How to get a gym membership for practically free

If the only thing holding you back from joining the gym is an expensive membership, then you’re in luck. What if I told you there is a price loophole? If you have health insurance, it can be the key to getting free or substantial discounted gym membership. If you’re looking for health insurance and want the benefits of an affordable gym membership, there are some important details to consider when doing so.

With more and more people searching improve their health by staying active, many health insurance companies catch on and give people what they want. It’s also helpful to know that there are ways to cut costs in certain areas of your life monthly spending budget. As we all know, every penny counts as we avoid the effects of rising inflation across the country.

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

Double check your benefits

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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 (also known as the SBC). Michael Orefice, senior vice president of operations at SmartFinancial, told CNET that the SBC outlines each health plan’s costs and coverage. “If certain self-service benefits are not specifically listed as covered or excluded benefits, ask your provider for more information,” he suggests.

You will be surprised at the wide range of additional benefits that your insurance can provide. These may include massage therapy and acupuncture along with other services. The only thing you may be limited to is seeking treatment within your network, and there may be a limit to the number of treatments you receive per year.

In the case of a gym membership, Orefice said your health insurance likely won’t pick up the entire bill, but your health plan may qualify you for discounted rates on gym memberships, fitness equipment and even online classes. “Be sure to review your current health insurance plan to see what self-care benefits are available to you, but if you’re not happy with those benefits, be sure to shop around for a policy that better suits your needs,” he advised.

Also, don’t automatically assume that your insurance won’t cover the cost of a particular benefit. Making the effort to sift through different insurance plans can make all the difference in helping you get closer to achieving your health goals. Orefice recommends thoroughly researching each plan’s coverage because there may be unique benefits that you automatically think will be out-of-pocket costs. “Paying for a little time and effort can improve your overall quality of life,” he says.

Use your flexible spending account

Wooden blocks with the letters FSA.

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When you get your health insurance through an employer, you usually have the option of a flexible spending account. An FSA is a tax-free account where you set aside a certain amount of money to help pay for all of your out-of-pocket health-related expenses. Typically, an FSA can help pay for prescription drugs, certain medical procedures, co-pays, certain pharmacy items, and, yes, even your gym membership. However, there is a catch. “If a particular benefit is not specifically stated, the expense may still qualify for reimbursement if it is medically necessary,” Orefice explained.

To get approval for the expenses, your doctor will need to sign a letter of medical necessity explaining why the treatment is necessary. It is important that you share a copy of this letter with your FSA provider or your claim will be denied when you submit it. In the case of a gym membership, having a doctor’s note explaining that you need physical activity for a specific medical reason will improve the chances that your health plan will reimburse you for the membership.

Look for gyms associated with your health insurance

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Often, your health insurance provider will have affiliations with certain gym franchises. “Insurance companies have a great incentive to help you afford your gym membership,” said Anthony Martin, founder and CEO of Choice Mutual. That’s because it costs less to help you stay healthy now than to pay for treatment if you’re unwell later. As a result, more and more insurance companies are increasingly including some form of fitness membership coverage.

“Some vendors partner with different gyms and fitness centers to offer discounts to customers,” Martin said. Note that these benefits are usually limited to a select number of studios and will vary depending on your location and plan type.

If you’re older, you should look at your Medicare Advantage plans and some Medicare Supplemental Insurance plans. “Many now include membership in SilverSneakers or other similar programs as an added perk for beneficiaries,” said Christian Worstell, a senior writer at and a health insurance agent. He continued: “SilverSneakers includes a basic gym membership along with a health and fitness program that is designed specifically for older adults that includes a variety of workouts, activities and education.” The plus side is that it’s usually free if included in your Medicare plan.

Check for a refund option

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If your insurance provider isn’t affiliated with a chain gym or you can’t use your FSA, you can also check to see if your provider can reimburse you for some of the costs. I used to have a health insurance plan that covered half of my monthly gym membership, and while it wasn’t fully covered, it still helped financially.

“Many health insurance providers offer full or partial reimbursement of gym membership fees, although there are usually a few requirements that must be met,” Martin said. In some cases, providers may require a log of your gym visits that shows you are using the membership before they will reimburse you for a portion of your gym fees. Others may have a waiting period of several months before you are eligible for a refund.

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Reviewing health insurance documents can seem daunting because it seems like you’re reading a bunch of jargon. But a deep dive into your plan or options can open your eyes to what services you may be eligible for for free or at a reduced cost. If a gym membership is a priority, it’s helpful to know that there are ways your health insurance can help with those costs.

If you’re still unsure after reviewing 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 these opportunities that could save you a lot of money 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 health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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