Founded in 1844 in London, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) is the oldest operating wellness facility of its kind in existence. The original purpose of the organization (and its female counterpart, YWCA) was to provide low-cost housing in a safe Christian environment for rural young men and women journeying to the cities for work during the industrialization era. The YMCA combined preaching in the streets and the distribution of religious tracts with a social ministry. Philanthropists saw YMCA as a place for wholesome recreation that would help to deter youth groups from the temptations of alcohol, gambling, and prostitution. Today, YMCA programs throughout the world still hold strong to the values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. These values continue to be taught in its facilities today to help teach children right from wrong. YMCA has since developed a culture of fitness and wellness at its locations communities with paid gym membership programs and fitness classes that promote healthy living. The association conducts many different types of outreach and social programs to raise awareness of its services, and currently serves over 10,000 neighborhoods across the United States.
- Price and contracts
- No hidden fees
- Trainers and nutrition
Price and Contracts
The YMCA lists its membership prices upfront, which include a recurring monthly membership ranging from $47 to $55. For $90.00 a month, a family can join. This membership can be paid monthly, or annually in one lump sum. YMCAs across the globe also promote healthy lifestyles through fitness and nutrition by allowing their communities to access their exercise equipment and take group fitness classes for a very affordable rate. If you can't afford the monthly fee, you can "pay-as-you-go" for $10 for a full day pass. For $10, you can take any class for free or use any of the facilities' amenities, from the pool to the basketball court to the weight room.
There are also special perks for seniors, who can get a free membership under the Silver Sneakers program offered through certain insurance plans. As a community center, YMCA also offers financial assistance for those in need. Applicants should bear in mind, however, that they would have to go through a full paperwork process, and provide information W-2s. Also, YMCA may disqualify anyone receiving public assistance-the demographic that needs this help the most.
No Hidden Fees
While many gyms we found had hidden fees, the YMCA does not. Pricing is pretty straightforward but a few members ran into additional fees with family memberships. Most gyms we reviewed have at least one or two "hidden fees" customers encounter after joining; but the YMCA does not seem to follow suit.
The level of cleanliness at the YMCA depends on the specific location; however, most tend to be clean and well kept despite the caliber of neighborhood. Members are responsible for cleaning any equipment they use, and YMCA provides disposable paper towels to wipe the equipment down. Staff maintenance overall appears to be consistent at keeping the facility clean.
The YMCA offers an average of over 700 classes each week. This is the most out of almost any gym or fitness center we reviewed. Classes cover the broadest base of activities in the industry and are tailored for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, so members can choose which level is best for them. Most national gyms do not offer levels, just one class for everyone. This can be problematic for a novice to take an advanced class and risk injury. The YMCA's classes include low-impact group exercise and chair classes, stretching and strength training, indoor cycling, boxing, boot camp, water exercise, tai chi, Couch to 5K Beginner Running, yoga, and X-PLODE Group Training.
The YMCA also provides massage, pool, locker rooms (you have to bring your own key or pay for one), mind and body rooms, an indoor track (in suburban locations), and a full-length basketball court and skating rink.
Trainers and Nutrition
All YMCA locations offer one-on-one personal and group sessions with personal trainers. Members can purchase sessions in 1-, 5-, and 10-hour packages. YMCA's personal training sessions focus on goal setting, cardiovascular conditioning, muscle strength and endurance training, and overall body restructuring. Sport-specific training is also available. It should also be noted that the YMCA does offer programs for health and wellness, some of which incorporate some nutritional training. For example, they have a Chronic Disease Programs which offer nutritional consultations.
- Upfront Fees
- Other Available Amenities
- Training limitations
The YMCA has one membership type: month-to-month. The enrollment fee is $100, which is expensive, though, occasionally the Y will advertise specials where this fee is dropped. Some of the other major gyms we reviewed had similarly expensive enrollment fees.
The quantity and quality of the equipment at the Y varies from gym to gym. Facilities in inner cities are lacking updated equipment while locations in the suburbs have all the best machines. Quantity also varies according to facility location. Some YMCAs have less equipment than others.
Other Available Amenities
As with any fitness facility, the complaints and issues will vary from gym to gym. The majority of reviews for YMCAs across the United States are positive, but there are quite a few complaints about a lot of children in the fitness area. Many fitness clubs have rules against bringing children into the fitness area of a gym. Because YMCA offers family passes and are very family-oriented, the majority of the complaints are about the number of children present at the gym throughout the day. In addition, the YMCA's many amenities are not consistent across all locations.
Prices for training programs at the YMCA depend on the branch you are a member of and are not advertised; rather, they require in-person consultations with YMCA personnel. This is less favorable than some gyms that offer their pricing packaging upfront. YMCA's personal training programs do not seem to be as holistic as other gyms' in terms of nutrition and exercise training. We also found the YMCA doesn't offer nutritional plans for one-on-one training.
The Bottom Line
The YMCA has been in business for longer than any other wellness center on earth. It also offers youth outreach programs, affordable rates, family passes, and free childcare (in most locations). And with over 700 fitness classes per week, YMCA provides one of the longest lists of fitness classes and programs anywhere. Seniors also benefit as members, with free membership under their insurance's Silver Sneaker's program.
The downside to the YMCA is that amenities vary with each location. Nicer neighborhoods have better amenities while poorer neighborhoods have poor facilities. Most locations, however, are clean and maintained. The YMCA's $100 enrollment fee is expensive for a community gym, making membership enrollment expensive. Membership fees, however, are relatively affordable ranging from $47 to $55/month, depending on location.
If you're looking for a place to unwind after work and enjoy a quiet, kid-free workout, you will want to look further than your local YMCA. If you have children, or don't mind children being present at your gym, then YMCA might be a good fit for you.