IRVINE, CA — Fitness club franchises remain a hot business opportunity if Entrepreneur magazine's annual Top 500 Franchise list is any indication. The list, which was released earlier this month and ranks franchises in a variety of industries, includes seven fitness club companies, many of which also made the fastest-growing franchise and the low-cost franchise lists. The overall list also includes five fitness program companies.

Curves remains at the top of the fitness club franchise list, but drops from third on the overall Top 500 list last year to 15th this year. The Waco, TX-based company still makes the fastest-growing franchise list at 23rd, a drop from fifth last year. It also drops on the low-cost franchise list from first last year to fourth this year.

Gold's Gym Franchising LLC, Irving, TX, is the next highest ranked club franchise company on the overall list, coming in at 63rd, which is a jump up from last year's ranking of 76th. The company also ranks 89th in the fastest-growing franchise category.

Fitness Together, a personal training studio company that has been franchising since 1996, ranks 77th on the overall list, making a big move from 118th last year. The Highlands Ranch, CO-based company also ranks 41st on the fastest growing franchise list.

Nicholasville, KY-based Contours Express ranks 141st on the overall list, which is a drop from 116th place last year. The women-only club franchise drops off the fastest-growing franchise category this year despite ranking 91st on it last year. However, Contour Express ranks 33rd in the low-cost franchise category this year.

Snap Fitness Inc., Chanhassen, MN, comes in next for fitness clubs, ranking 206th on the overall Top 500 list. This is the first year the company, which began franchising in 2004, made the Top 500 list. It also ranks 51st on the fastest-growing franchise list and 11th on the top new franchise list.

My Gym Children's Fitness Center, Sherman Oaks, CA, ranks 221st on the overall list. This ranking is a drop from last year when the company ranked 183rd. It ranks 52nd in the low-cost category.

The last club franchise on the list is Anytime Fitness, West St. Paul, MN. The key-card club company, which began franchising in 2002, ranks 353rd, a drop from 261st last year. However, the company ranks 36th on the fastest-growing franchise list this year, an increase from last year when it ranked 58th in this category. It also ranks 94th in the low-cost franchise category.

The five fitness program-related companies that made the Top 500 list are: Jazzercise Inc., Carlsbad, CA, at 35th; The Little Gym, a Scottsdale, AZ-based children's fitness program company, at 140th; Stretch-N-Grow International Inc., a fitness program company for preschool children, at 217th; Cincinnati, OH-based StrollerFit Inc. at 314th; and JW Tumbles, a children's gymnastics program company in Solana Beach, CA, at 387th.

To read more details about the rankings, visit the Entrepreneur magazine Web site at www.entrepreneur.com.