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24 Jul 2020

Now the gym is open again, can I quit?

Major gyms will resume payments automatically, and that means it's on you to refreeze or cancel your membership

Major gyms will resume payments automatically from Saturday 25 July, meaning members who don't want to return must act fast.

Fitness fanatics in England (excluding areas under local lockdown) can hit the treadmill once again this weekend, after changes in government advice. But what if you don't want to?

Due to social distancing and safety measures, the way your gym works will not be the same as before.

And even though gyms will have to be 'COVID-secure' to reopen, you might not yet feel ready to spend an hour in a room full of sweaty strangers.

Despite this, some gyms will restart direct debits as soon as they reopen, and you won't always be able to quit just because you don't want to go back.

Here, we look at the ways big gym chains are managing their memberships, and what you need to do if you'd rather keep exercising at home.

What happens to my membership when gyms reopen?

Most gym chains decided to 'freeze' memberships throughout lockdown. This meant you were not paying when you couldn't use them.

When we spoke to five of the UK's biggest gym brands this week, all said they'd be automatically unfreezing (melting?) memberships when they reopened.

If you're a member of one of these gyms, and you do nothing, you'll be charged when they reopen. This isn't a problem if you're planning to go back. But if you're not, you need to take action.

You might want to quit the gym entirely for the time being - maybe you switched to working out at home - or maybe you're particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Or you might see yourself returning to the gym eventually, just not yet.

Whatever the reason, the table below has everything we know about how you can refreeze or cancel your membership at each of these gyms, and whether there are any special exceptions for vulnerable members.

GymWhen is it reopening?Can I extend my freeze?Can I cancel early?Exemptions for vulnerable/elderly
Bannatyne Health Club1 AugustYes, for 2-6 months at £10 a month.Only with evidence of medical, financial or relocation reasons to do so.People at high risk can extend freeze or cancel early for free, if they provide a proof of vulnerability letter.
David Lloyd25 July (with 10% discount for July and August)Yes, for free until 1 September, then with 25% suspension charge thereafter. Max. freeze nine months.No, annual contracts must be served as per terms and conditions.Members can freeze for free with evidence of a medical condition preventing them from exercising.
Nuffield Health25 July (but payments resume on 5 August)Free extension until 1 September. Possible further extension can be discussed with local club.Nuffield advises freezing memberships instead. We take this to mean you cannot cancel early.Shielding and clinically vulnerable members can extend membership freeze by contacting local club.
PureGym25 JulyFree for one month, £5.99 per month for up to 3 months.PureGym doesn't have annual contracts, so you can quit anytime. If you have already paid for a year's membership, you'll get a pro-rata refund.Since PureGym has no contracts, you can cancel and rejoin at any time.
Virgin Active25 JulyCan continue freeze until 31 August for free. No further freeze available.Only for reasons within contract, such as relocation, health or financial issues.Over 70s or those with underlying health conditions can freeze indefinitely for free.

What gyms say about reopening

Every gym we spoke to will start taking direct debit payments as soon as they reopen unless you get in touch. You can usually do this online.

The length you can extend your freeze at each chain varies between one month (Virgin Active) and nine months (David Lloyd). But in most cases you'll have to pay to extend beyond August.

None of these gyms will let you cancel your contract early purely because you don't want to go back. This means you'll have to serve your contract's minimum term whether you're actually going to the gym or not once your extended freeze is over.

There are exceptions if you're clinically vulnerable. You'll be able to freeze indefinitely at most of them, and Bannatyne will even let you cancel early. In all cases, you'll need evidence, such as a shielding letter from the government or clinical diagnosis.

And of course,if your gym doesn't have contracts - like PureGym - you can stop paying at any time.

Do I want to go back to the gym?

At the end of the day, this is a decision only you can make.

The UK government has deemed them safe to reopen, as long as they follow social distancing practices. Northern Irish gyms reopened earlier in July with a number of measures in place.

This could mean you'll need to book your workout slot before you arrive, and only stay for an hour. Many machines will be out of use, and class sizes may be smaller, making it potentially more difficult for you to get a spot.

Even if you will feel safe at the gym, this might not be your idea of a good workout.

A YouGov poll from May found that six in ten people (62%) would feel uncomfortable returning to gyms when they reopen. Yet if you haven't cancelled your membership already, gyms are assuming you'll go back as soon as you can.