A health club (also known as a fitness club, fitness center, and commonly referred to as a gym) is a place which houses exercise equipment for the purpose of physical exercise.
Most health clubs have a main workout area, which primarily consists of free weights including dumbbells, barbells and exercise machines. This area often includes mirrors so that exercisers can monitor and maintain correct posture during their workout.
A gym which predominately or exclusively consists of free weights (dumbbells and barbells), as opposed to exercise machines, is sometimes referred to as a black-iron gym, after the traditional color of weight plates.
A cardio theater or cardio area includes many types of cardiovascular training-related equipment such as rowing machines, stationary exercise bikes, elliptical trainers and treadmills. These areas often include a number of audio-visual displays (either integrated into the equipment, or placed on walls around the area itself) in order to keep exercisers entertained during long cardio workout sessions.
Most newer health clubs offer group exercise classes that are conducted by qualified fitness instructors. Many types of group exercise classes exist, but generally these include classes based on aerobics, cycling (spin cycle), boxing, high intensity training, regular and hot (Bikram) yoga, pilates and muscle training. Health clubs with swimming pools often offer aqua aerobics classes.
Some health clubs offer sports facilities such as a swimming pools, squash courts or boxing areas. In some cases, additional fees are charged for the use of these facilities.
Most health clubs employ personal trainers who are accessible to members for training/fitness/nutrition/health advice and consultation. Personal trainers can devise a customized fitness routine, sometimes including a nutrition plan, to help clients achieve their goals. They can also monitor and train with members. More often than not, access to personal trainers involves an additional hourly fee.
Newer health clubs generally include health-shops, snack bars, restaurants, child-care facilities, member lounges and cafes. It is not unusual for a sauna, steam shower, or wellness areas to be present. Health clubs generally charge a fee to allow visitors to use the equipment, courses, and other provided services.
Health clubs offer a wide array of services, and as a result the monthly membership prices can vary greatly. A recent study of American clubs found that the monthly cost of membership ranged from US$15 per month at basic chain clubs that offer limited amenities to over US$200 per month at spa-oriented clubs that cater to families and those seeking social activities in addition to a workout. In addition, some clubs such as many local YMCAs offer per-use punchcards or one-time fees for those seeking to use the club on an as-needed basis.
Costs can be altered through the purchase of a higher-level membership, such as a Founders or a Life membership. Such memberships often have a high up-front cost but a lower monthly rate, which are most likely to be beneficial to those who use the club frequently and hold their memberships for years.
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