The 7 Best Gym Memberships to Kickstart Your Fitness Routine

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There's no time like the present to get a kickstart on your fitness goals. And what easier way to motivate yourself than with a gym membership? From weight training and cardio to Pilates and cycling, there's a gym out there especially for you, ready to help kick you into gear (and give you some you time). And, no matter your taste, workout style, or budget, the options are seemingly endless. Whether you're looking for a gym with a swanky sauna or just a sturdy elliptical machine, you'll need to consider price, flexibility, amenities, and individual perks.

We made the process as seamless as possible, finding the shining jewels of gyms and the best membership options out there. Here are our top picks.

The 7 Best Gym Memberships of 2021

Best Overall: Crunch Fitness

Crunch Fitness

 Crunch Fitness

Why We Chose It: Crunch Fitness is a top pick for its variety of class options, as well as its community feel. If you're looking to make friends, this is the place to go.

What We Like:

  • An extensive and diverse selection of classes with sign-up available via its app
  • Affordable monthly memberships at franchised locations
  • Top selection of free weights compared to other convenience gyms

What We Don’t Like:

  • Most locations have basic amenities, meaning no pool, sauna, or steam room
  • Gyms can become busy during peak hours

Known as a convenience gym with a community feel, Crunch Fitness has been a fitness mainstay since 1989, with more than 300 nationwide locations. For those who enjoy the social aspect of working out, Crunch gyms are welcoming to everyone, regardless of fitness level, with an all-embracing, no-judgment philosophy.

Besides an excellent range of equipment, gyms have chockablock class schedules centering around categories of Action, Restore, Cardio & Dance, Ride, and Chisel. Expect to see an infinite lineup of HIIT, functional training and bodyweight courses, Pilates, yoga, kickboxing, and Zumba in your local Crunch gym.

Basic membership to a single location without access to classes is just $10 per month. The Peak membership includes access to all 300+ locations and any class except Ride (in-person or online) for $20 per month, while the top-tier Peak Results package adds Ride classes, sauna, pool and guest privileges.

The Crunch Signature brand, of which there are more than 30 locations, elevates the experience at an additional cost of between roughly $85 to $130 per month, with a supersized schedule of group classes dedicated spin and yoga studios, and upgraded amenities including child care, saunas and steam rooms, towel services, HydroMassage and even appearances by live DJs.

Best on a Budget: Anytime Fitness

Anytime Fitness

Anytime Fitness

Why We Chose It: We selected Anytime Fitness for its affordability, class options, and locations around the world.

What We Like:

  • Affordable, with contract options of 6, 12, and 18 months
  • On-site showers
  • Family or joint memberships available at some locations

What We Don’t Like:

  • No swimming pools, saunas, steam rooms, or basketball courts
  • Wi-Fi is only available at some locations

Based on price, flexibility, and choice, Anytime Fitness is a popular option for both the everyday gym-goer and frequent traveler, since there are locations around the world. So, if you’re not a fan of one location, chances are a better option is just a few blocks away.

With a variety of equipment, you will be sure to find a selection of dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, cardio machines, resistance bands, and yoga mats, spread across spacious facilities. Depending on the time of day, you shouldn’t have a problem snagging the squat rack. Additionally, the gym offers a wide selection of classes—Zumba and yoga are on the list—and that makes the deal much sweeter.

You can take advantage of the gym's international access at more than 4,800 franchised clubs worldwide (with more than 3,000 in the U.S.), and members can enter an Anytime Fitness gym, literally, anytime using their fob; no need for an employee on hand.

Averaging $37 per month, month-to-month membership cost varies based on location. You also have the option to save by signing up for 6, 12, or 18 months at some locations.

As a commercial chain, note that you will find discrepancies in quality and services between branches.

Best for Strength Training: LA Fitness

LA Fitness

 LA Fitness

Why We Chose It: Brimming with equipment for all functional needs and weight requirements, LA Fitness is a top choice for all types of workouts, consistently bringing the goods no matter the location.

What We Like:

  • Straightforward, affordable pricing
  • Wide selection of equipment and amenities
  • Clubs open early and close late

What We Don’t Like:

  • Pricey initial fee at many locations
  • Gyms can become very busy during peak hours

LA Fitness provides the quality you would expect from an upmarket service, at a cost that doesn’t pinch the wallet.

With a choice of memberships starting at $25 a month for a single location or $33 to attend any of the nationwide franchises, this is one of the most affordable options for a commercial gym and provides the most bang for your buck.

The company's gyms are known for being a one-stop shop for all things fitness. Many of its more than 600 locations not only offer a huge choice of equipment, but also pools, personal training, a diverse calendar of classes, and even child care.

Also known for catering to those with the goal to build muscle, gym floors are awash with machines to hit every muscle group, including cables, seating equipment, and the beloved Smith machine.

LA Fitness gyms provide ample space, so you'll never feel cramped, no matter the time of day.

Best Value: Blink Fitness

Blink Fitness

 Blink Fitness

Why We Chose It: With no classes, pool, or saunas, Blink Fitness is attractive to solo gym visitors who prefer to slot in a workout anytime.

What We Like:

  • Super affordable membership and sign-up option
  • Each location has its own vibe
  • A wide selection of weights and equipment

What We Don’t Like:

  • No classes offered
  • No pools, saunas, or steam rooms

With locations in Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Virginia Beach, Blink is the ideal gym for the casual gym-goer who is content with limited additional amenities.

Among the range of cardio equipment, you’ll find Freemotion treadmills that have a whopping incline level of 30 for an intense sweat session, alongside decked-out stretching areas with bands, medicine balls, and body analyzers on-hand to keep track of your metrics.

"Mood Above Muscle" is the wellness mentality here, alongside quality for your money. What it lacks in luxury it makes up for in price, spacious locker rooms, and showers. With a fee of $10 to $25 for a monthly membership, you can’t go wrong.

Memberships are available across 4 tiers: Green, Blue, Gray, and Orange. Gray allows a single location of your choice for $15 and is purchased on a month-to-month basis, while Orange, also for a single location, ties you into an annual membership at a low monthly cost of $10. Benefits at both the Blue tier, which provides access to more than 90 of Blink's 110 locations (excludes lower Manhattan gyms), and Green tier—access to all locations—include unlimited access to premium content through the Blink app and unlimited guest privileges.

Blink is part of the Equinox brand family.

Best for Luxury: Equinox

Equinox

 Equinox

Why We Chose It: Equinox is for those who want to indulge in fitness and wellness, and who expect an air of luxury to complement their sweat sessions.

What We Like:

  • Luxurious locker rooms and showers, stocked with Kiehl’s shampoo, toiletries, and other products
  • Extensive range of high-end classes
  • An exclusive feel compared to commercial gyms

What We Don’t Like:

  • Not every club offers a pool
  • High membership cost compared to commercial gyms
  • Disparity in quality across gyms and strict cancellation policies

A financial commitment well worth it to those in the market for a high-end gym, Equinox and its luxury offerings justify the high price tag for many fitness aficionados. And, given its strategic locations—many clustered around epicenters of corporate activity—these gyms often attract a high-earning clientele.

At Equinox, there is a grand lineup of classes taught by meticulously trained instructors, including Cycle Power, Elevate (treadmill), METCON (a high-intensity metabolic workout), and Barre Bootcamp. Afterward, shower in glorious style in the state-of-the-art locker rooms where saunas await, along with pampering products on-hand from Kiehl's.

Varying widely in price depending on location, memberships run from $120 to $250 per month, with a hefty initiation fee ranging from $150 to $600. Pricing tiers include membership at a single location, entry to all locations in your city, and an all-access pass to Equinox clubs across the U.S.

The cherry on top of joining Equinox? Its app, used by 80% of current members, gives a detailed rundown on your progress, from check-ins to how many calories you burned in your last class.

Best Boutique Gym: Orangetheory Fitness

Orangetheory Fitness

 Orangetheory Fitness

Why We Chose It: Orangetheory's workouts are well-suited for anyone who prefers a gym setting and class environment combined.

What We Like:

  • Expert-led workouts to track your progress
  • Motivating environment with like-minded participants
  • Classes are ever-changing and designed to push you each and every time

What We Don’t Like:

  • Class-only structure with no independent gym use
  • Courses can fill during peak time

Orangetheory is a boutique studio providing "science-backed," hour-long fitness classes within a gym environment with treadmills, rowing machines, and plenty of strength rounds. With more than 1,300 locations worldwide and studios across the U.S., Orangetheory has risen to fitness fame as the HIIT class you need on your weekly schedule.

Designed to overhaul your body into a fat-burning machine, Orangetheory has distinguished itself from other studios and gyms by providing class participants with a heart monitor to track their fluctuating heart rates across zones of gray, blue, green, orange, and red. The goal is to achieve at least 12 minutes in "The Orange Zone" to boost metabolism, burn fat, and burn more calories.

Classes are split across cardio and strength interval drills and make use of everything from the treadmill to resistance bands. Fitness coaches are by your side to guide you through every exercise with proper form.

The results-driven courses at Orangetheory harness more than 800,000 members, who are all on a month-to-month basis. Monthly membership costs $59 for 4 classes (Orange Basic), $99 for 8 classes (Orange Elite), or $159 for unlimited sessions (Orange Premier).

Best for Amenities: Life Time

Life Time

 Life Time

Why We Chose It: Life Time offers luxury-style amenities, a wide variety of classes, and has a company focus on sustainability.

What We Like:

  • A large selection of high-quality amenities
  • 24/7 access at every gym
  • Diverse class schedule led by highly trained instructors

What We Don’t Like:

  • Some clubs have a higher membership cost compared to other gyms
  • Family-oriented clubs, so for those who prefer an adult-only vibe, it may not be suitable

Tying work, play, and wellness together since 1992, Life Time has positioned itself as a health club with a "vision to change lives."

The brand’s main selling point is the bountiful selection of amenities: pools for swimming and aquatics classes, luxurious spas and salons, state-of-the-art gyms with an abundance of equipment including cardio and weight machines, free weights, bands, and specialty equipment. The company also offers a unique class schedule featuring flow, strength, Life Barre, and a RINGSIDE boxing workout that's on tap at almost every club.

Some gyms also contain basketball, tennis, and squash courts, as well as rock-climbing, with a handful even running as boutique-style gyms and others offering co-working spaces to enhance our everyday lifestyle. As if that wasn’t enough, Life Time Fitness offers rehabilitation and chiropractic sessions, nutrition coaching, assessments, and a host of other health-centric services.

There are more than 150 gyms across 41 major markets in North America. Depending on location, you can expect to pay $60 to $150 per month for a single-location membership or $75 to $250 for an all-location pass, with an initiation fee charged upfront.

Let’s not leave out the company's eco-conscious angle: A main component of the brand’s Corporate Social Responsibility mission is to reduce energy consumption and waste, and to introduce more natural resources and sustainable options at its health clubs. What more can you ask for in a gym?

Final Verdict

Are you looking for exclusivity and willing to pay a higher price or are you seeking a no-frills setting to save some dollars? The decision comes down to your needs and preferences. In sacrificing luxury, you will luck out on price—just compare a membership at Blink Fitness to one at Equinox. While Equinox and some of Orangetheory’s packages are comparable in price, the latter provides limited additional amenities while promoting a friendly, group-driven environment. Crunch Fitness remains a top pick for its repertoire of classes and excellent gym facilities, but without the luxury feel and for a fraction of the price.


Above all, it’s important to ask yourself first and foremost what you want and need from a gym. If it’s a 24/7 spot at a low cost, Anytime Fitness may be the one for you. For the added embellishments—like that post-workout steam and sauna—you’re better off at Life Time or Equinox. For the everyday gym-goer, quality and amenities will play a bigger role, and many gyms fall into this lineup. For those who frequent the gym for a quick workout before heading home, a basic setting like a Blink gym may suffice, or, at a slightly higher cost, an LA Fitness provides a large selection of equipment and ample space for solo sweat sessions.

What Should I Look for in a Gym?

Consider your individual goals and needs. If your mission is to build strength, it’s best to choose a gym offering a wide and readily available equipment range, such as LA Fitness—a hot spot for novice and serious lifters. If the social aspect holds more importance, Crunch and Orangetheory, where a wide range of classes fill both schedules, may be more appealing. Check out what amenities are available across the gyms in your area, and narrow down your search from there.

What Are Membership Terms To Be Aware Of?

In addition to the monthly cost, most gyms will ask for a one-time initiation or sign-up fee and sometimes an annual fee on top of that. You also may be required to pay both your first and final monthly membership fee upfront. Add that to a sign-up fee, and your initial payment can easily be $50 to $100. At LA Fitness, for example, you'll pay $85 when you join—$30 for the first month, $30 for the last month, and $25 initiation fee—and then be billed an annual fee of $49 in the second month of your membership.

Quite often, gyms will offer a month-to-month, no-commitment option, which, although more expensive than tying yourself to an annual membership, gives you more flexibility. While some annual memberships have cancellation options, other gyms instill stricter policies. Be on the lookout for deals that slash sign-up fees during special seasons, and always try your luck at negotiating a better price.

Do Gym Memberships Have Tiers?

Many gyms offer tiered memberships, where the basic monthly fee may only allow you access to one location. A more exclusive gym might provide multi-club access and other perks at an additional monthly or annual cost. Check each gym’s membership packages to find out which best suits your budget and requirements.

Are All Gyms Open 24/7?

While some clubs have a 24/7 use policy, others have set hours of operation, usually reduced during the weekend. This may influence which gym and what specific location you choose, depending on your preferred time to workout.

Are There Personal Trainers on Hand?

If you want to work with a trainer, that may influence the gym you select. Most gyms will offer the option to book a session with a personal trainer for an additional cost, which will vary depending on the club and experience of the trainer.

For example, Equinox is renowned for hiring world-class trainers, with a befitting price tag, while commercial gyms are likely to offer more affordable packages on personal trainers. Many gyms give a free introductory session with a trainer as part of your membership sign-up, which is a good opportunity to try the service.

Do All Gyms Adhere To High Cleaning Standards?

Check reviews of your local gym online and book a visit before committing to a membership. Be on the lookout for hand sanitizer and wipes readily available across all stations, as well as cleaners on the go. And don’t be afraid to ask about the gym’s cleaning policy if it’s not already stated online.

How We Chose The Best Gym Memberships

We considered a number of factors to help guide your decision, including online reviews, pricing, convenience, amenities, membership flexibility, and hygiene.

For those who prefer endless options for classes, Crunch Fitness is a standout above the rest on this front, with jam-packed schedules covering every type of workout. Be mindful, though, as these gyms may fill to the brim at peak hours. Or, consider sacrificing classes for a cheaper workout on the gym floor at Blink Fitness or Anytime Fitness, where solo gym-goers unite to lift, run, cycle, and stretch, all at a budget-friendly price.

The best gym for flexibility is Anytime Fitness, perfect for the avid traveler who requires access to gyms in many locales, and for a fair price. Although their contract terms & conditions are a common complaint among members (we advise you to read carefully before signing any papers), the gyms are widely accessible on a national and international basis. Orangetheory was a standout when we considered boutique gyms, with its results-driven methods that draw hundreds of thousands of members worldwide.

LA Fitness, despite a mixed bag of reviews, provides all amenities expected from a high-end gym, at a fraction of the cost, making this one of the most accessible gyms to all. With a wide selection of equipment, it's especially appealing to the strength trainers among us. A more costly choice is Equinox, which carries a higher price tag, yet delivers more on the luxury level—eucalyptus towels and all—with upscale locker rooms, swanky equipment, and state-of-the-art, trainer-led classes. With its all-encompassing, family-oriented club approach to fitness (cardio workouts to chiropractic therapy), Life Time is where luxury meets lifestyle.

Above all, convenience, price, and amenities are what you should consider when selecting a gym membership.

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