They say strong is the new sexy, and while we didn’t need any more motivation to hit the gym, the feeling of being able to life heavy and improve our stamina is one that can’t be beaten. While lockdown has forced many of us to trade the gym for our lounge rooms and weights for kitchen staples, the fact remains that for many of us, the gym provides a place to not only improve our physical fitness, but in doing so it works to alleviate mental stress and anxiety and better our productivity. It’s concerning then, that in 2021, women are still having to endure harassment at gyms. Despite all the movements and protests we’ve seen in recent years as women fight for equality, when it comes to working out in the gym, the behaviour towards women is still deeply troubling.
According to a recent survey published by Run Repeat, 56.37 per cent of women are harassed while working out. Fitness research director Nick Rizzo wanted to better understand how prevalent harassment is in gyms and just how it impacts members, gyms and the industry as a whole. To do so, Run Repeat surveyed 3,774 gym members in June of 2021 and found that three out of five women are harassed, with 92.31 per cent of those cases going unreported.
More shockingly, of those female gym members who experienced harassment, 25.65 per cent stopped using gyms or switched gyms, 28.69 per cent felt unsafe or uncomfortable at their gym, 30.13 per cent changed their gym routine, schedule or avoided certain areas, and 20.19 per cent changed their clothes or appearance when going to the gym. As a result of going unreported, the issue of harassment is only amplified across gyms in the country and shows that gyms are not actively addressing these instances that are being experienced by their members.
The issue of women’s safety in gyms is nothing new. Earlier this year, a US gym went viral for its measures to protect women at its women-only facility. A video shared to TikTok by 23-year-old heather Huesman revealed the features and safety measures of Blush Fitness, located in Overland Park, Kansas. In it, Huesman showed the tinted windows which ensure people can’t see into the building as they’re walking by, while women and members can only gain access to the 24/7 gym with a key fob. The gym also featured free menstrual hygiene products in the bathroom and members were notified in advance about when male staff members would be working inside the gym.
As Heather explained to Buzzfeed, “I definitely feel safer in an all-women’s gym. I personally like to wear tight clothing because it is easier to work out in, and I don’t have to worry about men taking photos of me without my permission, or worry about men making me feel uncomfortable while I’m there. There are also not so many people there that all the racks are being taken up. The place is very clean and has great energy and vibes to it.”
The video has come to rack up more than six million views, but as both Heather and the report seem to suggest, there is a growing demand for greater protection and security when it comes to the presence of women at gyms. As Run Repeat has found, being harassed often leads members to feel unsafe, uncomfortable and alter their behaviour, with many even cancelling their memberships. As it is an issue that disproportionately affects women, more needs to be done by gyms to protect their members, while simultaneously educating their male clients about appropriate gym etiquette and behaviour.
For more details, view the full report here.