Top 5 Most Popular Gym Franchises in America

Even though the United States is one of the fattest countries on Earth, you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at the growth of the fitness industry. With a modest start in the 1970s as Pilates and aerobics took off, the fitness industry has expanded exponentially within the past two decades. Fitness centers such as the YMCA not only provided a place to work out, but also served as social functions for the community in which they resided.

Today, there are over 45 million Americans that identify as being members of a gym or fitness center. Despite so many gym goers, just an estimated 16 million actually use their membership more than 100 days per year. This has led to a massive boom in revenue for gym franchises throughout the country, pushing fitness related revenues past $21 billion in 2012 for the first time ever.

Sure, gym owners and franchisees are probably raking in the dough, but they are also responsible for a large percentage of added workers since 2000. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the fitness industry will see an increase in the number of jobs by 23% over the next 10 years, leading to almost 500,000 new jobs during that same time period.

If making money and helping people become healthier sounds like a possible career option for you, now could not be a better time to seize this opportunity. Every day there are new gyms opening up throughout the country, both small businesses and franchises; sport specific performance facilities and all-encompassing venues where you can shop, work out, and grab a bite to eat all at the same location. The following is a list of five of the most iconic and widely available gym franchises in the United States, providing thousands of jobs per year and millions of dollars into local economies throughout the country.


5 Planet Fitness - 800+ Locations, Est. 1992

Ever go into the gym and instantly feel intimidated by the meatheads by the squat rack? If so, Planet Fitness offers a “judgment free” atmosphere and actually discourages hardcore lifters from joining their gyms. Now, that in itself may be a judgment, but it appears to be working for one of the fastest growing fitness franchises in the country.

If you’re looking to buy a franchise, the company does have some stringent requirements to meet before opening up shop. For smaller sized gyms, the franchise requires a population of at least 25,000 residents within five miles, as well as a $10,000 franchise fee. On top of that, PF charges a 5% royalty per year and you must sign up for a 10-year lease. With over 6 million members, the requirements imposed by corporate may seem a bit much, but numbers never lie. Over 40% of gym franchisees own multiple gyms, making it currently the #25 fastest growing franchise, thanks to its low monthly fees and the complimentary pizza and doughnuts, although the effectiveness of those promotions is still up for debate.

4 Snap Fitness - 1,500 Locations, Est. 2003


It seems that in order for any business to be successful, they need to listen to what consumers want. That is certainly no different in the fitness industry, as Snap Fitness has revolutionized the way people go to the gym. Members are given access keys to the gym, allowing them to go at any time convenient for them, 24/7. Despite that many of the locations are small in comparison to other franchises, Snap offers the basic essentials that you would find at any other gym. The “no frills” attitude that the corporate offices project to each franchise has helped to make it one of the fastest growing franchises in the country and an extremely lean business to run.

While the $19,500 may seem stiff, royalty fees of just $449 per month are some of the industry’s lowest. Adding the fact that each franchisee only signs an initial 5-year lease agreement, it’s no wonder why so many are opening up. The only downside to pursuing a franchise with Snap is that they require a net worth of $250,000 per individual who is on the ownership agreement, which may pose a threat for you and your buddies looking to set up shop. As the #94 fastest growing franchise according to Entrepreneur, Snap looks like a solid bet for anybody looking to get into the fitness industry.

3 Gold’s Gym - 400 Locations, Est. 1965

One of the originals in the fitness industry, Gold’s first became famous in Venice, California on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. As bodybuilding greats such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane worked out at Gold’s, the franchise began to take off. Soon, Gold’s found over 600 locations under its belt and was a force to be reckoned with. But as you know, all good things must come to an end, and Gold’s is no different.

Despite having over 400 locations today, the franchise’s numbers have been cut drastically in the past decade as 24/7 gyms and clubs with more amenities have taken away its once booming clientele. If you are interested in owning a piece of bodybuilding history, Gold’s currently allows franchisees to open up for $40,000 per year, in addition to the 3% royalty throughout the duration of the initial 10-year lease. If you think that sounds a little high, consider the cash requirements; each investor must have a net worth of $1 million with liquid cash availability of $400,000!

2 Life Time Fitness - 109 Locations, Est. 1992


You can’t talk about fitness franchises without talking about Life Time Fitness’ monstrosities throughout the country. Normally, when you go to the gym you go in, get a good sweat going and then leave. Not at Life Time. While amenities will vary at each location, most have cafés, spas, and child care rooms for you to take full advantage of. In fact, some even offer small stores and indoor/outdoor waterparks. Life Time also happens to be the only publicly traded fitness center on our list, traded on the NYSE under the ticker LTM.

Even with just 109 locations, Life Time managed to make a little over $1.2 billion in 2013. Yes, BILLION! I was not joking when I said each gym was huge. Along with the $50 membership fees and random extra charges, Life Time has taken the art of customer service to an entirely new level. The smoothies, massages, and personal training are a cash cow for the company, as over 23,000 employees will help you reach your fitness goals or just provide you with a nice warm towel upon leaving the showers.

1 Anytime Fitness - 2,000 Locations, Est. 2003

As previously noted, the key to successful gym franchising seems to be the availability of the gym to its patrons. Anytime has gone above and beyond this and has somehow created a near perfect model for other gyms to follow. The 24-hour access, customer service, and wide range of services available to its members has helped the company become the number one overall franchise on the Entrepreneur top 500 list in 2013. Priding itself on security, atmosphere, and results, Anytime has become what other gym franchises hope to be.

With over 2 million patrons, Anytime has been able to open up over 2,000 franchised locations throughout the country. The price for doing business? Franchisees are only asked to pay a $20,000-25,000 franchise fee and a $449 royalty per month. While the liquid cash requirement of $70,000 seems reasonable, you will want to really make sure you want to own a gym before jumping into business. As the #15 fastest growing franchise in America, there are plenty of opportunities for anybody wanting to get in on the action domestically and abroad.


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