ClassPass, a very popular start-up that lets users book exercise classes for a discounted flat monthly fee, has jacked that fee up to $190 in New York, making it more expensive than some Equinox gym memberships. This has riled a number of devoted users, many of whom already had to contend with a jump from $99/month to $125/month last year, and it's calling into question whether the service, which was intended to help make expensive fitness classes more accessible to people who can't afford to drop $30 on exercise, is even worth it anymore.
In ClassPass's defense, the $190/membership is for unlimited classes—current users can get ten classes a month for $125 (for newbies it's $135), or you can opt for a $75-for-5 class deal. If you run out of classes during your subscription, ClassPass offers you the option to purchase more for an extra fee. And the whole point of the price increase is that ClassPass can hurt small fitness studios, taking away clientele who might otherwise purchase memberships or class packs and handing studios only a small cut of the price of each class. Theoretically, the new pricing will mean studios get a bigger percentage, which might help them survive.
It might seem bourgeois to get upset about something like the cost of fitness classes, and maybe it is. Exercise is, after all, a luxury, or at least that's how it seems. But the fact is, it shouldn't be—many of us work office jobs that keep us stationary all day, and this city is stressful enough as it is without the added toll all that sitting can take on our bodies and minds. Some people are able to suffice with long walks or free runs or super basic gyms boasting nothing but a few treadmills and some weight equipment, and that's just fine.
But not everyone is motivated or experienced enough to rely on bare bones workouts. Some people need the energy of a group workout, or the push of a scheduled session to get up and move. Some people have back or knee injuries that require gentler, more supervised exercise, and some people need equipment that's harder to access, like a pool. Some people need a gym to be literally two blocks away from them or they won't ever go. And some practices, like yoga or Krav Maga, require instructors to ensure that at least beginners are doing things safely and properly. Everybody does their own thing.
Yes, fitness classes are probably a racket. And while it's all well and good to make fun of people for spending $30-a-pop on spin classes, the whole point of ClassPass was to spare subscribers from doing just that.
I joined ClassPass a few months ago, after an unfortunate apartment fire moved me far, far away from my beloved $10/month gym and $68/month yoga studio. For me, the $75-for-5 class deal is sufficient, since I run in Prospect Park and am fine with paying a yoga studio directly for an extra class if I'm feeling ambitious, but back when I had an unlimited yoga membership, I went to class at least three times a week. Before I started practicing yoga I thought the whole thing was a total scam, but it helped me get through some rough personal stuff, and I drank the Kool Aid hard. Maybe it's a dumb thing, but it's a dumb thing that saved me.
Individual classes at a lot of studios can run upwards of $18 and class-packs can cost upwards of $130. Pay-as-you-wish studios like Yoga to the People are typically cramped and miserable, which kind of defeats a lot of the point of yoga. A year-long membership at a studio can be much cheaper, but if you're unceremoniously ousted from your neighborhood and find that your old studio is now both an hour away from your home and office, the cost isn't really worth it.
I'm getting a little too personal here, but the point is, when exercise is something you love and has a significant positive effect on your physical and mental health, it can become cost-prohibitive. This isn't necessarily the fault of a studio or individual gym—rent here is horrific, teachers need to get paid, and a lot of studios hardly eke out a profit. Something like ClassPass doesn't help with that much, but either way, a lot of people who could use access to exercise classes are denied it because it's so expensive.
It's not just exercise that's problematic—therapists and other mental health professionals are often out-of-reach for people who need them. If you're lucky enough to have health insurance, it's hard to find a therapist who's covered, and even then you might be spending $60-a-week on a session. Paying someone to listen to your problems might sound like a needless luxury for the overprivileged, but that's basically like saying that only the wealthy should be happy. Though maybe in this city, that's just the deal.