Health clubs are less about health and more about profits
By Ray Hanania
I’ve been a member of health clubs on and off for much of my life.
My first was the East Bank Club when I worked at the Chicago Sun-Times. It was fun. I would spend time on the treadmill, by the upper deck pool, but most of the time sipping lattes interviewing politicians.
But deep down, I’m a suburbanite. I’ve manage to migrate my work from Chicago to the suburbs. A few years back, I joined Life Time Fitness in Orland Park. It was only about 2.4 miles from the house.
They were so friendly. They “waived” my membership fee of $300 and I signed up my family thinking this would be a great experience for them, too.
It cost me about $145 a month. Eventually, my schedule changed and when I tried to cancel my membership, they gave me a hassle for six straight months. I didn’t realize I had signed away my soul.
Every time I tried to cancel, they would argue with me. I managed my account online but they wouldn’t let me close my account online. They had every excuse. It was exhausting. In the end, I had to write an “official letter” and by the time I delivered it, they imposed a costly penalty. I had to remain a member for two months. Meaning, they charged me about $290 in extra fees.
I was so glad to get out of there. It wasn’t comfortable. It was more of a social club than a health club. Nice employees but management sucked. For the money I was paying, it just wasn’t worth the hassle.
I ended up at the Palos Health & Fitness Center which is only 1.8 miles from my house.
Palos Fitness was more of a baby boomer, senior health club than a dance floor for the young and fit. It was never crowded when I would get there at 6 am. I’d work out for about one hour and then leave.
It cost $75 a month, just for myself, which was still pretty expensive. But they didn’t have the high-pressure push by the trainers who wandered around Life Time urging you to sign away $300 or more for some personal training sessions.
I always thought about buying my own treadmill for the home, but I figured it would end up as a rack for my shirts and pants. All I wanted to do was move my way up from fast walking to jogging for one hour straight. It felt good.
I liked Palos Health & Fitness Center, and its staff. No one bothered me there, although I was constantly doing the math trying to figure out how much it was costing me per-visit.
Palos Health & Fitness Center is owned by Palos Community Hospital, which is one of the best hospitals in Chicagoland. The doctors, nurses and staff are phenomenal. They don’t get the recognition they deserve.
It’s a Catch 22 for all hospitals. Most people don’t think of a hospital in a good way. The only time you go to a hospital is for some emergency or when someone dies. So feeling warm and fuzzy about a hospital is not easy.
Maybe that’s why so many seniors who use Palos Health & Fitness Center are angry that Palos Community Hospital wants to close the fitness center to make room for a new outpatient center. On the treadmill, you think you can live forever, not end up lifeless on a white sheeted gurney.
When I heard the news, I called Palos Health & Fitness Center to cancel my membership. They were very polite. They didn’t hassle me the way Life Time did. They let me do it by email. But, they made me pay a two-months. So, in the end, they got me for $150. Fine. At least it was easier than the way Life Time treated me.
Hopefully, I’ll find a better alternative, one that cares about my health more than my wallet.
I understand why so many seniors are complaining about Palos Hospital closing the fitness center. Where else are they going to go to socialize, spend money and feel like they are doing something to improve their health?
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. Email him at email@example.com.)
Categories: Baby Boomers