Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks in this October file photo. Her office announced Wednesday that fees at city-run fitness centers will be eliminated next year. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images )

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks in this October file photo. Her office announced Wednesday that fees at city-run fitness centers will be eliminated next year. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images )

December 30, 2015

SOURCE: The Washington Post

Fulfilling a New Year’s resolution to exercise more in 2016 just got cheaper for D.C. residents.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation announced Wednesday that fees at city-run fitness centers will be eliminated next year and beyond.

“The mayor wants to make sure that everyone, regardless of financial status, has an opportunity and access to get fit and healthy,” said Jordan Bennett, a spokesperson for the mayor.

The Department of Parks and Recreation maintains fitness centers — which house standard gym equipment like ellipticals, stationary bikes, free weights and weight machines — at community centers in the city.

For D.C. residents, it currently costs $125 for yearly access, or $5 for a daily pass, with discounted rates for families and seniors. The price tag for non-D.C. residents, who still will have to pay in 2016, is $150 per year. Group fitness classes are already free.The fees generated about $10,000 for the city annually, but Bennett said the elimination won’t trigger any change in services. He said the city decided the money generated from fees wasn’t worth the number of people who might be dissuaded from using the facilities because of the cost.

“The benefits outweigh the costs,” Bennett said. “This is more beneficial for the centers, as opposed to having a fee that doesn’t make that big of a difference.”

The announcement comes at a time when high-end fitness options are becoming the norm in the city, with an influx of boutique gyms charging customers more than $100 for a monthly membership or $30 for an hour-long class. These new gyms are largely clustered in neighborhoods teeming with young, educated new residents.

There are no private, full-service gyms east of the Anacostia River, which is home to some of D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods, where obesity rates are among the highest in the city.

In October, the YMCA National Capital facility in downtown D.C. announced it would shutter at the end of the year, citing increased competition from new upscale gyms. Leaders at the YMCA said they wanted to build a new fitness center in the city, and would consider putting it east of the Anacostia.

The city recently opened its renovated 47,000-square-foot Barry Farm Recreation Center in Ward 8, featuring an indoor pool, fitness center, locker room and basketball courts.