What is a boutique gym?

While structured fitness has its roots in Ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Persian, and Indian cultures, it was the Greeks that made...

While structured fitness has its roots in Ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Persian, and Indian cultures, it was the Greeks that made formalised physical training culturally acceptable. Of course, they weren’t quite practising fitness in the same way we do today; for one thing, they were all naked.  

There’s some disagreement about a common descendant, but the first private fitness clubs started appearing in Europe and North America in the early-to-mid 19th century. In the 1960s, body-building gyms became more popular, with the first Gold’s Gym (where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained) opening in Venice Beach, California, in 1965.  

But it wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that health and fitness clubs went mainstream. Today there are 4,880 gyms and fitness centres in the UK and 115, 047 in the US.

While the term ‘gym’ may seem self-explanatory, it’s a word that now does a lot of heavy lifting (pun intended), describing places that host many different disciplines of exercise. Boutique is one example. Many of us understand what this means in the context of a shopping trip or a stay in an upscale hotel, but what exactly is a boutique gym?  

What is Boutique Fitness? 

Oxford Languages defines a boutique as ‘a business or establishment that is small and sophisticated or fashionable’. We can argue that a boutique gym falls under the same definition.

Boutique gyms are smaller than regular gyms. On average, they have square footage of between 800 and 3500 ft. Compare this to the average US fitness studio, which covers around 3,813 ft but which is also often much larger. Boutique gyms are smaller because they often focus on a single fitness discipline for example, Pilates, yoga, cycling, boot camp, and barre. This level of specialism usually means instructors are highly qualified and experienced in that field, compared to instructors and trainers in other gyms who may be more generalist.  

Boutique fitness members are predominantly women. According to one study, 77% of boutique members were female, but this did depend on the type of studio. Yoga, barre, and Pilates were more popular with women. Cross-training and boot camp studios were more likely to be dominated by men. 

Boutique gyms also have a younger clientele with an average age of 30 years old, which is 10 years younger than traditional gym users.   

Boutique gyms also charge higher fees. This is for both individual classes and monthly and annual memberships. According to Very Well Fit, the average cost of a class at a boutique gym is between $25 and $40, compared to $37.71, which is the monthly fee for a regular gym. In the UK, Barry’s Bootcamp in London costs £24 per class, while KX Fitness Club charges clients £575 per month. These are higher-end establishments offering specialist classes and a level of client-interaction that you’re less likely to find at a more affordable commercial gym.  

Boutique gyms have smaller classes so clients will usually be expected to book into a class rather than just show up. This can help the studio feel more exclusive and personalised, building a community that isn’t always possible in a bigger gym.  

Boutique gym clients and members are also more likely to frequent more than one establishment. 44% of clients belong to 2 separate studios with 22% of clients belonging to 2 or more different studios.   

Boutique gyms also have a greater reliance on customer loyalty and want members to turn up and take the class as opposed to general gyms, which are often oversubscribed because gym owners know that most people pay for memberships and then either rarely or ever attend. Boutique gyms often have penalties for missed classes (non-refundable fee, for example) and a higher expectation that members will participate in classes.  

Despite being smaller and more specialist, the boutique gym industry is growing; it’s projected to be worth $26.2 billion in 2025.  


Female in warrior yoga pose in a brightly lit studio

Are Boutique Gyms Worth It?  

Boutique gyms are specialist spaces. You’ll have access to instructors that are experts in their discipline, and with smaller classes they’ll be able to instruct more effectively.  

Boutique classes and studios are also a great way to focus on one specific discipline. If you are only interested in participating in indoor cycling classes, then there seems little point in paying for a membership that includes a more general spread of classes and equipment.  

Because boutique gyms are known to be fashionable and modern, many now have a more experiential vibe. There’s a growing trend towards exercise as an ‘experience’ rather than just a way of sweating. We’ve just completed an installation of our electricity-generating indoor cycling bikes into Storm Cycle Studio in Berlin, which has a nightclub vibe: a sound and lighting system that delivers an exhilarating session.  

Some people respond better to exercising with others rather than working out alone. The community feel may be more appealing, especially for people who struggle to maintain a routine otherwise.  


Disadvantages of a boutique gym 

Boutique gyms are more expensive and significantly so in some parts of the country. We mentioned that some prices for an individual class aren’t far off (and in some cases exceed) the equivalent of a monthly membership fee elsewhere.  

Your restricted to the specialism of that boutique gym, which may be an issue if you’re joining for a prolonged period. Sometimes mixing up your routine can help keep exercise interesting, and if you’re signed up to a Pilates studio but interested in cardio then that’s additional cost.   

Because boutique classes have specialist instructors, they may run on a schedule which doesn’t align with your own. It may also be harder to join classes if there’s a waiting list and you have to skip a couple. As classes are smaller, they may be busier too. 


Other types of gym  

One of the best things about boutique gyms is that they open so many more types of physical activity to beginners and those who are more experienced. They also allow people to specialise in different areas and discover a passion for something that otherwise they might not have realised.  


Powerlifting gyms 

CrossFit gyms 

HIIT gyms 

Rock climbing gyms 

Dance studios 

Bootcamp / circuit fitness gym 

Kickboxing / martial arts / MMA / boxing / wrestling  

Athletics club 


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