17 Overpriced and Overhyped Fitness Programs

Aerial Yoga


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Aerial Yoga


The fitness world is increasingly populated by boutique studios peddling specialty workout programs. Exercise buffs routinely shell out $20 to $40 drop-in fees for classes whose popularity and prices are surely out of proportion to their health benefits. Here are some of the trendiest, priciest fitness classes, along with some budget-friendly alternatives you can try instead.



Fitness studios like Pure Barre, the Bar Method, and Barre3 offer workout classes that use mats and ballet barres (handrails) for isometric strength training. While such movements can also help develop flexibility and improve mind-body connection, they may not help build functional strength for everyday tasks that require compound movements, like lifting grocery bags. You can also try a barre workout without paying for a studio membership or a barre of your own.

Soul Cycle


SoulCycle is perhaps the best known of a group of trendy spin classes that have become popular in recent years. The infamously intense, high-temp classes combine stationary cycling with upper-body exercises and dance moves. But there's no evidence that this pairing improves exercise efficiency. Instead, the exertion and combination of moves while biking has the potential to cause injury. Between that and the elitist vibe, many people should be convinced to buy their own exercise bike instead.

Flywheel Sports/facebook.com


Flywheel is SoulCycle's major competitor in the world of spinning, boasting lower prices and bikes that display your progress. This may make it a better option for would-be spinners, although the same drawbacks still apply, and regular cycling is more cost-effective in the long run.



The other major trend in stationary cycling, Peloton brings studio cycling into the home with tablet-mounted exercise bikes streaming live or on-demand classes for owners to follow along. There's little reason to invest $1,995 in this internet-enabled status symbol over an old-fashioned exercycle, which you can buy for less than $300 and simply place near a TV or other device for instructional videos.

AQUA Studio NY/facebook.com


Located in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood, Aqua Studio is the nation's foremost gym for aqua spinning, which can help build muscle and cardiovascular strength with less impact on weary joints. At $42 per class or $150 a month, however, the prices are hard to justify against a cheaper local gym.

Equinox Kensington/facebook.com


This high-end fitness chain, with locations in every major city across the nation, offers spa treatments and brand-name classes like SoulCycle and Pure Yoga. It's an undoubtedly elevated, if intimidating, fitness experience more for exercise fanatics than average Joes. If a $200 to $300 initiation fee and $250 monthly rate aren't enough to turn you off, just remember that you can find yoga, kickboxing, and other offerings at more reasonably priced gyms.

Corpse Pose


More gyms have started offering classes centered on meditation and controlled breathing techniques (or "regeneration" classes, as they're called at Equinox). While meditation offers a slew of tested mental and physical health benefits, there's little reason to pay someone else for a practice you can easily do yourself, especially now that there are apps and online instructions galore to get you started.

Bikram Yoga


While yoga has been around for centuries and boasts numerous evidence-based health benefits, Bikram yoga is a newer, trendier subcategory that emphasizes 26 specific postures in a heated environment. While randomized trials have established that it improves lower-body strength and balance, there are no hard facts showing any significant benefits over other types of yoga, and Bikram's much-touted potential for calorie expenditure and weight loss is comparable to 90 minutes of brisk walking.

Aerial Yoga


This newly popular form of yoga is more daring than a typical workout. While hanging upside down from a silk swing may alleviate back pain, that's about it for aerial yoga's medically supported benefits over traditional forms. If aerial yoga does appeal to you, however, you can install your own yoga swing at home for around $60, or about the cost of two classes.

Corepower Yoga
CorePower Yoga/facebook.com


CorePower Yoga is a fitness chain devoted exclusively to yoga-based workouts. More than 150 locations testify to how popular it has become, and how much people are willing to pay for its instruction in various types of yoga, from hot yoga to power yoga to mixed sessions incorporating free weights. But yoga is a practice you can easily take up at home for free (or the cost of a mat).

Animal Flow
Animal Flow/facebook.com


Another class option you'll find at Equinox and other luxury fitness centers, Animal Flow is a program comprised of "primal" poses designed to build strength and endurance while also increasing mobility and balance, similar to yoga. Rather than commit to a costly gym membership to try it out, you can instead pay a one-time fee of $50 for Animal Flow's instructional e-videos, or familiarize yourself with the positions via free online articles and videos.



CrossFit practitioners have a reputation for fanaticism about their chosen fitness program, a series of hour-long classes featuring high-intensity, broadly targeted workouts comprising aerobic, calisthenic, Olympic weightlifting, and obstacle-course exercises. Don't be seduced by the hype if you're not already rather serious about bodybuilding, not just because of the cost but also because the extreme programs may deter beginners and cause serious muscle injuries like exertional rhabdomyolysis.



Promising a better workout with a minimal time commitment, it's no wonder high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, classes have become popular. Combining short bursts of intense exercise with abbreviated cool-down periods, HIIT exercises do effectively burn calories, improve heart health, and increase metabolic speed when done correctly. But, as with other intense workouts, the risks of rhabdomyolysis may outweigh the rewards for newcomers, who should start with lower-intensity options before trying their hand at the HIIT basics.



Piloxing classes fuse standing Pilates principles with agile boxing, allegedly creating "a sense of both physical and mental balance." The jury is out on that claim, but piloxing certainly does burn calories and promote flexibility in a lively group setting. That said, you can always skip the classes and start a piloxing practice from the comfort of home.

Spartan Strong
Courtesy of life.spartan.com


Launching off the popularity of the Spartan obstacle race series, Spartan Strong is an indoor group fitness class built around fast-paced, cardio-focused drills and requiring only a weighted "pancake" as equipment. You can enlist in the team-building classes at Life Time gyms, but depending on where you live, the monthly fee of $29 to $199 may be too steep for an exercise you could just as easily do at home.

SLT: Strengthen - Lengthen - Tone/facebook.com


Up-and-coming fitness chain SLT (which stands for Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone) combines elements of strength training, cardio, and Pilates atop a resistance-based contraption called the Megaformer. Reviews are generally positive and consistent with the celebrity-induced hype, but there are still ways to do many of SLT's signature moves without the price tag.



ClassPass is an app that gives users unlimited access to spin, yoga, barre, martial arts, and other classes offered at partner fitness studios in exchange for a monthly fee (starting at $49 a month for 2 to 4 classes in New York City). It may be worthwhile for devout fitness buffs looking for variety, but it's come under fire for repeatedly upping prices and doing away with an unlimited option. As a middleman, ClassPass can also undercut the health clubs that have partnered with it.