We all know how important it is to get regular exercise. In fact, recent studies have shown that a serious lack of exercise can be even worse for our health than smoking. Unfortunately, with more and more of us leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles due to our working lives, making the effort to exercise well and regularly is not easy. Gyms such as Retro Fitness and others aim to provide a range of facilities to help people get more active and improve their overall health.

Before joining a gym, there are some important factors to consider in regard to what type of fitness center is right for you.

Things To Consider Before Joining A Gym

Gym Locations

You might hear of a chain of gyms with wonderful, widespread facilities, or one that is very economical. However, if the nearest location isn't nearby, you have to consider whether you will actually make it there, or whether it will be far better to find a gym closer to you. In addition, consider whether you will always be visiting the same gym location. Many busy exercisers want the flexibility to visit more than one branch within a fitness chain. For example, you may want to choose a gym with locations enabling you to work out either near your home or right by work.

Gym Facilities

Think about what sort of exercise you want to do. If what you mainly want is some cardiovascular and strength training, then a basic gym package will probably suit you. However, if you want a greater selection of facilities and classes, or if you want access to a swimming pool, then it is likely you may have to look further and pay more for your gym membership.

Gym Opening Hours

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Some gyms are open all day every day, but others have more restricted hours. If you want to do your exercise early in the morning or late at night, be sure to check carefully whether the gym you're considering will allow you to do that. Note that within gym chains, some of their franchises may have different operating hours than others, so it is best to check the specific hours for all locations you might wish to visit.

Membership Extras

Do you want a no-frills gym? Or do you want your gym to be more of a true club, offering classes, tanning facilities, and massages? Bear in mind that if you want the latter, you’re likely to have to pay more for it.

Hidden Fees

Please don’t base your cost calculations merely advertised monthly gym fees. You are likely to have to pay sign-up or other initial fees when you join a gym, and then perhaps another fee when it's time to renew your contract.

 You may be able to get a discount on membership if you’re a student or a senior, or if you sign a contract for a whole year rather than having a rolling monthly contract. However, if you do sign up for a whole year, read your contract carefully to see what penalties you will suffer if you want to end your membership before that year is up.

What Is Retro Fitness?

Describing itself as “the gym with everything you need to get fit and stay fit,” Retro Fitness is a gym that strives to take people from wherever they start on their fitness journey and help them make steady progress from day one forward. Retro offers a combination of high-end facilities and equipment with a wide range of classes to help people customize their exercise programs.

Product Specs

Retro Fitness offers all the cardio and strength training machines you might expect, along with a good selection of free weights. In addition, though different locations vary in the classes they offer, most offer a wide range of group and individual training options. Whether you want something intense like Body Pump or a kickboxing, or something more gentle like yoga or the class called Body Flow, Retro Fitness has something to offer.

Pricing

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For the range of activities and facilities offered by Retro Fitness, a $19.99 monthly fee is very reasonable. However, the $99 enrollment fee we encountered is higher than for many other gyms, and this cost should be factored into the overall value for your money.

How It Compares

We picked a few similar, multi-location fitness clubs to see how they compare with Retro Fitness in a variety of areas.

  • Planet Fitness
  • Anytime Fitness
  • Gold's Gym

Retro Fitness

Price                                                                $$

Membership fees start at $19.99 per month. The initial enrollment fee is fairly high, but you may find seasonal offers that soften or eliminate that blow.

Convenience

Retro Fitness’s branches vary in their operating hours, but most are open on weekdays from an early morning hour until 10 or 11 p.m., with shorter hours on weekends. The sign-up process is straightforward, and it is possible to sign up online, but Retro Fitness recommends visiting your local branch to view the facilities for yourself and learn what membership offers are available.

Facilities

Retro Fitness maintains state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, offering heart-rate monitoring, nutritional analysis, and other programs to help you stay on track with your fitness goals. There is also a wide range of classes on offer for all members.

Extras

Retro Fitness offers a selection of extras including hydromassage, tanning beds, and personal training programs.

Member Support

Reviewers describe the atmosphere of these gyms as highly supportive, and the staff is celebrated as friendly and helpful. In addition, there is an app with which users can track their fitness and monitor their progress.

PROS 

  • Low monthly fees
  • Wide range of facilities and classes
  • Childcare available at some branches

​ CONS

  • Enrollment fee comparatively high

Planet Fitness

Described by the New York Times as the “gym for people who don’t like gyms,” and probably the most widely known of the budget-friendly gyms out there, Planet Fitness promise a judgment-free zone and a low monthly membership fee of only $10. It also offers weekly aerobic and cardio classes.

Price       $

Your base cost can be as low as $10 a month, and there are often promotions available. It is also possible to sign up for Planet Fitness’s premium Black Card membership, which starts at $29.99 per month plus a $10 sign-up fee.

Convenience

New locations are constantly popping up all throughout the United States, so you’re probably never be far from a Planet Fitness gym. Additionally, the membership sign-up process is incredibly convenient, requiring as little as fifteen minutes. Planet Fitness hours vary between locations, with some open from 6 a.m. to midnight and others open 24 hours a day.

Facilities

Not every Planet Fitness gym is the same because the company operates its branches as franchised clubs. So, although every gym is similar, there will be differences between locations. All branches contain standard gym equipment for cardio and resistance training, including many machines and free weights, and many centers offer various group fitness classes throughout the week

Extras

As a basic gym, the facilities within a Planet Fitness are good but not exciting. With the Black card membership and at participating locations, users can gain access to benefits such as hydromassage, massage chairs, and discounted Reebok products. The Black Card invokes a reciprocity program allowing the member to use any Planet Fitness gym and granting free passes for friends.

Member Support

The principle of the "no-judgment zone" allows members to get on with their exercise routines in a comfortable atmosphere. In addition, staff is described by most reviewers as friendly and helpful.

PROS 

  • Wallet-friendly
  • Straightforward sign-up process
  • No-judgment zone

​ CONS

  • No frills
  • Black Card program benefits come at a high price

Anytime Fitness

Anytime Fitness proponents describe their gym environment as a supportive, welcoming community designed to help people of all fitness levels succeed. With a generous free trial period of seven days, users have time to decide if this casual "vibe" is really what they are looking for in a gym.

Price                   $$$

Finding the price of an Anytime Fitness membership proved to be rather difficult. To get an accurate price, you need to contact the branch you mean to join directly. However, posts from current users put the Initiation fee at $49.99 and the monthly fee starting at around $35 per month.

Convenience

Anytime Fitness boasts more than 3,000 branches worldwide, and their 24/7 access means that users can visit one whenever they want to exercise. All branches also have 24-hour security and convenient parking facilities.

Facilities

Though Anytime Fitness stresses that facilities vary between different locations carrying the brand, almost all locations offer a range of gym equipment, free weights, personal training services, and classes to suit different exercise styles and needs.

Extras

Lifestyle and wellness facilities such as tanning, well-being programs, and others are offered in various locations of Anytime Fitness. Every prospective member should ask at their specific branch which services are available there.

Member Support

Every new member gets a free, personalized plan to get started at Anytime Fitness, and staff members are willing to provide tips and pointers even though they are not specifically employed specifically as trainers. Anytime Fitness also puts a lot of emphasis on the community aspects of joining their gym, stating that all members are part of a supportive community that aims to help people get the best out of themselves.

PROS 

  • Strong community feel
  • High-end facilities and equipment
  • 24/7 access

​ CONS

  • Expensive
  • The atmosphere may not be for everyone

Gold’s Gym

Formerly a gym famous for serving bodybuilders almost exclusively, Gold’s Gym has re-branded itself in recent years and now strives to be a good all-around gym offering a range of membership options. Potential customers can try their facilities out for a day to see if they are suitable. However, many customers complain of poor service, and billing irregularities, so we unable to recommend this chain without significant reservations.

Price                  $$$

The two plans Gold’s Gym offers are a little pricey. Option 1 has an initial cost of $149.99 with an additional $29.99 fee per month, for a total of about $510/year. Option 2 has an initial payment of $49.99, but thereafter it costs $39.99 a month for a total around $530 annually

Convenience

Hours vary by location, but they are usually 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays with narrower hours on the weekends.

Facilities

Despite the gym’s efforts to move beyond its bodybuilding roots, Gold’s Gym still seems to be most suited to serious lifters. However, you will also see a wide range of cardio training machines. All members can also take advantage of Gold’s quirky “Cardio Cinema,” where you can do cardio exercise in a room with a giant cinema screen and surround sound. There are also some exercise classes with qualified instructors.

Extras

Some locations have childcare facilities, which are available for a fee on a per-child, per-visit basis, or free with some higher-end membership packages.

Member Support

Gold’s Gym claims member satisfaction is guaranteed, and that all members have the chance to tailor their exercise programs to their needs and goals. However, some reviewers mention that it was very difficult to get out of their memberships at Gold’s Gym, which is an important point to consider if you are not sure how long you want to commit to a contract.

PROS 

  • Flexible membership options
  • Childcare services
  • Cardio Cinema

​ CONS

  • Difficult to exit a contract?

Conclusion

When shopping for gyms, the big questions are what you are looking for and what you can do without. If what you want is a no-frills gym experience at a bargain price, then Planet Fitness might be the gym for you. If you are looking for a more holistic experience combining exercise, fitness, and general well-being (and you're willing to pay for the corresponding perks), then Anytime Fitness will probably provide the supportive atmosphere you are after. However, as an ideal mid-point in price between the two, Retro Fitness offers a wide range of classes and facilities with an encouraging and positive atmosphere.