3 in 5 women have been harassed at the gym, study finds

Shutterstock / Jacob Lund © Cropped shot of fitness woman working out on exercise bike at the gym. Female exercising on bicycle in health club, focus on legs.;

new report from personal training experts Origym reveals a startling 3 in 5 women have experienced intimidation and harassment while working out.

In the past 12 months, online searches for ‘women-only gyms’ have increased 69%. Origym decided to investigate by surveying more than 1,000 gym-goers of all genders to highlight what is causing the increased interest in women’s gyms.

The report also details:

  • The most common types of harassment for women, transgender, non-binary and gender fluid people
  • The lengths women go to in order to avoid feeling uncomfortable
  • Why women want women’s only gyms and PTs

A range of unwanted attention

The results of the Origym report revealed widespread sexual harassment in gyms across the country. Women, transgender, non-binary and gender fluid gym-goers cited encounters of men

  • making a pass at them,
  • following them around the gym
  • making sexual remarks

as some of the most common types of gym harassment.

Verbal intimidation

In reviewing the responses, it appears that sexual harassment is not just categorised as physical threat. While this is still highly prevalent, verbal intimidation is also common. This makes women feel just as uncomfortable.

Over 61% of women admitted to having felt harassed at least once in the gym by a man.

At the gym, women want to simply exercise and relax. So unwanted advances, flirting and sexual or patronising comments make for a highly uncomfortable experience.

It’s clear from this that unwanted behaviour – even if the intention is compassionate or complimentary – isn’t justifiable if it’s perceived as harassment by women.

2 in 5 women have avoided the gym because of men

Women having to shun the gym or change their behaviour should never be the answer.

However, 2 in 5 women have made the decision to avoid the gym altogether because men have made them feel uncomfortable there.

It’s a stark reality that women could end up getting less exercise due to avoidable gym intimidation.

Women Taking Part In Gym Fitness Class;

Pic: Shutterstock

Women feel the need to adapt how they behave at the gym following negative encounters too. Nearly half said they taking a friend or partner to work out with them because men make them feel uncomfortable.

For those that do still exercise in the gym, they feel the need to avoid certain areas.

Women mostly stay out of the resistance area, with 18% of those that do citing the reason as men making them feel uncomfortable.

Crossing the divide into male-dominated spaces appears to be intimidating, and some feel comfortable in different areas of the gym.

1 in 3 women want a women’s-only gym

Of the women asked, 31% said they would see a benefit to women’s-only gyms so that women can feel safer and more comfortable.

While this isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, women’s gyms have been receiving a lot of attention on TikTok recently, with the hashtag #WomensOnlyGym at 21 million views, and counting.

Woman lying on bench at gym lifting weight

Pic: Shutterstock

One woman makes a stand

Personal trainer Heidi Aragon was recently featured across the UK press for her response to gym harassment.

Heidi caught an older man repeatedly staring at her as she worked out, and was forced to call her husband over to stand next to her in a bid to block him. This highlights further why nearly half of women want to go to the gym with their partner.

Heidi ended up confronting the man. Watch the Tik Tok clip here.

Why do women ask for a female trainer?

Women are 7 times more likely to specify they want a female personal trainer.

Just 4% of women would specify that they want a male personal trainer, compared to 29% who would only want a female one.

For women who want a female personal trainer, we asked them to explain why. These are just a few of the responses:

  • “I’m scared of male violence”
  •  “I don’t want men ogling me”
  • “I would feel more comfortable”
  • “More comfortable with another female”
  • “Less threatening”
  • “Less self conscious”
  • “I would feel more comfortable and less judged”
  • “I feel the most comfortable in gym settings around other women”
  • “Feel much safer and relatable”
  • “Feel less intimidated and embarrassed”

Read the full report here

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