Not so long ago, women’s sports clubs were a niche niche, but in recent years that has completely changed. #WomensOnlyGym is very popular on TikTok and Decathlon has described the phenomenon as a trend. How did this happen?
Have you ever experienced a “gym scare”? This new word combines “gym” and “intimidation” and refers to the fear and insecurity that women sometimes experience due to the presence of unfamiliar fitness equipment and other athletes considered more experienced or competent.
An American study of 1,000 women showed that up to 65% of them did not dare to go to the gym for fear of being judged. Another poll conducted by The Gym Group among 3,000 British participants confirmed this trend. It was striking that 32% of women considered harassment at the gym to be the biggest barrier to joining. In addition, 53% of women indicated that they did not dare to start for fear of having to wear Lycra, and 43% felt insecure about their appearance while exercising. All of these factors contribute to what experts say “The gender gap” This is similar to the wage gap between men and women.
Men exercise 60 minutes more per week than women. There are several reasons for this, such as the traditional division of roles in gender relationships, where men have more time to exercise. But the fact that women feel unsafe in public also plays a role. For example, up to 70% of women say they stop running in the winter due to lack of good lighting. Another problem isThe enjoyment gap between genders“Research conducted by This Girl Can in the UK showed that 2.4 million men find exercise more enjoyable than women. These feelings of uncertainty, discomfort and insecurity can be addressed by creating more exclusive sports spaces for women, so that exercising becomes an enjoyable experience.
However, women-only gyms are not to everyone’s taste. In 2013, Basic-Fit was taken to court over… Ladies only The club in Liège was discriminatory according to a male client. Health City, Basic-Fit’s parent company, said men were still able to access other branches of the group. The case sparked debate about equality and diversity in the world of sports. Supporters stressed the need for safe and comfortable spaces for women, while critics said it undermined equality.
Our women’s clubs have a wider range of group classes and equipment, but also dedicated areas for stretching exercises, more attention to aesthetics and different ways to motivate athletes.
Health City’s argument did not convince the judge. The fitness chain was ordered to pay moral damages of 1,300 euros. However, this ruling was overturned on appeal, with the court ruling that separate fitness rooms for men and women were not discriminatory, given differences in body size between the sexes.
Ten years later, the women’s-only fitness room appears to have been a hit. Belgium currently has 14 “women-only” gyms and the number of initiatives is growing: from Curves and Stadium ELLE in Brussels to JLadySports and Lioness Bootcamp in Antwerp.
Race without judgement
Re.Belle, a concept by former Miss Belgium Noémie Habart, recently opened in Liège. After facing inappropriate looks and comments, Noemi decided to offer women a place where they could feel safe. “It is important to provide training that is tailored to women’s bodies and needs, but also to specific stages of life, such as pregnancy, postpartum, etc.,” says Noemi. “The fact is that A Women only The gym is also reassuring for those who are hesitant to go to the fitness room.
Noemi says she always felt like she wasn’t doing the exercises correctly, and was afraid of making mistakes and that people would see and judge her. “The more intimate atmosphere helps women let go.”
This is a sentiment also shared by Chloe Merckx, a 23-year-old communications student from Brussels. “I hate team sports because I don’t like to compare myself to others,” Chloe says. That’s why it replaced mixed fitness rooms with one secure environment Women only The gym, where she can focus all her attention on herself.
From my first workout at the women’s gym, I immediately felt the difference. I didn’t have to worry so much about my appearance and my choice of clothes. I no longer feel like I have to cover my butt with a long shirt. I learned to use strength training equipment, something I avoided in co-ed gyms because those areas often seemed “reserved” for men. For fear of looking ridiculous, I simply didn’t dare try
Khloe is no longer hiding in the corner training her abs or doing squats. Instead, she now feels “more comfortable, dares to experiment more and makes the space completely her own.” Because of Women only Fitness halls are still rare, and Chloe still occasionally goes to mixed gyms, where she notices the difference immediately: “I try to be ready as quickly as possible. If women want to train in a women-friendly environment, they often have to travel a long distance.
The Institute for Equality between Women and Men confirms that “sports are among the recreational activities in which gender stereotypes are widespread.” For example, men in the European Union appear to participate more often in sports or other physical activities than women.
Will this disparity diminish? On TikTok, the hashtag #WomensOnlyGym has been shared more than 20 million times. Decathlon calls it the fitness trend of the moment. According to a study published in the fall of 2022 in the journal Psychological Science, these gyms differ from mixed-gender alternatives because “women feel comfortable there.” A basic requirement for any sporting activity.
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