As the New Year approaches, many will be in the market for a fitness program or gym membership. But with all the options available, how do you choose?

It all depends on your needs and preferences. Lets start with needs:

Are you new to exercise or are you a pro who knows a bunch of exercises, their cues, and safety procedures? If you're new to exercise, you will benefit most from an option that will teach you the basics needed to carry out an exercise program safely, and in a way that leads to results.

If you have some experience exercising, know the basics of exercise safety and proper form, you can save money by choosing one of the less personalized options such as a group class or a gym membership.

Many group classes do offer some personalized instruction but due to the number of people in the class, you won't get their full attention. For the true beginner, hiring a personal trainer for a short period of time just to learn the basics is a safe bet. The next best bet is to go with a class that caters to beginners (ask the person running the class and a few of the participants to get an idea of the fitness level the class caters to).

Yoga, Pilates, Spin, cross-fit, Zumba, Boot-Camps, etc… How do you choose? The best way to choose is to try them out and get a feel for the class and the group of people you’ll be exercising with. Most classes will allow you to either buy a one-class pass before enrolling in a package, or some will offer a free introductory class. You definitely want to try it before you buy a package.

Gym memberships are by far the cheapest option but this is usually not the best option for most people. Why? Because most people don't know how to design an effective program that gets the results they want and as a result, they stop going. This high number of paying customers that never use the facility help offset the gym expenses and as a result, gym owners can charge as low as $9.99 / month.

Just running on the treadmill won’t get you the results you’re after unless your goal is to improve your time in a road race so make sure you have a well designed exercise program before signing up for a gym. You can get one from a book or from a personal trainer. Most gyms that offer personal training will usually offer a free session with a personal trainer to get you started so you may be able to get them to create a program for you. I also offer customized program design sessions at my Guided Step Fitness studio (

The most personalized option is definitely to hire a personal trainer. A trainer can design a program specifically based on your needs, goals and body type. A good trainer will also closely monitor your progress and adjust the program regularly based on your body’s specific response to the program.

But there are some things to keep in mind before hiring a trainer. First, make sure they have a certification from one of the top certifying agencies (ACE, NASM, ACSM, NSCA) and make sure they have at least 3 or 4 years experience working with people just like you. Finally, make sure you like them! If you’re going to spend a lot of time working with a trainer 1-1, you’re going to want to make sure you enjoy spending time with them. Before signing up for any huge package, make sure you get to know them, try their service, and make sure they have an easy way to switch trainers or leave the program if it’s not working out. Some trainers will try to lock you into a huge package and will charge ridiculous cancellation fees if you stop before the package is over. Don’t choose a trainer that has systems like this built in to force you to stick with them. A valuable trainer knows he/she is valuable and relies solely on client satisfaction to keep clients coming back.

So, to summarize…

Gym memberships are best for people who:
know how to design an effective program (or have a well designed program from a book or personal trainer)
have the motivation to keep going until exercise becomes a habit
are looking for the lowest cost option

Group classes are best for people who:

like the social aspect of exercising with other people
don’t have experience designing an effective program (or don’t want to)
will be more likely to show up if they’re enrolled in a class

Personal Trainers are best for people who:

are new to exercise or want to expand their exercise and health knowledge
want to learn how to design an effective program so they can eventually shift to the most economical option (gym membership)
prefer the 1-1 attention and privacy that goes along with working in a private setting (assuming the personal trainer has a private training room and isn’t just working out of a large gym)

Best wishes for a happy and successful New Year!

Author's Bio: 

Christopher Chaves MBA Certified Professional Coach Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner Strategic Interventionist Neurolinguistic Programming Practitioner Certified Personal Trainer Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist Russian Kettlebell Challenge Certified Instructor Precision Nutrition Certified Chris is a Professional Coach, Personal Trainer and Nutrition Consultant who has helped many people make significant and lasting changes in their health. He specializes in teaching people how to make drastic shifts in their lives while also empowering them to maintain new levels of fitness over the long term, without having to be dependent on a Personal Trainer the rest of their lives. Chris has a degree in Psychology, numerous certifications in the ares of Coaching, Fitness, Nutrition, and has a passion for helping people realize their true potential. Chris spent 12 years climbing the corporate ladder at a large financial institution. After serving several years as the Director responsible for a large consulting division, Chris decided to follow his passion and opened Guided Step Fitness and Life Coaching with the mission of helping people turn small manageable steps into large, lasting results. Since then he's coached men and women from age 11 up to age 72. He's helped people overcome type II diabetes, depression, anxiety and has also helped several people lose up to 30% of their body weight.