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Why Most Airports Don’t Have Gyms and How You Can Work Out Anyway

Why Most Airports Don’t Have Gyms and How You Can Work Out Anyway

A gym would be a great option for travelers waiting for their next flight. So why don’t more airports have them?

You show up to the airport hours early for your flight, like a diligent and experienced traveler. After you’re through security and on on your way through the terminal, you plot your next move. Most of us are inclined to sit at the gate for an hour and stare at our phone but wouldn’t it be better to put that time to good use?

Research has shown us that the time demands and lack of gym access make fitness difficult for business travelers. But what if you were able to use the excessive amount of time you spend waiting around in airports as your time to workout?

Take a quick look around the airport and you’re not likely to find a gym. To be fair, there are a few airport gyms (they’re awesome) and we’ll talk about them in a bit.

Why are there so few gyms in airports?

Let’s start with the economics. Like almost everything, it’s all about money. Airports can make a lot more money from restaurants and stores in their terminals than they can from a gym. This creates a massive obstacle for gym owners looking to grab real estate in airports.

Some airport gyms have tried, and failed, including one at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Ultimately, success may depend on how long travelers are remaining at an airport. Hub airports where travelers often have long layovers may have the best shot at success in having a gym. So you’re more likely to see gyms in the future at airports like Chicago’s O’Hare or Atlanta’s Hartsfield.

Despite setbacks and a remaining lack of gyms in airports, there are a few that have succeeded and continue to provide travelers with quality workout experiences while they wait for a flight. Here are a few pioneers on the airport gym frontier.

ROAM Fitness at Baltimore-Washington International Airport

ROAM Fitness at Baltimore-Washington International Airport is offering the best workout experience in any airport in the world right now. Workout clothes and running shoes are available for rent, so there’s no need to worry about not having the right attire with you.

Photo from Self.com

Photo from Self.com

And don’t worry about being sweaty on your flight. You can freshen up with a shower after your workout. ROAM Fitness has your post-workout nutrition covered too, with healthy meals and recovery drinks available. The cost of using ROAM ranges from $40 a day to $175 for a monthly pass.

Keep an eye out for ROAM in more airports in the future.

GoodLife Fitness at Toronto Pearson International Airport

If you're passing through Toronto's Pearson International Airport, consider dropping in at GoodLife Fitness in Terminal One. The partnership between Canada's largest fitness company and largest airport allows thousands of travelers to stay fit while they travel through Pearson everyday, and nearly 4,000 people are using the 10,000 square foot gym each month.

GoodLife offers luggage storage and provides clothes and shoe rentals to travelers who need to borrow apparel. Day passes cost $17.

GoodLife Fitness is located in Terminal One, before security, on the arrivals level.

No gym, no problem.

A few weeks ago, Sara McInerney took over my Instagram to show my followers how to workout at the airport. Sara shared her airport workout, where she changed into workout clothes and rolled out her portable yoga mat in the terminal.

Her workout consisted of push-ups, squats using her backpack for added weight, Russian twists, and handstand shoulder-taps. She cleaned up with some wipes and hand sanitizer, changed her clothes, and boarded her flight.

What’s the lesson? When you're constantly traveling, especially for business, you may have to think outside the box to take care of yourself. Here are some of the alternatives you can use to workout at the airport.

Check nearby hotels.

While the airport itself might not have a gym, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the gyms in the hotels that are often attached to the airport. It might mean a shuttle ride or some walking, but finding a hotel at the airport with a gym is not difficult.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s Westin Hotel (above) is a perfect example. The hotel is located in McNamara Terminal, so it’s easy to get to. You can purchase a day pass for $15 and you don’t have to be a guest to use the gym.

Do some bodyweight training.

There's no reason why you can't get a great bodyweight workout done while you wait for a flight. The gym can truly be everywhere you are, as long as you have some space and time to move your body around. 

Bodyweight exercises offer the best return for overall fitness on your investment. They're incredibly effective, time-efficient and require no equipment. You'll burn a ton of calories and build strength with just your body. 

Airport Bodyweight Circuit

Do three to five rounds as a circuit, resting thirty seconds to one minute in between rounds. No rest between exercises.

  • One Minute of Jumping Jacks

  • One Minute of Push-Ups

  • One Minute of Squats

  • One Minute of Chair Dips

  • One Minute of Lunges

Tip: If possible, wear workout clothes when traveling. Not only are they more comfortable but you'll also be ready to workout without having to change. 

Find your yoga flow.

The great thing about yoga is that you can do it anywhere. Unroll your mat right in the terminal waiting area or airport lounge and you're ready to go. If you need some guidance, check out this video of Shona Vertue's twenty minute pre-flight yoga routine.

Tip: Purchase a portable yoga mat for traveling. We like the Jade Voyager Yoga Mat.

Some quick poses you can try include eye-of-the-needle pose while you're seated either before or during your flight and a modified extended hand-to-big-toe pose post-flight.

Some airports now provide yoga rooms for travelers. Dallas - Fort Worth, San Francisco, Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports and London's Heathrow all have yoga rooms with complimentary yoga mats and instructional videos.

Yoga room locations at SFO.

Photo from FlySFO.

Photo from FlySFO.

JetBlue has held free hour-long yoga classes in JFK International Airport's Terminal 5.  

Think yoga is too easy? Think again. Yoga is incredibly popular in the United States Army Special Forces, where elite military operators who are required to function as high-level athletes turn to yoga for improving strength, flexibility, and relaxation.

Get your steps in.

If you're looking for something a bit less intense, go for a walk through the terminal. Do some sight-seeing or plane-spotting. Many terminals are large enough that you can literally walk miles without passing the same store twice.

Some airports now have walking paths in the terminals for travelers looking to get up and move while they wait for their flight. Look up the next time you're in a terminal and you might see the signs and markers that identify things like step numbers and mileage between points in the airport. Minneapolis - St Paul, Atlanta and Cleveland all have markers and healthy messages for travelers posted throughout their terminals.

If you're going to be sitting for the duration of your flight, why sit while you wait to board? Take a walk around the terminal.

Want to learn more about staying fit while traveling? Get Fit For Travel!

Bottom Line

While airport gyms aren’t as common as many of us would like, there are a few out there that are leading the way towards what could be a growing trend.

The airport may not be first place most people think of for getting in a workout but when you consider how much downtime you typically have there, it begins to make sense. Put the time to good use and get some exercise, however you prefer.

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