The absurdity of gym membership prices in Qatar are put in perspective once compared to those abroad.
Qatar’s high end costs for gym memberships have sparked conversations about access to fitness centres and their potential impact on public health.
Despite a top down push for physical wellbeing in the country, extortionate membership fees have caused unease among locals who seek to stay active without leaving a dent in their finances.
The fitness landscape in Qatar is currently characterised by an over saturation of gyms that offers an abundance of choices for those looking for fitness centres. However, unlike other industries, the plethora of competition available does not appear to have affected prices, budget friendly options are hard to come by.
Deemed to be on the lower end for costs, City Gym boasts a one month membership fee of QAR 300 while Fitness First offers a relatively affordable four-month membership for QAR 747.
On the other hand, the number of gyms offering more lucrative memberships far outweigh budget friendly options. Those establishments cite high rental costs as a reason behind the extortionate amount required for memberships at their facilities, however gym goers say this does not inherently rationalise the fees.
“Given that there’s an over saturation of gyms in Doha and [many] not even being of high quality, I think it’s far too overpriced,” personal trainer Farah told Doha News.
Due to market trends of high prices, even fitness centres that do not necessarily offer the same level of quality establish their pricing primarily to stay competitive “while compromising on quality of coaches, of gym equipment, of space maintenance,” she said.
“I’ve been to many gyms where coaches were not qualified enough, equipment was either lacking or not maintained, and the space was not cared for,” Farah added.
“I also think that attention to detail has become neglected within gyms which continues to showcase the minimal high quality gyms we have in Doha.”
Interestingly, some of the biggest and most popular gyms in Qatar boast a cult-like following of avid gym goers and offer top-tier amenities and services. However, this comes at a cost. One of these gyms provides a yearly membership of QAR 6,169 and one month membership priced at QAR 1,569.
Similarly, other popular gyms with less equipment have monthly and annual price tags of QAR 1,200 and QAR 12,000 respectively.
“Prices always play a role in whether I sign up for a gym or not. While yes, some gyms do maintain their quality and have an incredible range of equipment, I have also visited gyms abroad with the same diversity in equipment, larger spaces and better coaches and membership prices were no where near the standard prices you find in Doha,” Farah said.
“Take London as an example. Known for extortionate prices due to rent etc, and yes while there were luxury gyms with high price points similar to Doha, that was not their standard and there were a plethora of great gyms with memberships that started at the equivalent to 100 riyals per month,” she added.
The absurdity of gym membership prices in Qatar are put in perspective once compared to those abroad. In the United Kingdom, the average cost of top-notch and popular gym memberships is about QAR 185 monthly, and more budget friendly options going for around QAR 115 per month.
In comparison, an access fee for one of the biggest gyms in Qatar is QAR 169 – per day.
“It’s completely mind-boggling because comparing that gym [in London] to the gym I currently go to in Doha, there are no additional equipment here, there are no better or more luxury facilities that I’m being provided, and yet I’m being charged 15x the price here!” Farah explained.
Affordable fitness options are integral to motivate the public to engage in physical activities and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The increasing costs are likely to discourage potential members from embracing regular exercise.
“I recently went to a ladies only gym and I was quite impressed but they are not willing to negotiate on prices nor provide any offers!” Fatima Sana told Doha News.
As higher membership prices tend to limit access to a certain demographic, some residents who cannot afford the fees and are still keen to maintain a healthy lifestyle have no choice but to settle for cheaper gyms that have inadequate or poor condition equipments and facilities.
“The prices of the membership has always been a factor that prevented me to go to specific gyms here in Qatar as it wasn’t a suitable choice from a financial perspective,” Mustafa told Doha News.
“Increasing the gym membership prices is not justifiable as gyms should seek options that balance having a good quality service while making sure that it’s also affordable for the community.”
While authorities have set up basic outdoor gyms at various parks and hotspots across the country that provide access to equipment for free, such facilities are made almost redundant in the summer season when temperatures near 50 degrees.
“I choose to train at the outdoor park because it’s free and you are able to connect with nature which is good for the body and mind but when it’s hot we tend to reduce our training schedules by training two or three times a week because the weather cannot favour one to be outside for long,” gardener and calisthenics athlete Alvin Kimani Wangari told Doha News.
It’s very rare to get a gym that favours your budget especially for those in urban areas. At the rural areas like me I have to walk for almost an hour to get to the cheaper gym,” he added, calling for more “consideration for those working on small paying jobs by reducing the price that will boost and motivate many”.
As Qatar moves forward in promoting a healthier direction, it becomes essential to confront the issue of extortionate gym membership costs.
While prioritising high-quality fitness services holds significance, maintaining widespread access to physical wellbeing across all sectors of society is also of equal importance.