A health club (also known as a fitness club, fitness centre, health spa, and commonly referred to as a gym) is a place that houses exercise equipment for the purpose of physical exercise.
Main workout area
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 that predominantly 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.
Group exercise classes
Most newer health clubs offer group exercise classes that are conducted by certified fitness instructors. Many types of group exercise classes exist, but generally these include classes based on aerobics, cycling (spinning), boxing or martial arts, high intensity training, step, regular and hot (Bikram) yoga, pilates, muscle training, and self-defense classes such as Krav Maga and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Health clubs with swimming pools often offer aqua aerobics classes. The instructors often must gain certification in order to teach these classes and ensure participant safety.
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 room, or swimming pool or wellness areas to be present. Health clubs generally charge a fee to allow visitors to use the equipment, courses, and other provided services. A fairly new trend is the advent of eco-friendly health clubs which incorporate principles of "green living" in its fitness regimen.
Levels of services and offerings
Health clubs offer many 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 to 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. These one-time fees are commonly referred to as day passes.
Costs can vary 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, making them potentially beneficial to those who use the club frequently and hold their memberships for years.
Types of services in health clubs
Health clubs in America offer quite a number of facilities and services that cost differently at different levels of services. Some services have levels for regular, pro, platinum and gold facilities. Some of the health and fitness facilities use cardio equipment, fitness screening, resistant equipment, pro shop, sun-bed, health spa and sauna. The membership plans vary from as low as $20 to as high as $700. These health clubs, especially in the United States, are equipped with almost every facility and provide good trainer support too.
An early public gymnasium started in Paris in 1847. However, the history of health clubs for the general public can be traced back to Santa Monica, California in 1947. Jack Lalanne created the first American fitness club 1936 in Oakland, California (date not known)