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How to Create (and Enforce) a Gym Member Code of Conduct

How to Create (and Enforce) a Gym Member Code of Conduct

Reading Time: 5 minutes 15 seconds


DATE: 2024-04-01

When you join an organization as a client or member, you’re often provided with some type of agreement or handbook. This document outlines your rights and responsibilities. If the membership involves utilizing a fitness center or its services—such as personal training or group exercise classes—a code of conduct is an important part of this paperwork.

What Is a Code of Conduct?

A code of conduct provides the rules a member must follow. It outlines what is and isn’t appropriate when using the facility. Some codes also share actions that are encouraged when engaging in training or another physical activity on the premises.

Gyms and fitness centers may include this code within the member handbook. It can also be provided as part of a membership agreement or membership benefits. For gyms that allow guests, the code could be included with the guest policy.

The code doesn’t have to be available for members only. Gyms may also post it on their website. Or they may develop a pamphlet individuals can pick up at their welcome center. These approaches are helpful for anyone interested in a gym membership as they can learn the rules before signing up.

Why Conduct-Related Gym Policies Are Important

One reason to create a code of conduct is that it establishes clear expectations. This is particularly helpful with challenging training clients. As a personal trainer, you might have a client who likes to push the boundaries. This code tells them exactly how far those boundaries go. 

With a well-defined membership policy, clients also know what to expect from other members and guests. It gives them a bit of insight into the culture of the gym. The code of conduct might that vulgarity will not be tolerated, for instance. In this case, individuals know they can work out without having to hear offensive language. They also don’t have to fear harassment or intimidation if these are prohibited in the code. 

Providing a list of actions and behaviors that will not be tolerated can help every client and guest feel welcome and comfortable. Research supports diversity within gyms as a way to “transcend cultural differences.” It can bring members from different backgrounds together in a mutually beneficial way.

Another reason to develop a code of conduct is to protect your staff. It makes it clear how members are expected to treat the fitness professionals at your gym. When good treatment is required, it becomes easier to hire higher-quality professionals. They know they won’t be mistreated at your gym. This makes you a preferred employer in the fitness industry.

A clear code of conduct also gives employees the ability to swiftly handle bothersome or menacing behavior. They don’t have to deal with poor behavior until someone else handles it. Instead, the code of conduct enables them to deal directly with problematic behavior.

Topics to Address in a Gym Member Code of Conduct

Codes of conduct can vary from one gym to another. That said, many discuss similar topic areas. Common rules for client and guest conduct at a fitness facility include those related to:

  • Expectations for facility cleanliness and hygiene

  • Dress codes and what to do with personal belongings

  • Behavior and etiquette expectations

  • What is allowed in terms of media and technology use

  • Conduct guidelines for personal training and coaching sessions

  • Guidelines for using fitness equipment

  • How conduct-related violations will be addressed 

  • What members can do if a conduct violation is witnessed

How to Create a Conduct Code for Your Fitness Center

There are several ways you can structure a gym member code of conduct. Here are a couple of options to consider.

Option 1: Provide a List of Prohibited Behaviors

One option is to provide a list of actions or behaviors that won’t be tolerated at your facility. An example of this is the YMCA Code of Conduct. This code tells Y members and guests what is prohibited when using a YMCA facility. 

Among the things not allowed when on YMCA property or engaged in a YMCA program include:

  • Clothing with vulgar language or obscene gestures

  • Threatening, harassing, or intimidating behaviors

  • Theft or destruction of property

  • Weapons or illegal chemicals

  • Alcohol or tobacco usage

  • The use of cell phones in locker rooms

This code tells members and guests to reach out to YMCA staff if they see any of these things. It also spells out the consequences of violating the code. Depending on the situation, the offender can lose their YMCA membership. They may have their YMCA membership privileges terminated.

Option 2: Give Gym Etiquette Guidelines

Some gyms don’t just use their code of conduct to tell members what not to do. They also use these rules to encourage desired behaviors. Taking this approach can be helpful for new exercisers. Beginners may not be familiar with gym etiquette. So, giving them tips can help them do their part to create a pleasurable workout environment for all.

City Fitness in Philadelphia provides this type of information. It shares etiquette tips for the club and the steam and sauna rooms. Some of its etiquette rules include:

  • Wiping down equipment after it is used

  • Re-racking weights, and not dropping or slamming them

  • Using lockers for backpacks and gym bags

  • Wearing clothing when in the steam or sauna rooms

Some people don’t knowingly violate gym etiquette. They just don’t realize what it is. Including this information in the code of conduct helps avoid these situations.

Ways to Address Enforcement Within the Member Code of Conduct

In a perfect world, members would have stellar conduct all the time. But the world isn’t perfect. So, gyms can expect this code to be violated at some point. This makes it important to include the consequences members will face if a violation occurs.

Spelling out consequences for every possible violation is cumbersome and unnecessary. Instead, include a basic statement such as, “Violation of this code may result in further action, up to and including the termination of your membership.” This enables your facility to determine the consequences based on the situation. It also allows the consequences to include any action up to the loss of membership privileges.

In this statement, you may want to address what happens with the person’s membership fee. Do they get any money back? When are additional membership dues stopped? At the time of violation or when the membership was formally terminated?

If you have multiple locations, also consider whether their membership ceases for that facility only or all the facilities. If a violator is not allowed at any of your facilities, the violation statement may need to be amended. It would need to address the loss of nationwide membership privileges, for instance.

Empowering Staff to Enforce Gym Conduct

When creating your member code of conduct, determine which staff members can or will deal with violations. Can any staff member handle enforcement or only specific professionals? Does this change based on the severity of the violation?

For example, imagine that a client doesn’t wipe down the equipment after using it. While this is bothersome, it’s not a major offense. Therefore, any level of staff may be able to address it. 

But what happens if the member’s action is more severe? Maybe they used their cell phone to record other members in the locker room. This is not only problematic but also criminal. In cases such as this, a senior fitness staff member may be best for handling the violation. This ensures that it is handled correctly. 

If you’re a fitness trainer, dealing with conduct issues can be an uncomfortable part of the job. As long as you handle these issues professionally, it can help create a positive exercise environment.

Learn other ways to enhance your professionalism with ISSA’s Personal Trainer Certification course. This course teaches you how to work with a variety of clients—even those that are a bit challenging. 


  1. Cardone, P. (2019). The gym as intercultural meeting point? Binding effects and boundaries in gym interaction. European Journal for Sport and Society, 16(2), 111–127. https://doi.org/10.1080/16138171.2019.1607057

  2. The YMCA: Code of Conduct. (n.d.). YMCA of Long Island. https://ymcali.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/Code-of-Conduct-Updated-10.15.18.pdf

  3. City Fitness Philadelphia. (2024, February 9). MEMBER GUIDE - City Fitness Philadelphia. City Fitness Philadelphia - Join Online. https://cityfitnessphilly.com/member-guide/

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