Gyms are without a doubt some of the best places to exercise, get in shape, or train. After all, they are buildings dedicated to health and fitness. Most gyms will have areas to do cardio, weights, and rooms for classes. Everyone from beginners to professional athletes can regularly train and exercise in gyms.
Gyms are also great places to meet fellow fitness enthusiasts, enjoy a partner workout or take a Zumba or Pilates class. Some gyms even have luxury amenities like whirlpools, hot tubs and restaurant facilities, while others offer leisure activities and games; anything from tennis to weekly poker nights.
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the best gyms across the country from low-cost gym chains to costlier health clubs.
PureGym has been around for over a decade now and is becoming one of the go-to gyms when it comes to cheap membership. In fact, in terms of membership, it's the biggest gym chain in the UK with over one million members.
Many of the PureGym locations are open 24 hours a day meaning that you can use cardio equipment, weights, or attend classes when it suits you. Of course, classes tend to take place during the more sociable hours but you can use the rest of the equipment whenever you want.
The membership ranges from around £10 a month to £20 a month depending on where you are. For example, membership in London tends to be more expensive than elsewhere in the country. There are also options for off-peak membership which limits when members can enter the gym but are cheaper than full access.
Why More People Are Turning to Gyms
You might think the answer to that question is simple: they want to get fit. Or, post-COVID, even as pandemic conditions continue, you might think people want to get fit again after all the lockdowns, or maybe that they're hungry for social contact, or just to be out of the house.
Whether you're talking about pre-, mid- or post-pandemic, the latter answer is the more correct one, even if it doesn't quite hit the mark.
The truth is, when people want to find out more about gyms in the UK, it has less to do with a specific fitness plan or clearly laid-out goals than a desire to enrich their lives.
There's also another reason people look into gym memberships but we'll tackle that one a bit later.
Think about it: if one can pay for a gym membership, they could just as well spend that money on fitness equipment and commit themselves to a scheduled workout at home. They might even invite a mate over; adopt the buddy system so they stay focused on their goals.
If such a person has too small a living space, there's always the great outdoors. We'll talk about an outdoor gym company in just a mo but, that concept aside, there's plenty you can do on your own, outdoors.
After all, walking is one of the most fundamental workouts you could treat your body to and, if you wanted to intensify your cardio burn, you could rollerblade, run or ride a bike. And, if you're really up in the fitness stratosphere, you could try yourself at Parkour or, at the very least, adopt a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout.
You might argue that people prefer going to the gym because it has so much equipment, and you'd have a valid point. But, on the other hand...
The Stairmaster was modelled after... stairs. Are there no stairs to be climbed anywhere else in your neighbourhood? Granted, you can't dial the intensity of your climb up or down as easily as you can on those machines but you could fill a backpack to make the workout more intense, or take the stairs two or three at a time. You could also run up and down them.
Gym elliptical machines do essentially the same thing that Nordic walking does. They both engage your arms and legs, raise your heart rate and give your lungs a good workout - especially if you Nordic-walk uphill. That has the same effect as cranking the tension on the elliptical.
None of this is to say that gym memberships are bad or that gyms are money-sucking corporations that don't generally care about your physical condition or wellbeing. Only that, if you want a gym membership, it would be worth your while to understand why you want to spend money on a gym membership.
That way, if you do feel inclined to slack off - as most gym members do, you can focus on the reasons why you paid so much to enrich your life in whichever way you had imagined, and reflect on how it is, indeed, richer, now.
That way, you won't beat yourself up for not becoming the lean beast others thought you wanted to be. You'll be satisfied that you spent your money well.
David Lloyd is a chain of sports, health, and leisure clubs across the UK. There are nearly 100 clubs in the UK with a handful across Europe. While not just a gym, the David Lloyd clubs are the kind of places you can enjoy a workout, attend classes, go for a swim, or play tennis.
That rather lends credence to the idea we expressed above: that people seek gym memberships to enrich their lives, doesn't it?
While you'll find a lot of the same equipment here as in a PureGym, there's also a lot of other facilities to go with the extra you have to pay to be a member.
The cost of gym memberships is not regulated in the UK so facilities can set their prices according to whichever criteria they see fit.
A gym franchise facility such as L.A. Fitness or Curves for Women may have standardised their prices, charging roughly the same fees at every one of their outlets - depending, of course, on location. Gyms in bigger cities, in London particularly, tend to charge more than those in smaller towns.
All of this makes deciding on which gym to take out a membership with a bit more difficult.
For those gyms that have a country club feel, such as David Lloyd's, a part of their business strategy is to entice you to pay the higher fee simply because you want access to all the amenities they offer.
Here again, you should think pragmatically: are you taking out a gym membership to avail yourself of all the equipment and get fit, or are you more in it for the leisure and social aspects such facilities promise?
If you are intent on taking out a gym membership, it would be best to think of just how much gym you need to satisfy what you're looking for.
The Great Outdoor Gym Company
While this isn't a gym, this is the best way for you to work out for free. The great outdoor gym company creates outdoor gyms in public spaces.
With over 1,500 locations, most people will have access to one near them. This is great for those who don't have the budget for a gym membership or just don't fancy paying for one.
Of course, how good these spaces are will depend a lot on the time of year and whether or not it's a nice day. If you're dedicated, you mightn't mind working out in the pouring rain, but most people might prefer to work out in a dedicated indoor space.
The Great Outdoor Gym Company is a fantastic, money-saving concept but, with winter just around the corner, not everyone is keen to break a sweat outdoors.
If you're intent on taking out a membership in a standard gym to avoid any weather-related ills, you should learn about the type of equipment each facility features before deciding which one to sign on with.
As you check out each facility, note if they have:
- exercise machines: rowing machines, ellipticals, treadmills, stair climbers and stationary bikes
- weight machines: hammer strength machines, cable and pulley machines, pulldown machines, leg extension machines and others
- free weights: dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells and weight plates, and, of course, the various benches needed to use them
- isometric equipment: dipping bars, chin-up bars, abdominal bench
- other fitness equipment: punching bags, stability balls, medicine balls, jump ropes, a walking track and more
If your proposed workout routine includes using equipment not featured in a particular gym, you would obviously strike it off your list. Likewise, if you don't intend to use Nautilus equipment or free weights, you needn't consider gyms that treat them as a major selling point.
You should also make note of the facilities: do they include lockers and changing rooms? Showers? Some gyms offer lockers in the workout room but no changing rooms while others have a comprehensive setup that includes men's and women's locker rooms, changing rooms and showers.
Finally, see if there are separate studios for other fitness activities like aerobics, Pilates, yoga or dance. If those are the disciplines you intend to pursue, it would be nice to have an area away from the main workout space exclusively for those classes.
While not a gym, Hussle (previously PayAsUGym) is a service that allows you to access gyms without a membership. You can either get passes valid for a single day or bundles of 5 or 10 days worth of passes.
While some may prefer the idea of a gym membership as a way to motivate them to go, having single-use tickets to access a gym might make you use them more frequently. This is good for anyone who can't fit in regular workouts or has a schedule that means they can't get round to training frequently enough to make being a member of a gym worthwhile.
It's weird how a service named Hussle can make you wonder about the pros and cons of a gym membership, isn't it? After all, hustling gives off some decidedly negative vibes.
Throughout this article, we'd made subtle moves towards highlighting some good points of gym membership and a few bad ones, too. Now, instead of hinting, let's just come right out with a few ideas. We'll count on you telling us some of yours in the comments section, too.
Perhaps the best part about having a gym membership is that it reinforces your commitment to fitness. In a very real sense, you're putting your money where your mouth is; by paying for the privilege of using a fitness facility, you will be more apt to stick to the program so you get your money's worth.
On the other hand, that's one of the worst downsides. Consider the number of people who sign up for membership with a gym and go religiously... but only for a couple of weeks. And then, life gets in the way: family plans or outings with mates, working late or an event you volunteered to co-host.
Unused gym memberships have become something of a running gag; a staple of television sitcoms. While they may be able to make light of the situation - nothing's real in tv land, those who do end up shelling out for a gym membership they're not using don't find the matter funny at all. Especially because they're likely out of luck when it comes to cancelling their contract or getting any money back.
So it's best to give gym membership serious thought before signing on the dotted line, lest you end up feeling hustled and have nothing to show for all that money you've spent.
Especially if you're talking about some of the next facilities we looked at.
Gyms in London
The capital has some of the best gyms in the country. While there are low-cost gyms like the ones we’ve already mentioned, there are also premium health and fitness clubs.
This gym is rated as one of the best in London for those interested in weight training and lifting. As for the cost, memberships start at £30 per month.
Note, though, that if you worked out with an online personal trainer Superprof, you could spend roughly the same amount to get a personalised workout regimen, along with nutritional guidelines to follow and dietary recommendations tailored to your body type and circumstances.
DW Fitness First
If you're new to working out or going to the gym, DW Fitness First is a welcoming place with a variety of classes, with facilities around the country. That said, most of the locations are in London so if you're looking to try out a gym to see if you like it, these might be some of the best ones to go to.
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to choosing the gym that’s right for you. That's why it's always a good idea to go for a taster session at a number of different gyms, to find one(s) you like and would be willing to commit to long-term, and even to decide if being a gym rat is even your cup of tea.
Beware, though, that some gyms allow an introductory session at no cost while others insist on signing a membership agreement before you can access the facility.
This gym is one of the finest in London and the cost of membership reflects this. Essentially, to become a member of one of the capital's most exclusive gyms, you'll easily be paying over £100 per month.
Of course, this does mean that you'll have access to the finest equipment and workout spaces that have been designed with the help of heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua.
While a gym membership can be really useful, unless you desperately need access to the equipment at a specific gym, you can get all the benefits of a gym membership by training with a personal trainer or fitness tutor. They can tailor each class or workout to you, your fitness goals, body type, the equipment you have, the type of workouts you like.
While the equipment in gyms can be really useful, most personal trainers will tell you that with some free weights and a limited amount of equipment, you can work on almost every muscle group without needing a gym membership.
Of course, you mightn't have space at home for your training and the weather outside isn't always ideal. In some cases, it might be worthwhile having a gym membership or getting day passes to fitness studios and taking your training sessions there.
As per our earlier recommendation, consider getting help from a personal trainer on Superprof; either one who will meet you at your home, the gym of your choice or to work with you online. Some Superprof fitness trainers will even train with you outdoors!
Superprof has plenty of personal trainers and coaches all over the country so you should be able to find the perfect trainer or coach for you.
There are three ways to get personal training from one of the coaches on Superprof: face-to-face, in groups, or online. There are pros and cons to each option so you'll want to think carefully about your fitness goals, your schedule, and your budget.
Face-to-face sessions are hugely effective as your coach will be focusing solely on you, ensuring that every exercise and activity is tailored to you, your level, and your fitness. Of course, this excellent service isn't free and these types of sessions are usually the most expensive. They're also the most cost-effective, though, so if you have the budget for them, they're highly recommended.
If your budget doesn't quite stretch to cover face-to-face personal training, group sessions are usually cheaper as the cost of each session is shared amongst everyone in attendance. If you and some friends, colleagues, or family members are interested in improving your health and fitness, you could get together and hire a personal trainer or coach to help you. This is good for groups training for an event like half marathons, marathons, or obstacle courses.
There are also personal trainers offering sessions online. In these cases, they won't be as hands-on as the other coaches but rather act in a consultancy role. They can put together nutrition and workout plans for you to use in your own time.
While at the gym, you'll need to rely on a gym buddy or a member of staff to ensure that you're doing everything correctly but your trainer will be there to provide you with feedback and structure your diet and routine to get the best results. As they don't have to travel, these personal trainers can charge less per hour, making them a great option for those with limited funds.
Don't forget that many of the personal trainers, coaches, and tutors on the Superprof website offer the first hour for free. Use these free hours to arrange sessions with several trainers and coaches to work out which one is best for you.
You'll want to discuss their experience, qualifications, rates, schedule, and see if you get along well with them. After all, everyone learns and performs better when they're enjoying themselves so if you have a good rapport, it could do wonders for you and your workout routine.
You can also read reviews left by the coaches' other clients before you get in touch with them so you'll have a decent idea of how good they are before you even speak to them.
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