Places outside the US that have a "gym culture" similar to the US
July 26, 2014 8:22 PM   Subscribe

Almost anywhere in the US, I can find a gym (24 hour fitness, YMCA) within a short drive. Is there anyplace else in the world where this is true?

I recently spent some time in several countries in Europe and found that it was very difficult to find a gym (and almost impossible to find one with a pool or a hot tub or an extensive weight room), even in cosmopolitan, major cities. Is there any other country but the US where gyms are common?

I'm planning a trip in the near future and am wondering if I can find a place where gyms are easy to find.

Bonus: Is there an app/website that will help me find gyms around the world? Yelp listings are sometimes sparse or very out of date.
posted by 3491again to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sydney Australia has them. Not sure they're as dense as the States but they're here. The pool thing is different. A number of public pools have gyms attached. But Australians tend more to ocean swimming, I've found.
posted by taff at 8:29 PM on July 26, 2014

When I was in Taipei a few years ago, it seemed like it was easy to spot gyms: big glass windows, anime on individual treadmill screens. I didn't take advantage, but from my POV, gyms definitely seemed to be a thing.

P. S. In Korea, I found Foursquare to be more useful for finding things (!) than Google Maps. Yelp, of course, is a lot more geographically restricted.
posted by wintersweet at 8:31 PM on July 26, 2014

Well, Canada for sure. I'm on a road trip at the moment in rural British Columbia and just earlier today I was passing through the downtown of two large towns / small cities. Found myself noticing there seemed to be one or two gyms on every block.
posted by mannequito at 8:45 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Australia has a lot of gyms. They tend to be smaller than the ones I've found in the US, not that I go to a lot of gyms, and less likely to have pools because the climate tends to allow for more ocean swimming. Also more people seem to actually have pools in Australia compared to the colder parts of the US. I know that Australia has Curves gyms though I guess it depends on your POV of them as a gym, there may be other brands on offer.
posted by wwax at 9:19 PM on July 26, 2014

Germany has a high density of gyms ("Fitnessstudios") as well. They typically don't have pools - that's what public swimming pools are for. Also probably fewer hot tubs, but more saunas.
posted by tecg at 9:28 PM on July 26, 2014

I've lived in New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Denmark and was always able to find a gym with a good weights room within walking distance of my house. But never one with a pool. (The European ones had saunas; the Australian and NZ ones do not.)
posted by lollusc at 9:30 PM on July 26, 2014

If it's your habit to stay at hotels while traveling, you can stick to those with a) gyms on premises or b) guest passes to local gyms and sports clubs.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:41 PM on July 26, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I've been very disappointed in hotel gyms both in the US and abroad. Sadly, they are often just a treadmill and a couple of dumbbells. Very helpful answers, though, keep them coming!
posted by 3491again at 11:27 PM on July 26, 2014

Hmmm. I live in Australia, and have never had a problem finding a gym with a swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna. There are at least 3 that fit that criteria within 10 minutes of my house right now.

In the capital cities, it shouldn't be an issue; country towns, not so much. The only other thing to bear in mind is that they're often not as flexible with hours/cost/access as US gyms. Basic 24-hour gyms with exercise machines and weights are easier to find. My current gym has all the standard stuff plus a couple of pools, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, etc, but you have to be accompanied by a member to get casual entry, which is $25 a throw.
posted by Salamander at 11:57 PM on July 26, 2014

In Japan, there are community gyms and pools in every community that charge per visit, usually around 300-500 yen. The equipment can be quite primitive and they can be hard for outsiders to find and use. (You will likely be the only non-Japanese in the place and you will not, for example, be allowed in if you have visible tattoos--and yes, you will be asked to leave if you lie about it and someone reports you.)

My old commercial gym in Tokyo, Konami, is relatively ubiquitous in terms of location and, more importantly to me, open until 2 a.m. (I have no idea what time they opened in the morning, as I am not an early riser. It might have been 5 a.m.?). A monthly membership was relatively expensive and varied depending on the neighborhood. It might be worth it to you to sign up for a month (around 20,000-30,000 yen or more) even if you are only staying a week or two. I don't know if you could get daily or weekly passes, but you could ask. You'd need to either speak Japanese or have someone (preferably Japanese) who knows how to speak Japanese come with you to ask (a hotel concierge might arrange it, for example, if you're staying in a better hotel there).

The gym culture in Japan is quite unique: You'd need two pairs of shoes, one of which can only be worn in the gym, not outdoors. Shoes are not allowed to be worn in the locker room. And again, you'll be asked to leave if you have visible tattoos and they are seen by anyone either in the gym or in the locker room.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 12:38 AM on July 27, 2014

And again, you'll be asked to leave if you have visible tattoos and they are seen by anyone either in the gym or in the locker room.

For what it's worth, it's probably more apt to say "there's a small possibility that you will be asked to leave some gyms if you have tattoos, especially if you are loud and making a ruckus." I've been to a number of gyms (and onsens too) with fairly prominent tattoos on my arms and have never, ever had it mentioned. In Tokyo certainly it's less of an issue. It may be more of a issue in smaller cities or towns, but again I've never had trouble anywhere. And considering that this rule is really aimed at Yakuza, and Japanese are pretty forgiving of foreigner transgressions with these kinds of things--and moreover, most Japanese just don't give a crap--it's probably safe to "ask forgiveness, not permission."

That said, if you have tattoos and you're thinking of paying a chunk of money for a monthly pass in a gym forbidding them, it's worth considering whether you want to risk it because it certainly could happen if some other customer feels like making an issue of it.

May not be relevant for the O.P. in any case, but figured I'd put that here for posterity.
posted by dubitable at 3:18 AM on July 27, 2014

You're definitely less likely to find a 24hr gym in Europe. None of the ones I've been looking into in the UK and in Switzerland are open 24 hrs. But I live within walking distance of several gyms here in Zurich.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:45 AM on July 27, 2014

Small country town in Australia here, we have a 24 hour gym (Anytime Fitness).

No pool, sauna or spa as far as I can tell. It popped up right when the mining boom hit, so the general local consensus is that it caters to shift-workers and SAHM's/SAHD's, who can go at odd hours.

And I don't think it does casual entry at all, I'm pretty sure you have to be a member to get through the doors.

(I'm a mod for a local Buy Swap and Sell Facebook site, and the number of people trying to sell their partly-used membership - offering to go halves in the cost of transferring the key from one name to another just to offload the membership - is astonishing.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:33 AM on July 27, 2014

Sweden definitely has a workout culture in the larger cities.
posted by beerbajay at 5:24 AM on July 27, 2014

There are a lot of gyms in medium-to-large sized Chinese (mainland) cities. There are both big, fancy, privately-owned chains and also gyms at universities. Some of the fancier gyms have pools, but there are also usually public (still have to pay, but not expensive) pools in the city.
posted by bearette at 5:32 AM on July 27, 2014

For what it's worth, it's probably more apt to say "there's a small possibility that you will be asked to leave some gyms if you have tattoos, especially if you are loud and making a ruckus." I've been to a number of gyms (and onsens too) with fairly prominent tattoos on my arms and have never, ever had it mentioned.

For what it's worth, in Japan, as in many places, this may be the result of the extreme gender inequality that occurs there. Every woman I've know who has tattoos has been subject to lots of harassment because of it (not just in gyms, but on the street, on public transportation, etc.). It goes far beyond being asked simply to leave a place. With men, it's more hit or miss whether they will be confronted. This is probably going to be true in the gym as well.

I can only speak about my experiences as a woman there. I would expect that men can only speak about their experiences as men there.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 6:00 AM on July 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are at least two 24 hours gyms where I live, and it's a medium sized German city. If you're travelling and were not impressed with the usual hotel gym, you may consider to stay in wellness/sports hotels. These are fairly common in Germany (especially the South) and Austria and offer much better gyms, pools, usually also massage and sauna, than regular hotels. I just googled "hotel sport wellness" for a starting point. You'll generally find them in skiing and hiking areas.
posted by MinusCelsius at 7:00 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can only speak about my experiences as a woman there. I would expect that men can only speak about their experiences as men there.

Fair enough; as it stands we're both generalizing based on our experience, and in the end, I suppose the main point is to be wary of the gyms with tattoos not allowed. In any case, this may all be moot if the original poster has no tattoos!
posted by dubitable at 8:30 AM on July 27, 2014

Brazil, particularly Rio de Janeiro, has a "gym culture" possibly more popular than the US. Gym with pools are less common however.
posted by dreaming in stereo at 9:00 AM on July 27, 2014

I've lived in Heidelberg, Germany and currently live in Edinburgh, Scotland, and have had no particular problem finding gyms in either place.

The gym cultures of both places are a little different from each other and from the U.S. For example, the swimming pool/gym exists here in Edinburgh but didn't really exist in Heidelberg; German gyms usually had saunas and often tanning beds, and also seemed very prone to jumping on board with whatever the latest fitness fad was.

My SO, who travels a lot for her job, says that she also didn't have much trouble finding gyms in major cities in France. Day passes in Western Europe can be on the pricey side, although I've found some cheaper YMCA-like community gyms here in Edinburgh.

I'm not sure what you would consider an extensive weight room, but we primarily use squat racks and bench press, so these were all places that at least had one or two of each, free weights, etc., as well as the more common weight machines. When going to an unknown gym in Europe, it's wise to call first to make sure they have a squat rack or what have you if you need one, because some won't.

It is also harder to find places with eight-plus squat racks and rows and rows of benches, etc. as you sometimes can in the U.S.; the only place I've seen which has that has been the gym for University of Edinburgh students and staff. But plenty of places here seem to have one or two.
posted by kyrademon at 9:29 AM on July 27, 2014

This is really a broad question. It would be helpful to know if you would hope to be e traveling/touring on a day to day basis, primarily want to be in urban or rural areas and the extent that expenses are an issues. Trust me--if funds are available you can usually find what you want in most places or near bye.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:03 AM on July 27, 2014

Absolutely Reykjavik in Iceland! I just returned from there and was very happily able to keep up my fitness routine while visiting. As a bonus, there's geothermally heated swimming pools in every town where you can swim laps outdoors regardless of the weather - even during a blizzard, I'm told. In Reykjavik, the largest of these pool complexes was physically attached to one of the best gyms I've ever been in. I was there for a little over a week, and it seemed to me that athletics and gym culture were very well established in Icelandic society.
posted by erlking at 4:28 PM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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