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Gym and a Health Club: What's the Difference & Which One is Right for You?

By HERWriter Guide
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Fitness related image Photo: Getty Images

Gyms and health clubs are great places to work out and even socialize. The key to choosing the right one depends on what you want from a club, and how committed you are to going. Gym or health club memberships tend to spike in the new year when we resolutely decide that this time we’ll join and stick with it. According to a personal trainer I spoke with at a Gold’s Gym, attendance starts to slow down by March and by summer, up to one third of new members attend less than a few times a month or drop out altogether.

This is profitable for gyms and a complete waste of money for members. So if your history of health memberships sees your attendance waning within a few months, consider a month to month option if available. It may cost a little more per month, but if you stop going, you’ll save in the long run.

Do You Want a Gym or a Health Club and what’s the difference?

A gym is generally considered to be more of a weights and machinery oriented place, where members have access to everything on the floor, personal trainers, fully equipped changing room and lockers, and sometimes have a daycare. Some have swimming pools, often indoors but this is not standard. Members focus on using weights and a wide variety of machines, from rowing machines to the elliptical, weight training devices and bikes, to treadmills. A juice bar or vending machine are commonplace.

Gyms are a great choice for people without kids or for parents whose children are too young to use the gym (gym memberships tend to be for adult-use only, or for those over age 12). But daycare is often limited and is not a standard option. Classes like boot camp, spinning, Pilates, Yoga and dance are often available for an additional fee.

A health club is larger and with many more options. Their gym floors are generally more spacious and often more varied. They also include swimming pools (usually both indoors and out), running tracks, tennis courts, personal training and tennis professionals, a spa, restaurant, extensive childcare and a huge variety of personal trainers. They generally have social activities and clubs, including tennis leagues.

Which one is best for you?
First, a gym is far cheaper than a health club due to its more limited options. If working with machinery and weights is what you want from a club, and you just want to get in, workout with or without a trainer, and get out, a gym is the right place for you.

If a wider variety of gym equipment, sports, spas, swimming pools and social activities is more to your liking then a health club is the better option. A large variety of classes are often included in the price of membership. Luxuries like towel service and free shampoo and body washes in the locker rooms are common. Bear in mind there are often joining fees for health clubs, and expect to pay upwards of two to three thousand dollars a year for a family membership, as opposed to a few hundred a year for a single membership to a gym. But extended hour day care are often large and varied (including jungle gyms) and health clubs include many children’s activities from special exercise classes to swim and tennis lessons, and social clubs and birthday parties for their smallest of members.

Daycare is normally free with family memberships and parents can often avail of them for two or three hours per day. Health clubs for those without children are also a good option, again if a high variety of sports and workouts is wanted, as well as social events. Expect to pay upwards of a thousand dollars per year for a good club.

Lastly, a short, free membership is often available to either a health club or a gym. From a few days to one week, they can be enjoyed free of charge before membership becomes mandatory. Consider doing this at both a gym and a health club to see which is the right fit for you and before you commit to what could be an expensive agreement.

Tell Us
Are you a member in a gym or health club? What do you like or dislike about your membership? Have you joined and then found yourself not going like you thought you would?

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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