8 differences between a no-frills gym and a health club

spa towels on table with rubber duck

Recently I switched from The Gym group to Bannatyne’s and I just wanted to write up my thoughts about the difference between a no-frills gym and a so-called health club.

Upgrading gyms did not come easy to me, I have been a loyal member of The Gym for around three years now, which makes me feel quite old, and honestly I have never really had a problem with it. I was always under the impression that you don’t need to pay more for all those extras as long as the equipment was good quality and varied. This is something I  still stand by, but now I am one of those people who want the extras.

Anyway here are the main differences…

(Can I also just say I was not paid by either of these gyms, I just thought it might be helpful.)

The price

Obviously no-frills gyms come at a cheaper price because you are getting less of a service. I paid £15.99 a month at the Gym Group, whereas I pay almost £30 for the same membership at Bannatyne’s. A no-frills gym is a good option if you aren’t sure how much usage you’ll get from the gym, as it’s not a huge amount to pay if you don’t end up going often.

Swimming pool

The main reason I switched gyms is because I wanted to be able to use the swimming pool, steam room and sauna. The majority of budget gyms don’t have pool facilities and the Gym group is no exception. There’s something about water that is just so relaxing, I love being able to leave my phone in my locker and switch my mind off for an hour after my workout, especially if I’ve had a stressful day at work.


Although the Gym did provide free fitness classes, they were always so full because it was on a first-come-first-serve basis and they were conducted in the middle of the gym floor, so you felt like everyone was watching. I feel quite self conscious in classes anyway, so I always ended up skipping them, or forgetting they were on.

Bannatyne’s has an app where you can browse classes and book which ones you want to attend, so they never become too full. They have a proper spinning studio (which is amazing by the way) and huge variety of classes like Bodypump, Meta Fit and Body Attack. I’ve only tried spinning at the moment, but I’m excited to try the others.

Opening hours

The Gym Group was 24 hours, which I used to love while I was a student and didn’t used to go to bed until 3am, but I found myself going in peak hours more often as I started working. Bannatynes is only open until 10pm on weekdays and I think it closes at 9pm on a weekend. This doesn’t make a huge difference to me, but it does mean I have to make sure I go to the gym before 8pm to get in a full workout and swim.


No word, not business; I am referring to how many people are in the gym at the same time. Assuming that this week isn’t a freak anomaly, Bannatyne’s is a lot less busy than the Gym was, even at 6pm on a weeknight (that time is usually a no-go for me at the Gym because it was like exercising in a bus que). The Gym is the cheapest in the city centre, so it’s understable that it gets so busy at peak time, but this is something to bear in mind if you want to pump iron straight after work.


So I’m going to get excited about sweat now…or the elimination of it! At Bannatyne’s they have paper towels and disinfectant spray in every room so you can wipe down the equipment after use, which is so much better than taking in the same sweaty towel that you’ve used for a week and rubbing all your old sweat on a machine to get your new sweat off, OR forgetting your towel completely and trying to wipe the machine down with your top (which i have definitely never done….) Yay for hygiene!

General aesthetics

Ok I don’t want to completely slate the Gym, because it’s pretty good considering how cheap it is, but Bannatyne’s is so much nicer in general.

For a start it’s cleaner, I haven’t seen mud all over the floor or clumps of hair anywhere. The locker rooms are nice, the lockers are actually big enough to fit your gym bag in and there are hair dryers (FYI though, there are no plug sockets so you can’t straighten your hair post dry). It’s also a lot more spacious so you don’t feel like other people are walking all over you during your workout and I haven’t seen anyone queuing for a machine!


The one thing I do not like about Bannatyne’s is that it doesn’t have free wifi, it has it’s own wifi but it’s really slow and doesn’t work properly for my phone. Perhaps that’s just my problem, but it’s annoying because I have to make sure I have downloaded music from spotify beforehand, I tried to do a workout listening to Drake and it was not good. I gotta hand it to them, the Gym has excellent wifi!

So yeah, sorry if this was a boring post but maybe it will help some of you who don’t know whether it’s worth paying a bit more for a fancy health club. In my opinion, it is a lot nicer, but a no-frills gym does the job just fine.


  • Vicky A

    This iwas really interesting to me because I’ve basically just done the opposite swap. While my previous gym wasn’t a “health club” it was a large gym with all kinds of additional facilities next to the University. Since leaving school it’s the only gym I’d had a membership to so that’s about 7 year on and off I’ve been going there/been a member there.

    I have now moved to a “budget” gym in the city-centre. One of the first thing I noticed about my new gym was that it’s always too hot. I raised it with them and apparently it’s set to 18 degrees “for customore comfort and safety.” Who wants to work out at 18 degrees?!

    Also the lack of paper towels and disinfectant kind of freaks me out. Everything must be so disgusting. I’m already dreading going during cold and flu season with all the germs all over everything.

    The other drawback I’ve found is that none of the cardio machines have a screen for tv or music videos and there’s not really anywhere to prop up your phone, if like me you want to kill to birds with one stone and catch up on tv while you work out.

    I guess it’s very much a case of, you get what you pay for, but there are definitely major plus points to going to a more expensive gym.

    • 18 degrees?! Is your gym a sauna! That’s waaay too hot!

      Well if it makes you feel better I don’t think i ever caught a cold from my germ-ridden budget gym so hopefully you’ll be safe 🙂 but yeah the disinfectant does make me feel a lot better especially as I am one sweaty mess when I workout.

  • Halima

    I’ve never been to a gym (eek) but it does make sense to upgrade from the Gym Group if you are a reg. It is a shame about the wifi considering you’re paying around £30 for the health club!

  • Andrea Thompson

    Interesting to know the difference. I’m a member of pure gym and have been for several months now, but it’s more like my favourite charity (might as well be) as I still haven’t been yet!!! Need to sort myself out, seriously. But yeah it would be better if it had a pool

    • hahaa “it’s more like my favourite charity” 😀 I guess that’s the trouble with a cheaper one, you don’t have to get your money’s worth xx

  • I love this so much! I used to have a bannatynes membership way back in the day when it was £50 and it was definitely a luxury! Now I am a member of pure gym, £15.99 like your one and its 24hours and it is so ridiculous busy! I would love to switch to a more luxury gym when I can afford it, but I definitely think I would miss the 24hours, and ease. Whats your bannatynes like for lifting equipment? I would be worried they wouldn’t have a squat rack or Olympic bar haha! I think in the end though, Ill probably end up joining a powerlifting gym as Im not that fussed on fancy environment, I would rather pick one with 10 squat racks lol!! Great post either way and I definitely agree with all the differences from when I have been members of both! 🙂
    Sian x

    • 24 hours is definitely a perk, even if you don’t use it its nice to know there are no restrictions of when you can go.

      The lifting equipment is actually really good, there’s a room with loads of free weights, kettle bells, Olympic bars etc and then another room with all the machines and heaviest weights.

      Have you ever tried Crossfit? x

      • Sounds like they have really upped their game!! I always wanted to try crossfit, but I think the high impact/high energy wouldn’t work very well with my current injuries! Plus I really do love the powerlifting training, I definitely think that’s more my forte!