Many gyms offer memberships that match students’ budgets, schedules, and exercise preferences
The Centers for Disease Control recommends 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, along with two days of strength training per week.
As a student with a packed school schedule and a rapidly growing list of extracurricular activities, meeting these guidelines can be pretty challenging, especially considering how expensive gym memberships can be.
Luckily, if you know where to look, you can easily clear these hurdles!
This guide breaks down some of the best gyms for students so you can choose the right facility.
Best Gyms for Students
Best Overall: Planet Fitness
Best for Novelty-seekers: 24-Hour Fitness
Best for Beginners: Anytime Fitness
Best for Experienced gym-goers: Vasa Fitness
Best for Busy Students: EōS Fitness
Best for Global Gym-goers: Crunch Fitness
Best for Weight Lifters: Gold’s Gym
Benefits of a Gym Membership for Students
If you’re like most students, you have a tight budget and an even tighter schedule. Why should you invest in a gym membership?
Here are some specific reasons to get one now:
Improve Long-Term Physical Health
Regularly exercising as a student offers numerous long-term physical health benefits, including the following:
- Improved blood circulation
- Easier weight management
- Improved cholesterol
- Improved blood pressure
- Increased muscle mass
- Reduced risk of bone loss
Can you enjoy all these physical health benefits without a gym membership? Sure.
However, working out at a gym provides you with a safe place to exercise regardless of the time or temperature outside. Gyms also bust boredom by letting you choose from a wide range of equipment and class types.
Improve Mental Health
Exercise is a powerful tool for people of all ages experiencing depression or anxiety.
Research shows that exercise promotes the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus and other key areas of the brain. Neurogenesis may reduce anxiety and depression symptoms and help to calm the brain during stressful periods (such as finals week).
Meet New Friends
Going to the gym creates opportunities for you to meet new friends and connect with people who share your enthusiasm for working out
It doesn’t matter if you lift weights or attend a Zumba class. You’ll be surrounded by people with whom you have at least one thing in common.
Establish Healthy Habits Early
Regularly working out as a student helps you maintain that habit as you get older.
If you start experiencing the physical and mental health benefits of consistent exercise now, you’ll likely want to continue enjoying those benefits after you graduate and begin your career.
How to Choose a Gym for Students
Most major cities feature dozens of gym options. Not all of them are ideal for students, though.
Struggling to pick a gym? Consider these factors:
- Membership price: What is the advertised membership price and what do you get for it?
- Additional fees: Are there any additional fees, such as an annual fee or “initiation fee”?
- Student discounts: Are there special prices for students?
- Age requirements: How old do you have to be a member, and do you need a parent/guardian’s permission?
- Contract requirements: Can you pay month-to-month, or do you have to sign a contract?
- Number of Locations: Can you easily get there from your house or college campus?
- Operating Hours: Can you exercise at any time?
- Guest Passes: Do you have to pay extra to bring a guest?
- Equipment Options: Does the gym offer all the cardio and strength equipment you want/need?
- Class Options: Can you take classes like yoga, Zumba, or cycling?
Best Gyms for Students
We’ve evaluated several gyms based on the criteria listed above and collected seven excellent options:
- Great guest pass program
- Many open 24/7
Planet Fitness—Best Overall
- Key amenities: Cardio and strength equipment, 30-minute circuit station, small group fitness training
- Starting price: $10/month
- Laid back atmosphere
- Affordable memberships
- No contract options
- Limited equipment for advanced lifters
- No student discounts
Planet Fitness is a global gym chain with 2,300 locations worldwide—including all 50 states, Canada, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Mexico.
Everything about Planet Fitness is designed to make fitness feel fun and accessible to everyone, regardless of their shape, size, or experience level.
With its signature purple and yellow color scheme and relaxed atmosphere (branded as a “judgment-free zone”), Planet Fitness is an excellent choice for students who are new to working out or feel intimidated by the traditional gym environment.
Members can also download the free Planet Fitness app, which provides workout videos, exercise and equipment tutorials, and an in-club crowd meter so users can check occupancy before they step inside.
Memberships start at $10 per month for a basic, no-commitment plan—which includes unlimited access to your home club, free fitness training, and free wi-fi—making it an excellent choice for students on tight budgets.
One potential downside of Planet Fitness is that its equipment may feel a bit limited for more students with more fitness experience. For example, if you regularly perform exercises with barbells—such as deadlifts or back squats—you might struggle to find the equipment you need here.
Best for Novelty-Seekers
- Open 24 hours
- Personal trainers
- Group classes
24-Hour Fitness—Best for Novelty-Seekers
- Key amenities: Cardio and strength equipment, turf zone, suspension training, pool, sauna, steam room, whirlpool, basketball courts, group fitness classes, personal training
- Starting price: $9.99/month (promotional)
- Spacious gym facilities with a wide range of equipment
- Many group class options
- Affordable entry-level membership prices
- Requires more expensive membership for group classes and other amenities
24-Hour Fitness is a United States-based gym chain with over 280 locations in 11 states, including Texas, Florida, Colorado, California, and Hawaii.
Despite what the name would suggest, not all 24-Hour Fitness locations are open 24 hours. However, most open around 5 am and close at 10 pm, leaving plenty of time for the average student to squeeze in a workout.
Most 24-Hour Fitness facilities are expansive, encompassing thousands of square feet and offering a wide range of equipment—from traditional cardio equipment and free weights to more sophisticated options like suspension trainers, sleds, and battle ropes. These areas of the gym are open to all members.
Those who upgrade from the basic Silver membership (which starts at $9.99) to a pricier Gold or Platinum membership can also participate in numerous group fitness classes. Many facilities also have pools and saunas that Gold and Platinum members can utilize.
With so much to choose from, 24-Hour Fitness is a great fit for students who like variety in their workouts and want to sample a bit of everything.
Best for Beginners
- Open 24/7, 365 days a year
- Personal trainers
- 2,300 locaitons in US
Anytime Fitness—Best for Beginners
- Key amenities: Cardio and strength equipment, functional fitness equipment, personal training, group training, group fitness classes, cardio TVs
- Starting price: $41/month
- Thousands of locations
- Open 24 hours
- Free "Get Started" plan
- Higher membership costs compared to others on this list
- Contracts required at most locations
Anytime Fitness is another global fitness chain with hundreds of locations across all 50 states and gyms in countries like Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, Spain, and South Korea!
For those who want to exercise at any time, Anytime Fitness is an excellent fit (no pun intended). All locations are open 24 hours (and have 24-hour security).
Students who join Anytime Fitness will have access to a variety of cardio and strength training equipment, as well as group fitness classes and group and personal training options for students who need more guidance.
Anytime Fitness is an excellent choice for students who are new to working out. Every member receives a free, personalized Get Started Plan upon joining, so they don’t have to wander in and try to figure things out as they go.
One of the biggest downsides for students considering an Anytime Fitness membership is the price tag.
Memberships in the United States average $41 per month (but vary by location), which is a bit steep for the typical student. Most gyms require you to sign a contract, too, and don’t offer a month-to-month option.
On the bright side, if you’re serious about leveling up your fitness and creating healthy habits, the higher cost and contract might motivate you to stick with your training.
Best for Experienced Gym-Goers
- Varied equipment
- Fitness cinema
Vasa Fitness—Best for Experienced Gym-Goers
- Key amenities: Cardio deck, free weights, Olympic lifting area, strength training machines, turf area, group fitness classes, pool, sauna, steam room, basketball court, fitness cinema
- Starting price: $9.99/month (promotional)
- Wide range of equipment
- affordable entry-level membership prices
- Limited locations
- Must upgrade to more expensive memberships to access group classes or pool
Vasa Fitness is a relatively new gym chain with locations in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Despite being a new player on the scene, Vasa has still made a name for itself as one of the country’s top 20 largest health club operators.
This gym’s Basic Membership (starting at $9.99/month with no contract) includes access to all cardio and weight training equipment, as well as the turf area.
Compared to some other gyms on this list, the Basic Membership provides access to a wider range of equipment. It includes many options for intermediate and advanced gym-goers, those who enjoy Olympic lifting, and those who prefer training with less conventional equipment like kettlebells and suspension trainers.
Although the Basic Membership still provides access to a lot of equipment, a downside to the Vasa Fitness franchise is that, to access all equipment—including the fitness cinema and pool, and group classes—you must upgrade to the Fitness Membership (starting at $24.99/month).
You can also upgrade to the Studio Membership (starting at $39.99/month), which includes boutique-style High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes.
Best for Busy Students
- Open 24 hours
- 100+ locations
EōS Fitness—Best for Busy Students
- Key amenities: Cardio and strength equipment, turf yard, swimming pool, sauna, steam room, basketball court, group cycling and fitness classes, personal training
- Starting price: $9.99/month
- Some locations open 24 hours
- affordable entry-level memberships
- wide range of workout equipment
- Locations are currently limited to just a few states
- members must upgrade to more expensive memberships to access group classes
EōS Fitness is a genuine 24-hour fitness chain with memberships that start at just $9.99/month. Currently, over 100 locations are open in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Florida, and Texas, and the brand is rapidly expanding.
Because it is open 24 hours, EōS Fitness is an excellent choice for students with packed schedules who struggle to fit in workouts during regular gym hours (as well as those who just like to exercise when fewer people are around).
EōS Fitness also offers members a wide range of exercise options.
In addition to standard offerings like cardio equipment, free weights, and strength training machines (all of which are included in the basic Grey membership), members can also upgrade to the Blue or Black memberships to access group fitness classes, and the swimming pool.
You will have to pay extra for these amenities, but the Blue and Black memberships are still relatively affordable ($21.99 and $26.99, respectively).
Best for Global Gym-Goers
- Very inclusive
- Variety of classes
- 400+ locations in US
Crunch Fitness—Best for Global Gym-Goers
- Key amenities: Cardio and strength equipment, functional fitness equipment, group fitness classes, live video classes, personal training
- Starting price: $9.95/month
- Multiple locations across the globe
- Affordable entry-level memberships
- Some might find the branding structure confusing
- members must upgrade to more expensive membership to access group classes
The Crunch Fitness brand started in 1989 in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Since then, it’s grown into a global gym chain with locations throughout the United States, as well as Canada, Costa Rica, Spain, Portugal, and Australia.
Crunch has a unique branding structure with two different facilities: Crunch Fitness, with over 400 locations worldwide, and Crunch Signature, with 28 locations in the U.S.
This format might be confusing at first, but we’ll break it down for you.
Crunch Fitness offers affordable memberships starting at just $9.95/month. This option is similar to many of the other gyms on this list.
Those who exercise at Crunch Fitness facilities can access cardio and strength training equipment with a basic membership or upgrade to a pricier membership that includes group fitness classes, online video workouts, multi-club access, and guest privileges.
Crunch Signature comes with a higher price tag and provides a more boutique-like experience, including classes with live DJs.
Memberships for these facilities might be outside of many students’ budgets. However, for those with extra cash to spare and a love for a party-like workout experience, it might be worthwhile.
Best for Weight Lifters
- $1 enrollment fee
- Classes available
- Fitness cinema
Gold’s Gym—Best for Weight Lifters
- Key amenities: Cardio and strength equipment, functional fitness equipment, group classes, basketball and racquetball courts, swimming pools, saunas, steam rooms
- Starting price: $29.99/month
- Spacious facilities
- Numerous equipment and class options
- Hundreds of locations nationwide
- Higher membership prices
Gold’s Gym is the original bodybuilding gym that got its start near Muscle Beach in Venice, California. It’s also one of the world’s most well-known gym franchises, with over 700 locations globally.
Many people associate Gold’s Gym with bodybuilding and intense weight training. It’s a great pick for students who have an interest in these areas and want a serious place to work on their fitness goals.
However, Gold’s Gym also offers options for members of all interests and fitness levels.
When you join, you’ll have access to a wide range of cardio and strength training equipment, functional fitness training, group classes, basketball courts, and racquetball courts. Some locations also offer a women’s-only area, although some have complained that these zones lack equipment.
Gold’s Gym’s prices vary significantly based on the location. However, many of the U.S.-based gyms start at $29.99 per month.
This price is higher than many other gyms on this list, which may cause some students to rule it out. If you want to exercise in a traditional gym setting and enjoy the cachet that the Gold’s Gym brand provides, you can get both (and more) here.
|Gym||Student Starting Price||Student Discount||Minimum Age||Contract Required||Credit Card Required||Guest Passes|
|Planet Fitness||$10 per month||No||13 with guardian's permission||No||No||Yes|
|24 Hour Fitness||$9.99 per month||Yes||12 with guardian's permission||Yes||No||Yes|
|Anytime Fitness||$40+ per month||Yes||Varies by state||Yes||No||Yes|
|Vasa Fitness||$9.99 per month||No||12 with guardian's permission||No||No||Yes|
|EōS Fitness||$9.99 per month||No||13 with guardian's permission||No||No||Yes|
|Crunch Fitness||$9.95 per month||No||12 with guardian's permission||No||Yes||Yes|
|Gold's Gym||$29.99 per month||Yes||12 with guardian's permission||No||No||Yes|
What to Expect Going to a Gym for the First Time
Walking into a gym for the first time can be intimidating. You might see people sweating, screaming, dropping weights, high-fiving and fist-bumping—it’s a lot.
The more prepared you are, the easier it is to walk in with confidence. Here are some basics to keep in mind as you prepare for your first visit:
Many gyms strive to make the signup process as simple as possible. You may even be able to sign up online!
If this isn’t an option, ask the person working at the front desk how to sign up for a membership. They will walk you through your options and get you started as quickly as possible.
Dressing for Your First Workout
You don’t need to drop hundreds of dollars on fancy athleisure wear for your first day at the gym. Just wear comfortable clothes and sneakers that you can easily move in (and that you don’t mind sweating in).
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What to Pack in Your Gym Bag
Most gyms provide all the equipment you need, so you don’t have to worry about bringing anything extra.
However, if you’re heading to class after your workout and don’t want to arrive a sweaty mess, pack a gym bag with some essentials:
- Soap or body wash
- Clean clothes
- Shoes (if you don’t want to continue wearing your gym shoes)
- Makeup or haircare products
- Plastic bag to store your dirty clothes
Navigating the Gym Floor
You don’t have to relegate yourself to the cardio corner just because you’re new to the gym.
If you want to run on the treadmill, great! If you’re more interested in lifting weights or pushing a sled in the turf area, do that!
You have just as much of a right to exercise as everyone else. You’re paying for a membership, after all. As long as you don’t take someone else’s dumbbells in the middle of a set or stand directly in front of someone to see yourself in the mirror, you have nothing to worry about.
Whether you’re a middle school or high school student or a college senior, you can find several gyms nationwide that cater to students like you.
Keep these guidelines in mind to locate the best gyms for students in your area, experience the benefits of regular exercise, and smash your workout when you step into the gym for the first time.
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