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Home workout or join a gym?

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Like to hit the machines? One thing to keep in mind: "A lot of gym machines are better than what you would get at home," says Lee. If you want to set up a home gym, count on buying "more than the base model," to get a good long-term value, she says.

Are the facilities you're considering convenient? If you're going to use a club regularly, it pays to make it convenient. Most people who use a club regularly live or work within three miles, says Moore.

A major reason why people join a club and quit? They aren't using the facilities, according to surveys by the club association.

If you're not using it regularly, you're not getting your money's worth.

Do you like a communal atmosphere or do you want to go it alone? "Some people prefer to exercise alone, others like to exercise in groups," says Lee. If you're the latter, you might do better by joining a health club or an informal group, like a walking club, she says.

What times do you plan to use the facilities? Clubs are typically the most crowded right before and after work and during lunch hours, says Moore.

Visit a club during the hours you plan to use it to see what it will be like during your workout. If you prefer to work out during off hours, you might be able to qualify for a reduced-price membership, says Moore. These can be 10 percent to 50 percent less, he says.

But if you want to work out at peak times and hate crowds, that's a point for a home gym or other options.

What's your goal? If you simply want to get more physically active, you can probably do that on your own, says Dr. Lee. But if you want to train for a specific event or use specific types of equipment, that might be a good reason to join a gym.

"We like people to develop goals that are health-related," rather than goals that are strictly physical, says Moore. You tend to see the progress more rapidly and that can keep you motivated, he says.

One excellent goal is to lower your resting heart rate. Work out regularly, and within a month, "you'll usually see the resting heart rate decrease five to 10 beats per minute," he says.

Can you try before you buy? A lot of gyms will allow you to buy a trial membership or sign on by the month so that you can test out the facilities. Test it and see what works for you, says Lee.

Not only will you find out if you like the gym, but you'll get to sample various activities and equipment. 

"Try things out and you'll see what you like and whether you can stick with it," says Lee.

For a look at the costs, see the accompanying story, "Cost of exercise equipment."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Aug. 28, 2007
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