You can easily stay fit by exercising at home on your own. But fancy equipment, group fitness and saunas are not the only perks of joining a gym to stay fit. In fact, if one of the reasons you go is for the social element, you may be more likely to adhere to your exercise regimen.
No matter how beautiful the facility, your workouts may not be a pleasurable experience if you do not like the social atmosphere of your gym.
Since I began teaching fitness back in grade 12, I have worked in tons of gyms, community centres and university recreation facilities and the one that continues to stand out for it's welcoming/family-like feel is the Miles Nadal JCC in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto.
In fact, since I had kids and can no longer teach classes or get to a gym regularly, I choose only to devote my time to the JCC.
At other gyms, I usually feel merely like a service-provider. Even when fitness class participants are warm and friendly, they often care little about who I am as a person. At the JCC, I feel like Norm from Cheers. There is genuine caring and interest in who I am, aside from being a fitness instructor. Teaching there is not just a job for me, it is a wonderfully emotionally rewarding experience. I know being a member of the JCC is just as rewarding.
There are many many members who have been coming to the JCC for several decades. They come as much for the comraderie of other long-time members as they do for the workout. Fitness class participants range in age from 20s to 70s. The staff turnover rate is low and they are warm and friendly and extremely responsive to members' needs. The fitness classes are some of the best in the city.
Janet's Thursday, 10:30am Power Yoga is one of the best ever. It is challenging but not the least bit competitive, like many other Power/Ashtanga classes I've tried. There are participants of all ages and abilities and she adds her own twist to the standard sequence of poses so each week there is variation and we never get bored.
Oh and there is a fabulous spinning class at 9:30am on Sunday mornings...sorry shameless plug for myself ;)
Although it is a JCC and aside from the stellar fitness facilities, it provides a wide variety of Jewish education and cultural activities, since I have been working there in 1997, it has always been extremely multi-cultural and truly a part of the broader community. It really offers something for everyone. There are fitness programs targetting kids (Big A does the Fitkids program on Sundays after Hebrew school and loves it), teens, adults and adults over 55, as well as swim lessons in the salt water pool, a gymnasium, music, theatre and literary events, daycare, nursery school, a private Jewish school, ceramics classes, etc.
Of course I owe a lot to the JCC because that is where I met Adam! Yes, if I hadn't been teaching fitness classes, and he hadn't been a gym member (he's been a member since he was 13!), than our paths may never have crossed...and then we wouldn't have our girls!
You may not live in downtown Toronto, but no matter where you live, if you are looking for a gym or recreational facility, I urge you to evaluate not just the equipment and price of what's available, but the richness it may add to your life through the opportunities it may provide to make important connections with others. I guarantee this will do more to improve your physical and mental health than even the most high-tech, fancy-schmancy gym you can find.