Thinking of joining a fitness club but worried about the membership fee and monthly dues? Check your health insurance policy: You may be eligible for a big discount.

Through a network called GlobalFit, Kaiser Permanente is offering dues reductions of up to 60 percent at more than 90 local gyms, from independents like City Fitness on Connecticut Avenue NW to various Gold's Gym and Bally Total Fitness locations.

GlobalFit, which is also affiliated with Aetna and other health insurers, is proving popular, said Becca Pearce, a CareFirst product manager. "We're getting 50 hits a day on a CareFirst-specific Web site" that gives people information about the discount program, she said.

"The reason that GlobalFit is so important to us is that they are a national provider, and not only that, they offer chains," Pearce said. "Just by having the Ballys and the Curves and the [other] well-known names, I think that's really a draw." Pearce said that when she used another CareFirst affiliate, the National Fitness Network, to enroll her husband in the gym where she works out, she found that the discount for him for substantial: "I pay $55 a month, and he pays $41."

DuWayne Scott, general manager of the fitness and aquatics programs at the YWCA on Ninth Street NW, said people who join his club through GlobalFit receive a discount of 25 percent to 45 percent, depending on the type of membership they buy. "About 30 people . . . are taking advantage of it," he said.

Major insurance plans also offer discounts on services that are not covered by insurance, such as massage, acupuncture and weight control programs.

And more deals may soon be available. "What I'm looking at right this very second," Pearce said, "is adding yoga, Pilates, tai chi, qi gong -- all of which are movement techniques that really give you more flexibility and are just proven to keep you healthier longer."

"It would be not the Pilates that you get from your gym," she said. "It would probably be a yoga school that also offers Pilates, so it would a more specialized offering."

Even small discounts can be attractive, judging by the $10 break that Weight Watchers offers to CareFirst members enrolling in a three-month program that ordinarily costs $55.

"It's a good way for people to dip their toes in, and it's not a long-term commitment," said Pearce. "In the first three months [Weight Watchers] said it was one of the most highly utilized" discount plans.

Not interested in these options? Consider this: Cigna offers discounts on laser vision surgery at Johns Hopkins's Wilmer Eye Institute. And for those who already can see well enough to read, the company provides cut-rate subscriptions to health-related magazines.

-- Tom Graham

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