Gym Chains: Best Big-Box Gym: 24 Hour Fitness Clubs
- More than 400 locations nationwide (24HourFitness.com)
- Starting at $30 for a monthly membership
With a huge network of clubs throughout the country, some of which stay open around the clock, 24 Hour Fitness members can work out almost anytime, anywhere. Every sprawling location (up to 100,000 square feet) features the latest strength and cardio equipment plus a variety of classes, including quirky fare like Hot Hula, a Polynesian-style core-sculpting dance workout with live drumming. For extra weight-loss help, members can buy the bodybugg ($199, mystore.24hourfitness.com), a wear-on-your-arm calorie-burn monitor, and have a coach adjust their routines according to its readings. "The staff takes pride in what they do and make it a supportive environment," member Joy Kuraoka says.
Gym Chains: Best Alternative Ambiance: DavidBartonGym
- Seven locations in Chicago, Miami, New York, and Seattle (davidbartongym.com)
- $125 for a monthly membership, plus an initiation fee; day pass, $25
Don't be deceived by these funkily decorated clubs: Hipsters are not the only ones who benefit! In addition to live DJs and disco lights three nights a week, DavidBartonGyms are also known for their stellar personal trainers and hard-core classes, which are designed and taught by those trainers rather than group fitness instructors. Six-Pack Attack, Pain & Pleasure, and Xpress Cycle are among the member favorites. The sparkling locker rooms are stocked with high-quality lotions, shampoos, and conditioners. "The amazing space, the trainers, the equipment, and all of the amenities make it a cool place that I love to visit," member Leslie Wolfson says.
Gym Chains: Best Classes: Equinox Fitness Clubs
- 48 locations nationwide (equinox.com)
- Starting at $130 for a monthly membership, plus an initiation fee
Not only does Equinox demand basic fitness certifications from its trainers and instructors, but the boutique chain also puts employees through signature continuing-education courses, developed by physical therapists and sports medicine pros, in which they learn skills like body-composition analysis and metabolic testing. Group fitness classes, including energetic Parkour Power Play and intense kettlebell training, are top-notch too. And don't be surprised if you recognize your instructor from top-selling workout DVDs. "Any kind of fat-burning cardio class at Equinox totally rocks; all of the instructors are pros, and they play fantastic music," member Tracy Madans says.
Gym Chains: Best Sculpting Studio: Gold's Gym
- More than 500 locations nationwide (goldsgym.com)
- Starting at $30 for a monthly membership
Gold's Gym members praise the chain for its strength training and body sculpting offerings, including free weights galore, great personal trainers and group exercise classes like Body Pump and Body Attack. Gold's bigger locations (up to 120,000 square feet) also offer rock climbing, free childcare while you work out, smoothie bars, and Cardio Cinemas — movie theaters filled with exercise equipment. Additional benefits include on-site physical therapists and Kid's Clubs, which teach children how to lead healthy, active lives. "There's a very friendly and knowledgeable staff here who are always willing to help you train," member Sonya Phillips says.
Gym Chains: Best Women-Only Club: Healthworks
- Five locations in Massachusetts (healthworksfitness.com)
- Starting at $36 for a monthly membership
Members rave about Healthworks' amazing female-friendly programming: 100 classes weekly, including Pilates, boxing, belly dancing, and Mommy and Me sessions. Nursery services are available at all locations, and locker rooms have immaculate sauna and steam rooms. Plus, there's an impressive rock-climbing wall at one location and an on-site nail salon at another. "I joined Healthworks because I needed a no-judgment atmosphere where I could change the way I thought about my body. The trainers helped me prepare for a half-marathon, and I lost 50 pounds," member Hannah White says.
Yoga Studios: Best Small Studio: COIL Yoga
- Fresno, California (coilyoga.com)
- Starting at $15 for one class
Pick from 23 classes weekly in this earthy 1,500-square-foot space residing in a 200-year-old historic building. Well-known for its 90-minute calming Restorative sessions, COIL (as in Conscious, Open, Integrated, Living) always sweats the small stuff: Instructors bring cool cloths soaked in essential oils to exercisers in the summer and steaming cups of tea in the winter. COIL also offers kids' yoga in the summer, so the whole family can perfect its poses. Intimate classes fit 26 people, and instructors arrive 20 minutes beforehand to chat with students and light candles and incense. "The teachers here have inspired and supported my fitness journey for six years," member Susan Angustia says.
Yoga Studios: Best Spa-Like Experience: Exhale
- 15 locations nationwide (exhalespa.com)
- Starting at $115 for a monthly membership; $11 and up for one class
Exhale locations, with serene teak-and-bamboo interiors, offer 75-plus weekly yoga classes, including Absolute Beginner Yoga and Music Yoga Flow, in addition to their signature Core Fusion sculpting sessions. Most instructors have completed about 500 hours of Yoga Alliance certification, 300 more than what is required. Post-workout perks include on-site pampering options such as deep tissue massages and detoxifying facials in Exhale's luxurious spas. "The energy is electrifying, the teaching is superlative, and the staff is knowledgeable and welcoming," devotee Jaime Rosenstein says.
Yoga Studios: Best Musical Motivation: Sanctuary for Yoga
- Nashville (sanctuaryforyoga.com)
- Starting at $15 for one class
This is not your typical zen den. Expect myriad flow and power yoga classes, held nearly every hour, at this beautiful, 2,200-square-foot studio. There's the popular 6 a.m. Power Latte class, a flowing vinyasa series designed to jump-start your day in lieu of java. The 60-minute Power Lunch class features rock and roll, techno, and hip-hop tunes, while the post-work Yin Yoga is accompanied by a slow, sensuous sound track. "I really enjoy the evening classes; the candles and beautiful music allow for a deep, close-of-day practice," member Sarah-Jane Hill says. "It's worth dragging your tired self to the mat and just letting go!"
Yoga Studios: Best Classes: YogaWorks
- 23 locations in California and New York (yogaworks.com)
- Starting at $112 for a monthly membership; $22 and up for one class
YogaWorks has become the Starbucks of asanas. Each beautiful eco-conscious studio hosts more than 100 inspired all-level classes each week, including signature offerings like YogaWorks Slim, traditional disciplines like athletic ashtanga, and special sessions like prenatal and kids' yoga. One of the largest teacher-training schools in the world, YogaWorks requires its instructors to earn 500 hours of certification. "I always walk out feeling replenished," longtime member Debbie Margolius says. "Thanks to the number of classes, I never miss getting my joyous yoga fix!"
Yoga Studios: Best Instructors: Pure Yoga
- Two locations in New York City (pureyoga.com)
- Starting at $140 for a monthly membership; $30 and up for an unlimited day pass
The first U.S. studio of this Hong Kong-based yoga company opened its doors two years ago. Both eco-chic approximately 20,000-square-foot spaces were designed with sustainable materials and feature spa-like locker rooms and lounging areas. Resident world-renowned instructors (most have taught more than five years and have multiple certifications) abound in a weekly schedule that includes 125 sessions and 27 different styles of yoga, such as Iyengar, jivamukti, and hot. Classes hold an average of 20 students, who can book floor space online. "The quality of each teacher is amazing, and the space itself is tranquil, serene, and gorgeously organic," member Tiziana Bason says.
Wellness Centers: Best Place to Lose Weight: Cooper Aerobics Center
- Dallas (cooperaerobics.com)
- Starting at $157 for a monthly membership, plus an initiation fee
This 40,000-square-foot fitness center offers 100 innovative classes each week, like Pi-Yo, Aquastride, Salsaerobics, and Strictly Strength. Members also have access to two pools, an outdoor track, and a cafe stocked with healthy meals and snacks. But the real boon for those with weight-loss goals is the added support: Besides the usual personal trainers, Cooper's staff includes registered dietitians who provide nutrition consultations. The center also hosts lifestyle modification courses and weight-loss classes twice a week. "When I joined seven years ago, I was tired of the typical gym scene. Cooper encourages wellness as a way of life," member Toby Graham says.
Wellness Centers: Best Mom-and-Pop Shape-up Spot: Brick Bodies
- Seven locations in Maryland (brickbodies.com)
- $500 for an annual membership
Each of these low-key neighborhood gyms, owned by exercise DVD veterans and husband-and-wife duo Lynne and Victor Brick, is stocked with standard workout tools and offers cardio classes such as cycling, dance and kickboxing almost every hour. But it's the ultra-supportive staff that keeps Brick Bodies members coming back for more. The signature Extreme Brickover Weight Loss Program includes nutritional guidance by registered dietitians, motivational advice, and sessions with personal trainers. "I love the group personal training, the variety of classes — especially Body Combat — and the staff. I haven't met my weight goal yet, but I'm enjoying the journey!" member Tori Knight says.
Wellness Centers: Best for Fit Families: Spectrum Athletic Clubs
- 23 locations in California and Texas (spectrumclubs.com)
- Starting at $99 for a monthly family membership, plus an initiation fee
This upscale athletic-club chain features the latest equipment and a well-run Kids Club, where children can participate in games and arts-and-crafts projects while their parents work out. You'll find popular yoga, kickboxing, Spinning, and Zumba classes alongside kid-friendly fare like mazes, sports walls, and bounce houses. Most locations have a cafe for quick post-workout lunches, a junior Olympic-size swimming pool for laps, and aqua classes for all ages. "I'm rewarded by being able to get my exercise in for the day, while my son is rewarded by all the love he gets at the Kids Club. We both leave happy," member Angie Catania says.
Wellness Centers: Best Eco-Friendly Exercise: The Green Microgym
- Portland, Oregon (thegreenmicrogym.com)
- Starting at $39 for a monthly membership, plus an initiation fee
Save the environment and burn calories at the same time at this compact 3,000-square-foot gym: It runs on solar power as well as on patent-pending machines that generate renewable energy as you exercise on them. New members get a free fitness assessment, a 30-minute massage, and a swipe card that allows open-door access to the club from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Plus, for every hour of electricity you generate, you gain $1 toward gift certificates at local businesses. Its carbon footprint is already 85 percent less per square foot than that of other gyms. "I always get a good workout, and I'm inspired to walk there and back to save gas," member Tiffany Morrison says.
Wellness Centers: Best Holistic Approach: Club Zum
- Seattle (clubzum.com)
- $150 for a monthly membership
This newly renovated 20,000-square-foot industrial space houses a staff with expertise in personal training, physical therapy, sports performance, massage therapy, and nutrition. New members receive a fitness evaluation, postural analysis, and strength and flexibility tests to establish a starting point from which to build, plus one free training session a month to make sure they progress. In addition to top-of-the-line equipment, Zum also offers about 20 classes, nutrition consultations, and sports training tools, like a rock-climbing wall. "Zum's strength is in its trainers," eight-year member Sara Dickerman says. "They motivate you to perform your best, but you're having fun while you work out."
Sports-Minded Clubs: Best Functional Fitness: Institute of Human Performance
- Boca Raton, Florida (ihpfit.com)
- Starting at $45 for a monthly membership
This family-run facility delivers some of the best training in the biz, regardless of what level athlete you happen to be. Just 7,200 square feet, the open studio caters to competitive athletes, weekend warriors, and regular Janes looking to lose weight. Founder Juan Carlos Santana serves as a consultant to the industry's strength-equipment manufacturers, so the space has the latest machines. Classes are intimate, with about 10 people in each using stability balls, resistance bands, and other functional training tools. "I'm a busy mother with two children, and the club created a plan that works perfectly for me and my schedule," says member Valerie Gotay, a National Judo Champion.
Sports-Minded Clubs: Best for Urban Athletes: The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers
- New York City (chelseapiers.com/sc)
- Starting at $158 for a monthly membership
The stadium-size Sports Center at Chelsea Piers is equal parts playground and athlete's escape, with a regulation-size boxing ring, a sand volleyball court, a quarter-mile indoor track, a rock-climbing wall, three basketball courts, a sports-drills center, and a 25-yard indoor swimming pool. Not to mention a 14,000-square-foot weight-lifting deck. There's a full group fitness schedule, and members can sign up for triathlon-training clinics or meet with sports-specific trainers. Other perks: a spa and a cafe. "Once you're inside, you forget that you're in the middle of Manhattan. There are glass windows everywhere, so you're always looking at the Hudson River," member Ann Marie Delaney says.
- New York City (chelseapiers.com/sc)
Sports-Minded Clubs: Best Surf and Turf: The East Bank Club
- Chicago (eastbankclub.com)
- Starting at $170 for a monthly membership, plus an initiation fee
The East Bank Club is like Disney World for the sporty set: It has two indoor pools, an adults' and a kids' outdoor pool, eight indoor tennis courts, three racquetball courts, and a golf center with five driving stations. For everyday exercisers, the club also has 450 pieces of cardio equipment, a quarter-mile indoor track, and a 60-bike cycling room, as well as four exercise studios that house more than 190 group exercise classes a week. Members can pay for on-site body-fat and VO2-max testing, as well as nutrition consultations. "The customer service is phenomenal, and I've never waited for a piece of cardio equipment. You can't beat that!" says Nikki Miskowicz, a member for nearly 10 years.
Wellness Centers: Best Cross-Training Center: Treehouse Athletic Club
- Draper, Utah (tacfitness.com)
- Starting at $69 for a monthly membership
In Treehouse's vast 72,000-square-foot space, you'll find five workout studios; three racquetball courts; a 30-foot climbing wall; one junior Olympic-size swimming pool; one pool dedicated to therapy, water yoga and advanced lap swim; and a wellness department that provides nutrition consultations, chiropractic treatments, and weight-management services. The club has a roster of more than 100 fitness classes each week, but it draws a devout athletic following thanks to its great triathlon club, free running sessions, and metabolic testing. "There's something for everyone here, and the instructors do an awesome job of really pushing you — in a good way," member Lisa Newell says.
Bring in a copy of the April issue of FITNESS by the end of May to receive 2 weeks free when you sign up for a membership at Treehouse Athletic Club (cannot be combined with any other offer and must by 18 or older)
Wellness Centers: Best for the Competitive Set: Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club
- Greenwood Village, Colorado (greenwoodathleticclub.com)
- Starting at $82 for a monthly membership, plus an initiation fee
This 142,000-square-foot behemoth includes seven clay indoor and five outdoor tennis courts and four pools, including a year-round outdoor lap pool with a heated deck. Members can take swim lessons, join a competitive swim team or participate in triathlon-training clinics. Greenwood's highly certified coaching staff leads sports-specific classes and conditioning drills regularly. Members can also get their sports fix in 120 fitness classes, including kickboxing, yoga, and boot camp. "Greenwood goes above and beyond effective exercise equipment and exciting classes. Over the past 17 years there, I've discovered countless ways to take better care of myself," member Ashley Poole says.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2010.
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The Best Gyms in America for Every Workout
We polled fitness pros and active readers across the country to find the hottest body shops around. Whether you're looking for the perfect place to drop pounds or lift weights, make like a pretzel, or save dough, check out our top 20 list.