10 of the Most Amazing Gyms in the US

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Despite all the time we spend at the gym, few of us would rave about the aesthetics. And that’s fine—we’re there to get our sweat on, not debate the pros and cons of neoclassical architecture while we’re swinging kettlebells. Still, there’s something to be said for fitness centers that aim to be as beautiful as they are functional, like the 10 spots shown here. After all, it’s easier to get excited about your gym workout when your gym looks more like a luxe oasis than a barebones high-school weight room.

Life Time Athletic in Boca Raton, FL

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Beyond the indoor and outdoor pools, full-service spa, and health-food café, the beautiful Life Time Athletic gym in Boca Raton, FL, offers basketball and squash courts, fitness studios (for pilates or indoor biking classes) and so much equipment that you’ll never have to wait for a machine.

David Barton Gym at the Limelight, New York, NY

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Since the first one opened in 1992, DavidBartonGyms have tried to set themselves apart from the traditional fitness center. And one way they do that is by settling into unexpected—and breathtaking—spaces. The latest locale is a renovated church-turned-drug rehab center-turned-nightclub. It features dramatic stonework and eye-catching stained glass windows, plus your usual ellipticals, treadmills, and dumbbells.

PHOTO: DAVIDBARTONGYM

San Francisco CrossFit in San Francisco, CA

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Located underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and with an open-air setup, the stunning San Francisco CrossFit was one of the first CrossFit gyms in the world. It offers running, gymnastics, and kids’ programs in addition to the usual train-like-a-caveman plans.

PHOTO: VANCE JACOBS PHOTOGRAPHY

Stone Summit Climbing Gym and Fitness Center in Atlanta, GA

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One of the largest climbing gyms in the U.S., Stone Summit has brightly-colored walls reaching 60 feet that are suitable for beginners and advanced climbers alike, plus a bouldering room and group fitness classes. (Add this to the list of the 12 Places to Go Rock Climbing Before You Die.)

PHOTO: STONE SUMMIT

The Bellevue Club in Bellevue, WA

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We admit, this isn’t your standard gym. The Bellevue Club is an athletic and social club in a suburb of Seattle, and in addition to the top-tier restaurants and luxurious hotel, the 200,000 square feet of athletic facilities are a main draw. Whether you’re swimming laps in the stunning pool or taking advantage of all the latest gear (including TRX and Kinesis systems), the gorgeous surroundings will have you doing double takes all day.

PHOTO: BELLEVUE CLUB

MV Fitness Athletic Club in Baltimore, MD

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“Elegant” probably isn’t a word used to describe most gyms—but then, most gyms aren’t outfitted with crystal chandeliers, Tiffany skylight windows, original hardwood floors, marble mantles, and local artwork, like the MV Fitness Athletic Club is.

The Mercedes Club in New York, NY

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This 80,000 square-foot fitness center boasts a full-service spa, totally tricked-out locker rooms, and an indoor lap pool for swimming. With plenty of windows to let in the sun and a clean, modern aesthetic, you’ll never want to leave the luxurious space.

Larry North Fitness at Cityplace in Dallas, TX

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ALL PHOTOS

This gym is located in the second and third floors of the beautiful Tower at Cityplace in Dallas. If you can, try to snag an elliptical or treadmill by the window on the third-floor cardio area. You’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of downtown. (These 12 Hotel Gyms with Killer Views offer some breathtaking vistas, too.)

PHOTO: STEVAN KOYE

Health Spa Napa Valley in St. Helena, CA

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The fitness center at the Health Spa Napa Valley is state of the art, featuring the latest LifeFitness equipment, flat-screen TVs, and a group fitness studio. (Before you visit, learn What Your Trainer’s Not Telling You.) But even without all that, the heated outdoor lap pool alone—with its view of the vine-dotted main building—makes a membership worth it.

The Houstonian Hotel, Club, and Spa in Houston, TX

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When it comes to getting their sweat on, members of the elegant, historical Houstonian don’t have to “settle” for the 300 cardio and strength-training machines in the state-of-the-art fitness center, the indoor and outdoor tennis and racquetball courts, or the four gorgeous pools. They can also join the cycling team, running club, or any of the specialty classes offered.

The Lifelong Benefits of Exercise

Physical Fitness: What the Benefits of Exercise Mean for You

There’s more good news. Research also shows that exercise enhances sleep, prevents weight gain, and reduces the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even depression.

“One study found that when breast cancer survivors engaged in exercise, there were marked improvements in physical activity, strength, maintaining weight, and social well-being,” explains Rachel Permuth-Levine, PhD, deputy director for the Office of Strategic and Innovative Programs at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

“Another study looked at patients with stable heart failure and determined that exercise relieves symptoms, improves quality of life, reduces hospitalization, and in some cases, reduces the risk of death,” adds Dr. Permuth-Levine. She points out that exercise isn’t just important for people who are already living with health conditions: “If we can see benefits of moderate exercise in people who are recovering from disease, we might see even greater benefits in those of us who are generally well.”

Physical Fitness: Exercise Basics

Physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to produce results. Even moderate exercise five to six times a week can lead to lasting health benefits.

When incorporating more physical activity into your life, remember three simple guidelines:

  1. Exercise at moderate intensity for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes spread over the course of each week.
  2. Avoid periods of inactivity; some exercise at any level of intensity is better than none.
  3. At least twice a week, supplement aerobic exercise (cardio) with weight-bearing activities that strengthen all major muscle groups.

Man and woman doing stretching exercises

Physical Fitness: Making Exercise a Habit

The number one reason most people say they don’t exercise is lack of time. If you find it difficult to fit extended periods of exercise into your schedule, keep in mind that short bouts of physical activity in 10-minute segments will nonetheless help you achieve health benefits. Advises Permuth-Levine, “Even in the absence of weight loss, relatively brief periods of exercise every day reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Set realistic goals and take small steps to fit more movement into your daily life, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking to the grocery store instead of driving. “The key is to start gradually and be prepared,” says Permuth-Levine. “Have your shoes, pedometer, and music ready so you don’t have any excuses.”

To help you stick with your new exercise habit, vary your routine, like swimming one day and walking the next. Get out and start a baseball or soccer game with your kids. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, have a plan B — use an exercise bike in your home, scope out exercise equipment at a nearby community center, or consider joining a health club. The trick is to get to the point where you look at exercise like brushing your teeth and getting enough sleep — as essential to your well-being.

Remember that physical fitness is attainable. Even with small changes, you can reap big rewards that will pay off for years to come.