What is your reason for joining a gym? That is a key to your decision making not a specific brand. What do you want from a gym membership? The prices vary with what is offered. If you are a self motivator you can get very fit without any form of gym membership and save the money spent on the gym for other things you enjoy. You also can avoid the hassle of scheduling time and making the logistical adjustments required for getting you and all your gear to the gym. Figure if you are going to do just a short thirty minute workout at a gym it can actually demand and hour and a half of your time to get there, get ready, workout, recover, redress and get back home.
There are many resources available which will help you get fit on your own. An excellent place to start is to get and read "Your Are Your Own Gym" by Mark Lauren.
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Use the free 7-day passes that most gyms have to find the right one for you. It really depends on what you're looking for in a gym.
I go to a Gold's Gym and I love it because it offers a lot of classes. I have a good friend who likes Planet Fitness because it is $10/month and bare bones. (Planet Fitness just got bought by Gold's in my area, but they say they are going to keep PF the way it was.) My mom used to like going to Curves because it was easier and women-only.
I will share my experience at my city's community center. I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, which is't anywhere near the size of the NYC area but I imagine you have community centers. I have been using it for 6 years and working there the last 4 years. It isn't fancy but I love it because I feel like our customers are real people. I have made great friends and enjoy the equipment and classes. The membership and class fees are very reasonable.
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