Since its development in the early 1900s, Pilates has become one of the most popular fitness classes in the world.
The low-impact and intense workouts of this exercise style have attracted people of all backgrounds and fitness levels.
Pilates is an excellent option for those who workout at home because it primarily uses calisthenic exercises and basic equipment. However, to get the most out of your Pilates practice, visiting a group fitness class can do wonders for your progress.
If you are interested in taking a group Pilates class, you can choose between taking classes at a specialized Pilates studio or a big box gym.
In the end, a Pilates studio will be a better experience for most people. You’ll enjoy a more immersive atmosphere and more detailed instruction.
Studios are ideal for beginners or anyone who wants to really deepen their practice.
However, if cost is your main concern — or if you want the freedom to take other kinds of classes and do your own workouts — a gym might make more sense. A membership is more affordable and versatile than joining a specialized studio.
To help you choose which option is best for you, I spoke with a professional Pilates instructor to get her insights into the differences between them.
Gym vs Pilates Studio Cost
The cost of attending classes is a big factor to consider when choosing between these two class types.
As a small business, a boutique studio will typically have a higher membership fee than a corporate gym.
The two facilities attract different styles of classes.
Having modern equipment, experienced teachers, and more personalized instruction all command a higher price for studio members.
At a big-box gym, various classes attract more members and lower the overall membership fees. In many cases, a big-box gym will include fitness classes like Pilates into the gym membership.
When I asked Pilates instructor Jacqueline Hinton about the costs associated with these classes, she said:
“When you choose to take a session/class at a boutique studio, you are supporting a small business, so even if the price is up there, you are supporting a real person compared to a corporate gym.”
Costs of Pilates Studio Membership
If you are looking for Pilates classes at a boutique studio (like Club Pilates) the average cost will be between $15-$55 per class.
These costs are associated with classes that only use a Pilates mat and not a reformer machine.
If you want to attend a reformer machine Pilates class at a studio, the average cost will be between $30-$85 per class.
Both of the reformer and mat Pilates classes will be around 45-minutes long on average.
You can also attend a private lesson with a Pilates instructor at a studio for a very personalized class. These lessons will be the most expensive, with an average cost of $50-$150 per one-hour class.
If you are looking to reduce the costs of taking classes at a studio drastically, you can also pay for classes in bulk.
Typically paid monthly or in groups of four to eight classes, you can reduce the costs considerably.
Costs of Pilates Classes at Big-Box Gym
You usually won’t find reformer-style Pilates classes at a big-box gym, and they will focus more on mat-style classes.
Without the need for expensive machines, the costs of a class will be significantly lower.
Gyms like Life Time or LA Fitness will include Pilates group fitness classes in the memberships without any additional charge.
If the gym includes Pilates classes in the membership, you will pay an average of $25-$50 per month — though high-end chains like Life Time or Equinox are substantially more expensive.
However, a gym will require an additional fee for specialized classes like Pilates or yoga in some cases.
These additional charges will usually be an extra $10-$20 per month added onto your base gym membership.
Once you have paid the additional fee, you will be allowed to attend as many classes as you want each month.
You can also sprinkle in other types of classes into your routine if you want while also using the gym’s amenities.
Convenience & Scheduling
Because it is a business dedicated to only Pilates, a studio will provide far more convenience than a bigger corporate gym.
Pilates classes at a big-box gym will have to fight with the other class styles for time slots, limiting the number of classes per week.
Whether you are a morning person or an after-work type of person, you can find a Pilates class that fits within your schedule at a studio.
A boutique studio will have classes spread throughout the day, sometimes up to ten or more classes in a single day.
However, a studio will sometimes limit the number of times you can attend classes if you are on a monthly plan.
One class a day is typically the cut-off, but there are ways to attend more if you want to pay a higher membership cost.
At a corporate gym, the classes will be limited—usually being only one or two Pilates classes on any given day. With several other types of classes offered, the corporate gym has to limit the Pilates classes.
So it might be hard to find a Pilates class at the gym that fits your schedule.
The one benefit to a corporate gym in terms of scheduling is that they will often offer Sunday classes. Many boutique studios will take Sundays off or have minimal classes available for members.
Scheduling at a studio or gym has become very easy with the help of online scheduling software.
By simply finding a class that fits within your schedule, you can secure your spot in class online.
Scheduling this way also prevents the situation where you attend a class that has been fully booked already.
You can check the attendance amount online to see the available spots.
It is typically easier to find a class at a studio because of the sheer amount of classes available.
However, be aware that a studio will emphasize cancellation fees.
With their lifeblood being their Pilates classes, a studio needs its members to show up for classes. It’s understandable if you had an unexpected event pop-up, but you will need to pay a fee if you cancel within a certain window.
Like many classes, the difference between a big-box gym and a dedicated studio will be drastically different.
When talking about the atmosphere of a boutique studio, Hinton said:
“I personally prefer supporting a boutique Pilates studio not just because it’s a small business but because there is a real sense of community. They are cleaner and more intimate.”
Boutique studios focus on building their facility around Pilates itself, while big-box gyms create a generic facility for all classes.
The classes feel more artificial and generalized at a corporate gym than a personalized style at a studio.
The atmosphere in a studio will also build a stronger sense of community, as you will see the same faces regularly.
It will feel more encouraging knowing that you guys are in this together and can build strong friendships.
While you may be able to make friends at a corporate gym, the members of these classes generally aren’t as invested in their Pilates practice.
Maybe it’s their first time taking a class, or they attend classes every once in a while.
If you are serious about your practice, a boutique studio will almost always be the better choice. The new equipment and highly experienced instructors will give you the best experience possible.
A corporate gym also has its place, though.
If you are someone on a budget who wants to get a quick Pilates workout, a big-box gym will be more than suitable.
Pilates studios and big-box gyms attract different types of teachers that will be instructing the classes.
At a Pilates studio, the instructors will be licensed, and they have dedicated their careers to teaching Pilates.
Their instruction will be more in-depth, and they will know what it takes to improve your practice.
Boutique studios also will only hire very experienced instructors, so you can be confident you are getting the best instruction.
The instructors may be a general personal trainer or a new up-and-coming Pilates instructor at a corporate gym.
A big-box gym instructor often works a day job, so they will be unable to teach classes during the workday.
Best for Beginners
If you are someone looking to attend a Pilates class for the first time, you may be wondering where is the best place to start.
In most cases, a Pilates studio would be the better choice for a beginner vs the gym.
At a box gym, each class will have people of all backgrounds, from first-time students to experienced members.
With so many different experience-levels, the instructors can’t dedicate detailed instruction to beginners without sacrificing the experienced members’ workout.
If the instructor dedicated each class to teaching new members, this would leave the experienced members doing similar things in each class.
So, if you are a beginner at a big-box gym, you will most likely have to pick up things by watching others.
At a Pilates studio, instructors will work with you closely to help get you up-to-speed on the basics of Pilates — especially if you show up a little early and introduce yourself.
In many cases, you can even attend your first Pilates class for free, depending on the studio.
While you are looking for a studio in your area, call the studios to ask which classes are most beginner-friendly.
The staff will be happy to assist you and do everything they can to support your personal development.
Variety of Pilates Classes
The variety of classes at a studio will be far greater than your standard corporate gyms like LA Fitness or Gold’s Gym.
At a Pilates studio, you will have the choice between reformer Pilates or mat-style classes.
Also included are the different focuses of the classes—such as balance, flow, or suspension classes.
These different styles will always keep things fresh and exciting, avoiding the predictable style of corporate gyms.
When you visit a bigger gym, they will commonly follow a more generalized approach to the classes. Instead of focusing on a particular aspect of Pilates, you will be doing an all-encompassing style.
It’s rare to find reformer Pilates classes at the gym, but it can happen.
These classes generally can only fit a handful of people, so I recommend you book the classes in advance so they don’t fill up.
Whether you workout at a boutique studio or a big-box gym, the results of your practice will always be a result of how hard you push yourself.
If you are looking for an inexpensive option and a basic (but effective) Pilates workout, a box gym is a great choice. You can take the occasional Pilates class and still enjoy other workouts and equipment for a single monthly fee.
If you are looking for a more personalized Pilates style, a studio is a great way to take your practice to the next level. The experienced teachers and up-to-date teaching methods will help you push yourself and advance far quicker.
For more, check out:
- What results can you expect from Pilates?
- What are the pros and cons of taking Pilates?
- Gym vs spin studio
- Gym vs yoga studio
Hope this helps!