Have you ever found yourself wondering what the actual difference is—if any—between a gym, health club and fitness center? If so, you’re not alone! For the most part, these terms tend to be used interchangeably, and it makes sense because there is overlap in the services they provide. But there are distinctions that make them different, which you’ll want to know if you’re considering joining one.
In this blog, we’ll cover some of the key differences between a gym, a fitness center and a health club.
Gym – A Place for a Workout
Gym, short for gymnasium (a term coined by the Ancient Greeks), is actually one of the world’s oldest establishments with deep historical roots. In its origins, gyms were not just about promoting physical fitness, but education as well. Ancient Greeks used gyms to practice various sports, engage in physical therapy, and to study. In fact, many gyms in ancient times had libraries as well.
Today, modern gyms tend to be a place for indoor workouts with free weights, fitness equipment and cardio machines provided. Some gyms have a specialty focus, like boxing or Pilates, while others keep it simple and stick to free weights and cardio machines only. Most gyms will have personal trainers available, but not as many group fitness classes as a health club or fitness center.
Fitness Center – A Place for Full-body Fitness
Fitness centers typically occupy more space than a gym because they tend to provide both indoor and outdoor physical activities—for example, a pool, running track or golf course. Broadly speaking, fitness centers provide the same machines, free weights and equipment as a gym, but they also offer a larger array of amenities, group fitness classes and certified staff.
Fitness centers usually focus on whole-body health and house additional amenities like saunas, steam rooms, physical therapy and snack bars. Most fitness centers will also have personal trainers and nutritionists available to educate customers on how to use the equipment, or how to design a meal plan best suited for achieving their fitness goals.
Health Club – A Place for Body & Mind
The health club concept was first introduced to the U.S. in Santa Monica in the 1940s, though they actually began in France in the 1840s. Generally speaking, a health club is more similar to a fitness center than a gym because the focus is on whole-body wellness rather than just physical fitness.
Health clubs typically comprise all the characteristics of gyms and fitness centers because they offer certified staff with personal trainers, individual and group fitness classes, a variety of equipment, an array of amenities (pool, steam room, sauna, etc.), and space for sports like tennis, basketball and volleyball. Many health clubs even offer recreational areas with restaurants, juice bars, music and more.
If you’re considering joining a gym, fitness center or health club, it’s best to look past terminology alone and choose a facility that best meets your health and fitness goals, budget and personality. You may want to visit a few facilities to ask for a tour so you can see what they offer firsthand and get a better feel for the culture.
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