Citizens Advice is urging people to do their homework before signing up to any fitness memberships this new year, to make sure they don’t end up out of pocket. As many people seek to turn over a healthy new leaf in 2018 the charity is sharing its top tips to make sure signing up for a gym or fitness membership doesn’t leave your finances out of shape.

In the 12 months to the end of November 2017 the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline advised people on an average of 197 cases every month around gyms, health clubs and fitness studios. Over a third (35%) were complaints about substandard services such as a gym being closed for long periods of time, classes being shorter than advertised, people struggling to book prepaid personal training sessions and poor quality facilities – including a fitness studio with no hot showers.

1 in 7 (14%) complaints were about terms and conditions, including many cases where people felt they were unfairly held in a contract, and 1 in 10 (9%) about misleading claims – for instance where people were promised bespoke exercise plans which never materialised.

In addition to calls to the helpline, Citizens Advice offices across England and Wales provided face-to-face advice to people to help them deal with over 1,000 problems with health, gym and sports club memberships. Over the same period, 60,000 people looked up the “Cancelling a gym membership” advice pages of the charity’s website.

One man called Citizens Advice for help getting out of a 12-month contract after he was unable to use the gym as expected. It was so oversubscribed he had to queue to use equipment and faced long waits in the changing rooms as there weren’t enough showers.

Another woman turned to the charity after signing up to her local health club on the promise it was going to be fully refurbished – but the improvements were never made.

Kate Hobson, consumer expert at Citizens Advice, said “At this time of year we’re bombarded with offers for health and fitness memberships, which can ask for a lot of money or commitment up front. It’s really important to do your homework before you sign up to any gym, health club or fitness studio. Make sure you know how long you’re committing for, how much it will cost you, and think about how often you’ll need to use it for it to make sense on your budget.

Research by Citizens Advice has previously found that many people get trapped paying subscriptions that they don’t use. In just three months consumers paid an average of £160 towards unwanted subscriptions such as gym or sports club memberships

An analysis of cases to the Citizens Advice consumer service between June and August 2017, showed 9 in 10 people were initially refused by the company when they tried to cancel their subscription.