Anytime Fitness, Hastings, MN, is the No. 1 franchise on Entrepreneur magazine's 2014 Franchise 500 list, which was published today.

This is the first time a fitness company has been ranked No. 1 by Entrepreneur.

"This designation as No. 1 is a credit to our fabulous franchisees," Chuck Runyon, CEO and co-founder of Anytime Fitness, said in a statement. "In addition to operating convenient and affordable gyms, our franchisees and their staffs provide our members with personal service that gets real results. That personal touch and high level of engagement is what differentiates Anytime Fitness from many other gyms and what has strengthened and grown our brand worldwide."

Anytime Fitness was No. 6 on last year's Franchise 500 list. Hampton Hotels, which was No. 1 last year, is No. 2 on this year's list, followed by Subway, Supercuts and Jimmy John's.

"Considering the reputation of the other franchises ranked in the top 10, this is a tremendous honor for Anytime Fitness," Dave Mortensen, president and co-founder of Anytime Fitness, said in a statement. "We love the fact that our business model provides our franchisees with the financial freedom and flexibility to enjoy their families while making meaningful contributions to their respective communities."

Anytime Fitness, which was founded in 2002, has opened at least 250 new clubs each of the last six years. The company has more than 2,300 clubs located in 16 countries on five continents serving nearly 2 million members. Anytime Fitness is No. 19 on Club Industry's Top 100 Clubs list this year with a reported $52.6 million in 2012 revenue.

For the 2014 Franchise 500 list, Anytime Fitness reported 1,791 U.S. clubs, 72 Canadian clubs, 459 international clubs and 17 company-owned clubs in 2013.

Only franchise companies that sent full Franchise Disclosure Documents (FDDs) or Canadian Disclosure Documents and whose information was verified by Entrepreneur could receive a listing in the magazine. To be eligible for the list, a franchise company must have a minimum of 10 units with at least one based in the United States, must be seeking new franchisees in the United States and cannot be in Chapter 11 at the time the ranking is compiled.

All companies that submit full FDDs or Canadian Disclosure Documents and whose information was verified by Entrepreneur are judged by objective measures of a franchise operation, regardless of size, according to the magazine. Financial strength and stability, growth rate and size of the system are the most important factors that Entrepreneur takes into consideration. Other criteria include start-up costs, litigation, percentage of terminations and whether the company provides financing.

"With a 51 percent increase over the previous year's growth, franchises continue to drive the economy forward and remain excellent choices for those looking to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit," Amy Cosper, vice president and editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur, said in a statement. "Unit numbers from the Franchise 500 are up, providing ample opportunity for individuals to explore options with the best franchise opportunities in the world like Anytime Fitness."

It has been a year of high accolades for Anytime Fitness. In October, Runyon received the inaugural Mid-Market CEO Award for leadership from Chief Executive magazine. Other honors for the company include being named One of America's Most Promising Companies by Forbes in February 2013 and twice being named the best company to work for in Minnesota by Minnesota Business magazine.

This is the second year in a row that a fitness company has been ranked No. 1 by a business publication. Inc. magazine named Zumba Fitness, Hallandale, FL, as its Company of the Year in 2012.

Sidebar: 23 Fitness Franchises Make List

A total of 23 fitness franchise companies are on the 2014 Franchise 500 list. In addition to No. 1 Anytime Fitness, the others are: Jazzercize, Carlsbad, CA (No. 42); Snap Fitness, Chanhassen, MN (No. 44); My Gym Children's Fitness Center, Sherman Oaks, CA (No. 182); Fitness Revolution, Elizabethtown, KY (No. 193); Gold's Gym International, Dallas (No. 210); Title Boxing Club, Overland Park, KS (No. 235); Get in Shape for Women, Needham, MA (No. 279); Retro Fitness, Colts Neck, NJ (No. 289); iLoveKickboxing.com, Levittown, NY (No. 291); Athletic Revolution, Elizabethtown, KY (No. 296); 9Round, Greenville, SC (No. 302); UFC Gym, Santa Ana, CA (No. 319); Brickhouse Cardio Club, Charleston, WV (No. 361); The Little Gym, Scottsdale, AZ (No. 366); Kosama, Chanhassen, MN (No. 382); Crunch Franchising, New York (No. 400); Orangetheory Fitness, Fort Lauderdale, FL (No. 403); The Exercise Coach, Lake Zurich, IL (No. 435); Great Play Children's Gyms (No. 441); Baby Boot Camp/Karna Fitness, Sarasota, FL (No. 442); Tiger Rock Martial Arts International, Pensacola, FL (No. 480); and Koko FitClub LLC, Rockland, MA (No. 487).

Crunch Franchising, Orangetheory Fitness, Fitness Revolution, Kosama, Title Boxing Club, Athletic Revolution, Brickhouse Cardio Club, The Exercise Coach and iLoveKickboxing.com are making their debut on the Franchise 500 list this year, as is UFC Gym, which acquired LA Boxing, Santa Ana, CA, at the beginning of this year. LA Boxing was No. 469 on last year's list. Snap Fitness acquired Kosama in 2012.

Planet Fitness, Newington, NH, which was No. 74 on last year's list, and CKO Kickboxing, Hoboken, NJ, which was No. 482 on last year's list, are not on this year's list.