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.

Tips To Stay Healthy And Active

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    1. Start walking. Becoming more active in your life doesn’t mean you have to jump straight into training for half-marathons and maxing-out your bench press at the gym. You don’t have to be intimidated by fancy exercise machines and weight-loss jargon, you don’t have to get locked into expensive gym memberships and commitments. All you’ve got to do is start moving at your own pace, and learning to enjoy being active.

    • Start walking for 15 or 20 minutes a day, just a mile or two in a loop around your neighborhood. Walk at a comfortable pace, quick enough that you might build up a light sweat by the time you get back to your house. Make it comfortable. Regular walks will get you in shape for more strenuous exercise.
    • Consider working more walking into your daily work commute, or by walking to school with friends instead of taking a short drive. Vary the route you take to keep things interesting.
    • If you feel bored or uninspired by your walks, listen to music, audio books, or talk on the phone while you do it to maximize the time. Stay busy and stay active.
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    2. Stand up at work. Recent studies reveal that sitting for long periods of time can have a negative effect on overall health and lifespan. If you work somewhere you generally sit for many hours a day, consider working at a standing-desk, or just standing up and doing your work whenever possible. If it doesn’t require that you sit, stand up and use your legs. You’ll likely notice a difference in your energy levels and feel better at the end of the day, rather than more tired.

    • Treadmill desks are also increasingly common at workplaces and in the home. If you’ve got an old treadmill gathering dust in the basement, consider getting or setting up a make-shift desk on which to do your work while walking at a casual pace.
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    3. Do some light stretches and calisthenics. You don’t even have to leave your house to start getting active. You don’t even have to stop watching television! Find a light stretching routine that works for you, stretching out your muscles and getting them loose. Combined with walking, light stretches, sit-ups, and push-ups can be a great way of getting your body in shape for more strenuous activity, should you choose to pursue it.

    • Start with small sets, 20 sit-ups and 5 push-ups, say, or whatever seems doable for you. Do a set, then rest, stretching your muscles. When you feel ready, do another set of the same number, if you can.[1]
    • Other than loosening your muscles and warming them up for activity, stretching will also help you avoid the soreness that can turn beginners off of sudden exercise. If you go play basketball for the first time in several years, you’re likely to be sore the next day, making it unlikely that you’ll be enthusiastic to go again soon. Stretching will help alleviate that soreness.[2]
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    4. Start with 20 minutes a day of activity. Don’t overdo it at first. A good way to ease into becoming more active is to try a new physical activity for at least, but no more than, 20 minutes a day in the beginning. Tiring out your muscles by doing too much won’t do your body any favors, but you need to stay at it long enough to get your heart rate up to feel the benefits of your new active lifestyle.
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    5. Try to do something active every day for twenty minutes. Pick a time that will be convenient, or identify a time that you’re usually inactive, or use for television-watching, which you could replace or supplement with some tiny activity.

    • One of the most common things that keeps people from getting active is that they don’t have time. But, if you usually watch TV or mess round on the internet for a couple hours each night, taking 20 minutes from the routine will still leave you the relax time you need at the end of a long day, but gives you the opportunity to get a little more active at the same time.

Finding the Right Activity

  1. 1. Join up and play an informal sport. If you’re a gamer, consider dropping the Xbox controls and playing a physical game in the great outdoors. You don’t have to be an expert to play informally at the park with friends, or joint a beginners league for a sport of your choice that’ll get you moving and having fun in a light competitive atmosphere.
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    2. Get into the woods and enjoy nature on long hikes. If competitive sports aren’t your thing and you prefer the pristine sounds of nature, take up hiking. Contemplate your life in solitude, and traverse as many miles as you can on foot. Seek out the great hikes in your area, checking out state and national parks for scenic vistas and beautiful trails. It’s one of the cheapest and most rewarding ways of getting active and appreciating natural beauty.
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    3. Consider signing up for an exercise class. If you have trouble keeping to a routine yourself, or you just want to get active under the guidance of an instructor, sign up for a regular aerobic exercise class that’ll get you moving regularly in a structured environment. Meeting up in a public place with strangers can be a good way of both motivating you to keep up and not caring how you look. It’s just a bunch of strangers, after all. The differences are subtle, and not that complicated:

    • Aerobics is high-energy cardiovascular exercise
    • Zumba is a dance-aerobics that’s fun and energetic, and done to music
    • Yoga is an ancient series of difficult poses and stretches that build strength and flexibility
    • Pilates is like a combination of core-strength training and aerobic yoga
    • If you’re going to commit to a gym membership, you can also take advantage of the weight room and the pool, good ways to get active and use fancy equipment you don’t have at your own house. It can be fun!
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    4. Build your running into jogging. If you enjoy regular walks, consider amping them up a bit into jogging and invest in a good pair of shoes. Start slow and build up gradually, finding good paths to run on and explore. The more you run, the more you might enjoy it, and start considering training for a 5K, or even a mini-marathon once you take the plunge.
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    5. Hop on a bicycle. Cities and towns have never been more bike-friendly. Most towns have lanes specifically designated for bicycles, and drivers are increasingly smart around people on bicycles. Visit a bike shop to get a bicycle right for the road, or consider getting a mountain bike and taking up off-road bicycling if you live somewhere with good trails.
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    6. Go out dancing. Who ever said exercise had to be a bummer? Head to the club on Friday night and burn calories dancing to your favorite tunes, or just crank up your own favorites and dance in your sweatpants. No one’s watching.

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1. Find someone to get active with. Even if you’re just trying to get walking every day, having someone to walk with can make a huge difference in your commitment and your attitude. If you don’t feel up to getting outside and moving around, it’ll be harder to cancel if you’ve already made plans to meet and start walking. Find a regular time that works and make it an unspoken rule that you’ll always meet at that place and time to get active together. Make it difficult to cancel.
 
2. Find a time to be active every day. Staying routine with your activity is the best way to make it easy on yourself and integrate it into your life. If you’ve got free time in the morning you might commit to exercise and activity, wake up earlier and get moving. If you’ve got lots of lazy time in the afternoon, get active then. Start with your 20 minute portion and expand it when you feel ready to, if you feel ready to.
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3. Get over the three day hump. Sometimes, when you first start exercising, you’ll be quite sore, even if you do the proper stretches and take it easy. The next day when you get up, getting active might be the last thing on your mind. Push through. Typically, muscle soreness will last for three days before your muscles get used to the new activity. That’s not to say that you’ll never be sore again, but ensure your commitment by pushing through those first three days.
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Set up a reward system for activity. Treating yourself for successfully introducing activity into your life will help you stick to it. Give yourself something to look forward to. If you’re going to be enjoying your new active lifestyle, why not get some new exercise clothes? Get those new hiking boots you’ve had your eye on after bagging a long trail, or check out a new fancy restaurant after exercising and eat something healthy. Make it easy on yourself.

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.