How to Get a Gym Membership for Practically Free

If the only thing stopping you from joining a gym is the expensive membership, then you’re in luck. What if I told you there is a loophole to bypass the prize? If you have health insurance, this can be the key to free or substantial coverage discounted gym membership. If you’re looking for health insurance and want to take advantage of an affordable gym membership, there are a few important details to look out for.

With more and more people looking for it improve their health by staying active, many health insurance companies are starting and giving people what they want. It also helps to know that there are ways to reduce costs in specific areas of your business monthly spending budget. As we all know, every penny counts as we dodge the effects of rising inflation nationwide.

So if you’re looking for ways to get a gym membership for a good price, check out our expert-recommended tips.

Check your benefits

A woman hands over her insurance card to a provider.

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Whether you have health insurance or are looking for the right package, be sure to read the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (aka SBC). Michael Orefice, SmartFinancial’s senior vice president of operations, told CNET that the SBC outlines the cost and coverage of each health insurance plan. “If specific self-catering services aren’t specifically listed as covered or excluded services, check with your provider for more information,” he suggests.

You will be surprised how many free benefits your insurance offers. This could include massage therapy and acupuncture and other services. The only thing you may be limited to is seeking treatment within your network and there may be a cap on the number of treatments you receive per year.

In the case of gym memberships, Orefice said, your health insurance most likely won’t foot the entire bill, but your health plan can qualify you for discounted rates on gym memberships, fitness equipment, and even online classes. “Make sure you review your current health plan to see what self-care perks are available to you, but if you are not satisfied with those perks, be sure to purchase a policy that better suits your needs,” advised he.

Also, don’t automatically assume that your insurance company won’t cover the cost of a particular service. Making the effort to sift through different insurance plans can help you get closer to your health goals. Orefice recommends thoroughly researching each plan’s coverage, as there may be unique benefits that you automatically thought would have to be paid for out of pocket. “The payoff for a little time and effort can improve your overall quality of life,” he says.

Use your Flex spending account

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If you get your health insurance through an employer, you usually have a Flexible Spending Account option available to you. An FSA is a tax-free account where you set aside a certain amount of money to pay for health-related expenses out of your own pocket. Typically, an FSA can help you pay for prescribed medications, certain medical procedures, co-payments, some drugstore items and, yes, even your gym membership. However, there is a catch. “If a specific service is not specifically listed, the costs can still be reimbursed if they are medically necessary,” explained Orefice.

In order to have the costs approved, your doctor must sign a Medical Necessity Letter explaining why the treatment is needed. It is important that you forward a copy of this letter to your FSA provider otherwise your application will be rejected upon submission. In the case of a gym membership, a doctor’s note stating that you need physical activity for a specific medical reason improves your chances of your health insurance plan paying you for the membership.

Look for gyms that are affiliated with your health insurance company

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Often your health insurance company has affiliations with specific gym franchises. “Insurance companies have a great incentive to help you afford your gym membership,” said Anthony Martin, founder and CEO of Choice Mutual. This is because it costs less to keep you healthy now than to pay for treatment if you don’t feel well later. As a result, more and more insurance companies are including some form of fitness membership insurance.

“Some vendors have partnered with various gyms and fitness centers to offer customers discounted rates,” Martin said. Keep in mind that these benefits are usually limited to a select number of studios and vary by location and plan type.

If you are an older adult, you should look at your Medicare Advantage plans and some Medicare Supplement Insurance plans. “Many now include memberships in SilverSneakers or other similar programs as an added benefit for beneficiaries,” said Christian Worstell, senior associate at and health insurance agent. He continued, “SilverSneakers includes basic gym membership and a health and fitness program designed specifically for older adults that includes various workouts, activities, and education.” On the plus side, it’s usually free when it’s in included in your Medicare plan.

Look for a refund option

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If your insurance provider is not affiliated with a gym chain or you are unable to use your FSA, you can also check whether or not your provider can reimburse you for part of the cost. I used to have health insurance that paid half of my monthly gym memberships, and while it wasn’t fully covered, it still helped financially.

“Many health insurance companies offer full or partial reimbursement of membership fees in the gym, but there are usually a number of conditions that have to be met,” says Martin. In some cases, providers may require a log of your gym visits showing that you are using the membership before they will reimburse you for any portion of your gym fees. Others may have to wait a few months before being eligible for a refund.

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bottom line

Looking at health insurance records can seem daunting because it makes it seem like you’re reading a bunch of technical jargon. But a deep dive into your plan or options can open your eyes to what services you might be getting for free or at a discounted rate. If a gym membership is a priority, it’s helpful to know that there are ways your health insurance can help with those expenses.

If you’re still unsure after reading the fine print, don’t be afraid to contact your insurance company and ask. The last thing you want to do is miss out on those opportunities that can save you big bucks on a monthly and yearly basis.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions about a medical condition or health goals.

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