I have always had a fickle relationship with exercise. At least in my adult life. Weighing the cost benefit, time commitment and more I've been a member and tried dozens of gyms and types of exercise from Pilates to HIIT. Here are my impressions of everything I've tried (in and around Southern California) and either succeeded or failed terribly at (I've put dollar signs next to names to denote cost):
24-Hour Fitness www.24hourfitness.com/- $
This is great lower cost option. I have visited several 24 hour fitnesses across the US and they really try to create a great experience. The pros are cost (make sure you try to negotiate fees!), accessibility (there are a lot of locations so they are close to wherever you are) and diversity of options. They offer classes, have equipment set up to allow for circuit training and some locations have showers and locker rooms. The cons (I've encountered): Not always super clean, the 24-Hour Fitness express locations tend to fill up and you can end up waiting for a machine. The classes are not always consistent and I didn't really enjoy the two I took. The biggest con was that it was super challenging to cancel my membership.
Equinox - $$$
Stepping into an equinox is like walking into a spa. A really expensive spa where everyone is intimidatingly beautiful. They have refrigerators with frozen washcloths dabbed with eucalyptus essential oils and hand sanitizers everywhere. Its clean, it smells good, it has great classes, and a lovely locker room. I'd pay just to shower there. They even have childcare (that costs $12/hr). The draw backs? Money and insecurities. If you are insecure around people that are much better looking than you or can't afford to spend at least $300 in sign-fees and $200/month in membership (plus any additional fees) then this is not the place for you.
Orange Theory - $-$$
I just joined OT and so far I love it! I signed up for their unlimited package which is about $170 a month or ~$11/class if you go 5 days a week. I also got their heart monitor for free when I signed up. OT is a circuit/HIIT training gym. Each class is an hour long and an enthusiastic coach takes you through all the different circuits which includes cardio (treadmill, rowing machine, elliptical and/or bike and weights. Every member monitors their heart rate throughout class and the goal is to stay in the fat burning and push zone for at least 12 minutes to get the most benefit. I love the classes because I'm never board and I'm constantly competing with myself. I burn about 500 calories per class (and for a chick that's 5 feet tall that's saying a lot!). This type of gym isn't for someone that needs to go any minute of the day. Each class starts on the hour so you have to show up on time. It also may be inappropriate for a person that isn't up for a high intensity workout.
Fit4Mom - Stroller Strides - $-$$
I was a member of stroller strides after both my babies were born. I absolutely loved it. The instructors were compassionate and really mindful of my postpartum body. They entertained the babies while I would take a quick jog or did my planks. This is a great class option for a Mom/Dad that's looking to make new friends, doesn't mind bringing their little one along while they work out and loves exercising outside! The only drawbacks for me were when the classes had to cancel due to outdoor conditions or when my LO wouldn't put up with being in the stroller. Otherwise it was a great option for me and helped me get my stride back after baby.
Misc. classes I've loved but not native to a gym:
Pilates - $$$
It doesn't seem to matter where you take it, pilates is expensive. But that's because its so damn good! When I was doing pilates twice a week (with my Mom) I was in the best shape of my life. Its low intensity but you get taller, leaner and stronger. This is great for men and women alike. Especially those looking to strengthen their core or get stronger after an illness or injury. If you do do pilates, I recommend reformer pilates (on that weird contraption which looks more intimidating then it is). And i recommend doing at least one session privately at first. You'll get more comfortable with everything and learn the key components of the practice.
Zumba - $-$$$
If you want to have fun, dance, and burn calories Zumba is a really great option. Never boring, Zumba is a dance aerobics class with a latin flair. If you are uncoordinated that's okay. No one cares how you look because they're too busy having fun themselves! There are a lot of inexpensive Zumba options out there, you just have to look for them. I've found some at the YMCA.
Nia - $-$$
Nia is a lesser known type of workout. Its a fusion between yoga, martial arts and dance. Its a very easy, welcoming environment and open to all levels of fitness. You'll get more in tune with your inner-self and will probably just feel, well, happy after taking a Nia class.
Some of us don't have the option of childcare or can afford the gym. Luckily there are hundreds of great at-home workout options! I live in an apartment with very little space that is already often taken up by toys and I can still do many of these:
Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shred - $
This is a DVD or also available on Amazon Prime Streaming. The 30 day shred is a really effective workout and you will definitely work up a sweat and feel the burn. There are 3-levels so you don't have to worry if you're just getting back into the exercise game. Each class is 30 minutes, so if you're working out during nap time or when baby is actually entertained by a mobile, you can get it done. The one drawback for me is that after a week I got really bored of the same workout every day.
Beach Body - $$-$$$
All beach body workouts are great calorie burning, stamina building workouts. They tend to range in price from a little costly to super expensive. Some are easier then others. You can check out the whole line. They also have an online subscription service where you can do any online workout you want for a monthly fee. This is not a great workout if you live in an apartment above the first floor. A lot of jumping around and running in place does not a happy neighbor make.
SworkIt - $
This is an app on your phone. Its fantastic. You can design the length, type and level of workout you want and the app will show you how to do all the moves and take you through each workout. I really liked using this app. I didn't feel like I got enough of a cardio workout in my apartment but I did feel the burn the next day. This is a fab, low cost, home workout option. I could even do it with my kids around. Though, they have a proclivity for climbing on me while I'm trying to do planks and push-ups.