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Gyms trim prices but customers opt for great outdoors

GYMS are trimming down their rates to take account of consumers' slimline wallets -- but many fitness seekers are turning to the great outdoors instead.

Running, cycling and triathlons are proving a bigger draw to cash-strapped consumers seeking a new year health boost as they need minor investment and do not incur monthly bills.

The surge in outdoors sports comes despite a survey showing that many gyms slashed their prices in recent years, with some cutting them further this month to woo customers.

Ben Dunne has continued to expand his gym empire, opening a new one in Sandyford in south Dublin at the end of December. Mr Dunne said his business was doing well because it had adjusted its prices to realistic levels, with the new gym, which charges €195 a year, ahead of target for members.

"We're flying it on membership, but we're not making the profit we were because people can't afford to pay too much. If you charge too much, you simply won't get the members," he said.

But Csabo Egly, who manages Amphibian King -- a specialist store in Bray, Co Wicklow, selling fitness gear -- said running was going from strength to strength, with many customers planning to run 5km or 10km races to get themselves in shape.

The cycle to work scheme, which gives taxbreaks on the price of bikes, has been crucial in boosting cycling, with many people buying decent bikes to commute on, and then taking to the hills at weekends, said Shane White of Cyclelogical bikeshop in Dublin city centre.

Irish Independent