2017 Gym Reviews & Ratings
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Canstar Blue compares gym chains Anytime Fitness, Fernwood, Fitness First, Fit n Fast, Genesis, Goodlife, Jetts and Snap Fitness based on factors including equipment & facilities, plan flexibility, social atmosphere, group fitness, value for money and overall customer satisfaction.
Canstar Blue research finalised in February 2017, published in February 2017.
Girls just want to have fun at the gym
Picking the best gym chain for your specific goals and preferences could mean the difference between money well spent, and a complete waste of time (and money). There are numerous reasons why Australians choose to join gyms in the first place, but even more reasons why our membership cards often end up gathering dust. If you don’t ‘fit in’ at a particular gym, you may not want to go back, leaving your healthy lifestyle hopes in tatters. So which gym chain is right for you? Take the first step to a better gym experience by comparing gyms chains in Australia with Canstar Blue.
Each year, we survey hundreds of gym members across the country to find out how they rate their chain based on variables such as their equipment & facilities, social atmosphere and the value for money they are deemed to offer. While no two gyms are exactly the same, getting a good idea about the type of gyms in Australia will hopefully mean you make a better decision about which to join. We believe the best way to determine what a gym chain is really like is to ask the people who know best – the paying customers.
Over the years, two gym chains have stood out from the crowd as offering the highest rated overall experience – Fernwood Fitness and Jetts. In the six years of our gym reviews, Fernwood and Jetts have each topped the ratings table three times, which is a trend not to be ignored. In 2017, it’s Fernwood’s turn to lead the way, having received five stars from its members across most research categories. It should also be noted that Jetts was the only chain to get five stars on value for money this time.
Fernwood is a female-only club, promising a friendly and positive atmosphere to help members achieve their goals, while also potentially making new friends. You might consider Jetts more of a ‘traditional’ gym, open to both men and women, delivering a fairly basic, low-cost solution for those who simply want a place to exercise or pump some iron. They may seem fairly different in their approach, but Fernwood and Jetts members tend to like what they’re getting. Fernwood’s members have now rated the chain highest of them all in three out of the last four years.
There is a wide range of different gym types across Australia, suited to different people with different tastes. Let’s get an overview of the eight gym chains in this year’s review to help you decide which might be best for your specific needs.
Gym chains in Australia
One of the most popular women’s gym chains in Australia, Fernwood sets out to be different by making going to the gym a supportive experience for everyone. Female staff members walk the gym floor ready to answer questions and help with using the facilities. Along with the standard cardio machines, weights, personal trainers and group fitness classes, Fernwood also provides an online health program, food coaching, free breakfast, free chilled face towels handed out during training, and bathrooms kept well stocked with free toiletries. Some venues also have childcare facilities.
As the chain is franchised, membership prices vary by club. A one-off joining fee of $199 is standard, with memberships available in 12 month packages, plus a number of more flexible options, which vary by individual clubs. On your first visit you’ll meet with a Fitness Coach to help you set your personal goals and action plan for the first 28 days, and be booked in for a cardio and strength training workshop to show you the ropes of using the gym. For something a little more fun than the treadmill, there’s a massive range of classes on offer from boot camp to Zumba, to yoga.
Open 24 hours a day, Anytime Fitness aims to support its members as they work towards their personal fitness goals. Depending on the location, members can access fitness classes, personal fitness plans, and other support facilities.
As an independently owned and operated chain of clubs, each Anytime Fitness gym sets its own prices. However, recommended costs include a $99 initial joining fee, $69.95 access card fee, and between $779.40 and $861.40 per 12 month contract depending on the region you live in (e.g. regional, metro, Sydney metro). Contracts are available in either 12 or 18 month packages, but if you’re not sure you want to commit for that long straight away, there are trials available. After 30 days of paid membership, members can freely access any of the thousands of Anytime Fitness gyms worldwide. Membership also includes access to the Anytime Workouts app, which contains workout tutorials and allows you to schedule your own workouts, log progress photos, and track your measurements.
Fitness First arrived in Australia from the UK in 2000 and now has 65 clubs across the country. The range of classes available is extensive, including classes focused on flexibility and strength, or tone and muscle building. There are also specific classes for those interested in yoga, boxing, cycling, athletics, and much more.
Fitness First offers two types of membership. Contract memberships are available in 3, 12 or 18 month packages, while Pre Paid memberships come in 5, 10, 25 or 50 visit packages. Both types of memberships are tiered, bringing various advantages such as access to all Fitness First clubs in Australia. Prices and set-up fees range considerably depending on your membership type.
All Goodlife memberships include free health and fitness programs, and group fitness classes. Group fitness classes cover a wide range of abilities and interests, with classes targeted towards specific fitness goals (e.g. core, muscle tone, balance) or interests (e.g. aqua, dance, cycling, steps, weights, boxing). As well as gym memberships, Goodlife offers 12 week challenge programs for an additional fee, such as the 12 week Transformation challenge for $220.
Goodlife has various membership options. Within each (except for the Active Advantage membership), you can nominate to join for only one club, or for a slightly higher fee join to access any Goodlife gym. Active Advantage is an 18 month membership, Active Flexi is a month to month membership, and Active Plus is a 12 month option with included extras such as free guest visits at weekend, quarterly personal training sessions, and free membership suspensions (so you don’t pay if you go on holiday or are ill).
Prices start at $14.95 per week and a one-off administrative fee of $89 applies for new memberships ($99 for 24/7 clubs). Most of the 76 Goodlife gyms across Australia are open 24/7, but to access 24 hour venues outside of staffed hours, members must purchase a $19 Active Pass.
Arguably the biggest selling point of Jetts is that once you join, you have immediate access to any Jetts gym around the world – so you could keep up your routine while on holiday overseas, or travelling for business. To join, you can choose from a fortnightly no-lock in contract costing $14.95 per week, or save in the long term with a 12 month contract for $549 ($10.55 per week). In addition, there’s a one-off joining fee of $89 and a $59 Access Pass fee. Free trial passes are available to try before you buy.
Jetts gyms are generally smaller than average, as they usually don’t have expensive frills like pools and steam rooms. Instead, they focus on the important equipment. The brand philosophy is to value simplicity, treat people well, and listen to constantly improve the gym experience for its members. Beyond gym equipment, there are one-on-one and small group personal training sessions available at extra cost. Depending on the individual venue, exercise classes and other group activities are offered, either for free or for a fee.
One of the most internationalised gym chains in Australia, Snap Fitness gyms can be found not only in Australia but in the US, UK, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Malaysia and many more countries. Membership allows you 24/7 access to any of the 2,000+ locations across 13 countries. Prices vary by club, with no indicative prices publicly listed. There’s an initial joining fee and access card fee. Memberships can be put on hold for periods of time for a fee, so you’re not wasting money if you can’t use the gym for a while due to illness or travel, for example.
Snap Fitness venues tend to be compact, with few extra facilities and programs. Personal trainers are said to be available at every location, with fitness classes available at some. One unique feature available at some clubs is the My Zone MZ-3 physical activity belt. Wear the belt while exercising to log your heart rate, calories burned, and effort in real time, with feedback sent to your email and personal app account. The app includes a food tracker and goal-setting tool.
Fit n Fast
As a smaller gym chain, Fit n Fast doesn’t have the large numbers of gyms as its big competitors. However, many Fit n Fast gyms are 24/7, and there are plans to continue transitioning more clubs over to 24 hour access. Despite the company’s small size, it offers quite a large range of classes, with a timetable of regular group classes plus virtual classes available on touch screen players so you don’t have to miss out on classes just because your schedule doesn’t match the club’s. There are also group cycle classes, and personal training sessions for an extra fee.
There are a number of membership levels available, although some are not available at every club. Orange membership only allows access to the gym where you sign up, priced at $12.95 a week over a 24 month contract. Blue membership includes access to all Fit n Fast locations, at $22.95 per week on a no commitment basis, or $17.95 per week on a 12 month commitment. Qmax memberships add unlimited free Qmax classes and allow members to bring a friend for free, for $26.95 per week on a no commitment basis, or $21.95 per week with a 12 month commitment. Some locations have more membership options based on specific perks. A 24 hour access card requires an additional payment of $59.
From its beginnings in Victoria back in 1997 as a health and fitness club focussed on weight management and other health issues, Genesis has grown into a chain that spans five states. Genesis offers programs under four categories – based on cardio and muscular endurance, strength and toning, weight loss, and wellness (core strength, flexibility, and energy levels). Within each program category are three levels of assistance – one-on-one personal training, small group personal training, or group fitness classes.
Membership also includes assistance with setting up and reviewing your ongoing training plan every 12 weeks, and regular fitness tests to track your progress. Some locations offer student discounts, childcare services, and a swim school for children and adults. Another unique service available is MyGenesis – an online nutrition assistance program with recipes, eating plans, and nutrition news for $49 per 12 weeks. MyGenesis can be accessed by website login and by the mobile and tablet apps.
Picking the right gym for you
There are lots of factors to consider when choosing the gym that’s right for you, including:
- Equipment and facilities: Think about what type of equipment and other facilities you will want to use. Do you want a club with a swimming pool or are you just interested in pumping iron?
- Location and opening hours: Does the gym have 24 hour access? Does your membership provide access to gyms in other areas?
- Group fitness classes: If you prefer to work out in a team environment, consider what sort of group fitness classes are available and if they cost extra.
- Contract flexibility: Do you travel a lot for work? You might want a contract that offers the flexibility to pause your membership until a time when you can get better value out of it.
- Staff availability: Do you like to keep yourself to yourself, or do you like to lean on the support of gym staff? Some clubs have few or no staff on hand.
- Social atmosphere: Do you like to socialise with likeminded people when you work out? Maybe you’re put off by people flexing their muscles in front of mirrors? Think carefully about the type of gym-goers you’ll be comfortable around.
Our survey of gym members found that 62% have tried more than one gym chain, suggesting it takes a little trial and error to find the right one for you. Unfortunately more than half of adults (54%) said they don’t use their membership as much as they thought they would, which is a real shame for their health and fitness goals, as well as their bank balance.
With that in mind, make sure you don’t just dive in to an expensive gym membership. Use free trials if they are available and consult online reviews such as ours. Our ratings provide a helpful insight into how Aussies rate the numerous gym chains around the country. We hope you found this guide useful.
Frequently asked questions
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 6,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have an active membership with a commercial gym and pay the costs – in this case, 970 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.