Health and Fitness Clubs Surprise Rise?It came as no surprise to me. The report from FinancialWeek.com pronounced that memberships to health and fitness clubs were actually on the rise, even in spite of current economic conditions. The biggest growth is coming from elder ‘Boomers’, age 55 and up.Um… that would be me!So why the surprise? The fact that my age demographic is leading the way in the current membership explosion shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. It was the Boomers who started the whole craze.I can’t say I’m big on joining a fitness center as I prefer doing my own thing. Here in my high rise condo, I have access to an indoor pool and a very well-equipped gym.I rarely use it. But whenever I walk by, the majority of people who do use it are… you guessed it – minimum 45+. One of the regulars is 78 years old!For myself, I spend a good amount of time in the stairs, currently running 5 cycles up and down 22 floors, three times a week. It takes just over 30 minutes. As well, Maggie and I do a fair bit of walking after dinner and on weekends. Add a few stretches coupled with some occasional resistance training as recommended by most professional trainers and I’m good. In fact, I’m pretty darned proud of my 55+ year old bod!:)The Lure of Health and Fitness ClubsIt’s hard to resist those health and fitness club flyers, isn’t it? Boomers especially cling to the vision of maintaining a youthful, vigorous appearance. We’re getting more ‘quantity’ of life, with age expectancy rising all the time. What Boomers demand now however is ‘quality’. They want to squeeze as much enjoyment out of their ever lengthening years.Of course, you could always take the Rodney Dangerfield approach to looking your best, “If you want to look thinner, hang around more fat people.”Personally, I believe you actually become who you hang out with. My job teaching young children for the past 37 years has certainly had a better effect than any gym. Plus the fact that Maggie is 12 years younger keeps me energized as well!Choosing a Health and Fitness ClubWhether or not you join a health and fitness club is a matter of choice. Some people need the extra push and accountability that a personal trainer or other club members will give. Organized gyms also can provide a social outlet which is most important in this day and age of increasing isolation and cocooning.Of course, due diligence is required before signing on the dotted line at any fitness center. While the initial offer to get you in the door may be quite enticing, you have to be extremely aware of the inevitable upsell to an annual or ‘family’ package deal.The main question is, will you actually stick to the program? Most clubs are banking that you won’t! They know most people are very weak when it comes to keeping commitments, especially the pain-for-gain kind. They also know these same people are even weaker when it comes to asking for a refund. They would rather simply slink away rather than be held accountable.The fact is, most health and fitness clubs are very strict with their refund policies. This brings a whole new meaning to the term, “Use it (your membership) or lose it (hundreds of dollars of your hard-earned cash!)”.Warning: Health and Fitness Club FraudIt’s not bad enough that you have to be aware of ‘upsell-hell’ when you shop around for a training center. It’s extremely rare NOT to be confronted with an upsell opportunity, so expect it. (Do you want fries with that?)Maggie actually had such an experience with a spa, very similar to the gym bait and switch routine. She purchased a basic package, only to be told the next week that the package was ‘discontinued’. She would have to upgrade.The following week, she was pitched to add a massage. The week after that, she was followed by a rep with a clipboard, showing her all the benefits she would gain if she upgraded to the next better deal. Maggie didn’t return again after the 5th week. She just cut her loss. Obviously, this spa mistook her for an ATM machine.Occasionally though, you’ll come across outright frauds. The news from my old home town of Nashua, N.H. recently reported that the president of a new, unregistered health and fitness club was found guilty of illegally using $14,000 in pre-paid memberships to carpet his facility. Apparently, this person was a firm believer in exercise as law officials concluded that he planned to take the money and run!For the next few months, he’ll be doing his work outs in one of New Hampshire’s finest fitness centers – a.k.a. jail!