilities will give you an idea of how committed you are to working out regularly and could give you the confidence to pay for a more expensive membership when you’re ready.  

  • The gym isn’t the only place to exercise. If you love running on the treadmill, then start running outside. Park Runs on Saturdays are a great way to meet people and get fit, and they’re free. Council parks often have outdoor gyms too. Check locally for classes taking place in school halls or leisure centres, and these will often be on a pay-as-you-go basis. There are yoga classes, military boot camps, dance classes, CrossFit, aerobics, etc. Equally, technology also means you can join classes remotely or access content via an app on a subscription. 

  • It may also be cheaper in the long term to buy gym equipment for your home. There’s a wide range of equipment to suit all budgets. This could be a treadmill, free weights or an indoor cycling bike like the electricity-generating RE:GEN. 


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.


Solutions for every setting