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If you are considering joining a health club, be sure to comparison shop - find out about the center's costs, facilities, services, and your contractual responsibilities BEFORE you sign up. BBB strongly recommends that you consult with a doctor prior to starting any exercise program.

Here are some guidelines :

1. Personally inspect the facility - schedule a visit at the time you would normally be using the facility if you joined. Pay attention to overcrowding, condition of equipment, and cleanliness.

2. Be cautious if you have to sign the contract today - be alert to high pressure sales tactics, which include offering you special discounts ONLY if you sign a contract immediately.

3. Read and understand the contract carefully - What type of cancellation provisions does the agreement contain? Can you receive a refund if you choose to cancel? What happens if your medical condition changes or you must move? If the contract gives you the option to cancel send your request in writing by certified return receipt mail so you will have proof that the company received your request to cancel.

4. Be aware that all for-profit health clubs in Tennessee are required to be registered with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs and must display a Certificate of Registration.

5. Avoid paying in advance for long-term memberships. If you pay for your membership in advance, you may lose your money if the health club goes out of business before your contract expires or if you cancel your membership at a later date.

6. Be wary of signing a long term contract. You are responsible for paying the cost of the full term membership even if you decide to stop going after a few visits. The Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (47-18-301) requires all for profit health clubs to register with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs and obtain a certificate of registration each year. A health club must be registered to operate and sign up members. If you are considering a membership in a health club, you may wish to check its registrations status by going to the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs website at

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