The beginning of the year is notorious for a spike in gym memberships, but the stretch from fall to winter sees the pendulum swing the opposite direction. For those of us who live in warmer climates, fall is the time of year when exercising outdoors finally becomes realistic again. And in any climate, end-of-the-year financial pressures like the upcoming holidays can make us quick to cancel our contracts. Plus, reports increasingly say gym memberships are one more thing millennials are guilty of “killing,” with rising interest in more boutique approaches to fitness, like a SoulCycle or Barry’s Bootcamp, and a preference for streaming services that allow you to work out at home. So if you’re contemplating leaving the land of treadmills and ellipticals, you’re not alone.

When deciding whether to ditch your gym, there are numerous factors to take into account. You might be reaping benefits you don’t realize from a gym membership — or you might actually be paying for far more than you’re getting. Here are six things to consider before you tear up your contract and hit play on YouTube fitness videos.

Woman on treadmill at the gym

1. How much does it cost? The most obvious consideration for most of us when it comes to gym membership is the financial bottom line. Perhaps you’ve decided you’d rather put that monthly chunk of change ($58/month for the average US membership) back in your pocket — especially if you’re not going very often. Unfortunately, this is sometimes easier said than done. Many gym contracts lock you in so that quitting actually costs more than sticking out the duration of your membership. You may be better off financially if you ride out your commitment until it ends.

2. How far away is it? For those with plenty of time on their hands, a long, leisurely drive to the gym may not pose a problem. But when time is precious, the length of your commute can be a deciding factor in whether to stay or go. Even a 15-minute drive becomes hard to justify when you’re spending as much time in the car as you are on your half-hour workout. Then again, if your gym is a social hub where you hang with friends, or home to your favorite yoga instructor on the planet, getting there and back may be a totally worthwhile use of time.

3. Does it align with your values? Just like individuals, gyms have values. You can feel them in the way you’re treated by staff, in the supplements and products being sold on-site, and even in the promotional materials they send you in the mail. If you had to give your gym a mission statement, what would it be — and would it match your own goals for health and wellness? Underlying messages of “weight loss at all costs” or “you’re just a number here” might not jive with what you’re trying to accomplish.

4. How does it make you feel? The gym can be a surprisingly emotional place. Ideally, even though you might not always feel like going (because who always wants to work out?), your time there should leave you feeling positive and empowered. Sometimes, however, the vibe at the gym can be less than uplifting. If objectifying looks from certain bench-press dudes are making you uncomfortable or if the sea of perfect bodies is messing with your self-talk, it may be time to bail. Your mental health matters just as much as your physical health.

5. Does it keep you social? One often overlooked benefit of a gym is the social support it can provide. Not only is it a place to meet new people or see friends who are fellow members (important in-person interactions in these digital times we live in), studies show that exercising with others boosts our endurance and helps us work out harder. (Be honest: Aren’t you more likely to stick out an hour of kickboxing in a class than at home in front of a screen?) Additional research reveals that group exercise improves quality of life and reduces stress significantly more than working out by yourself. Might be reason enough to stay committed.

6. Can your workouts work without it? Just like working out with others helps you stay motivated, knowing you’ve invested time and money in a gym membership may keep you accountable to exercise regularly. Can you hang on to your workout dedication without it? Consider your own personality and past experiences with going gym-free. You may even want to give it a trial run, taking a few weeks’ break to see if you’re able to work out consistently at home.

In addition, take stock of which resources and equipment you use at the gym and how well you could replicate them at home. If you do decide to throw in the (sweat) towel, one option is to take a portion of the money you’ll save and invest in something that’ll promote working out, like a good set of free weights or a pair of quality running shoes.

What keeps you at your gym — or what has made you leave? Tell us at @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)