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24 Aug 2020

Five ways to make gyms and swimming pools more accessible to women

Article via Sport England

Simple changes could encourage more women to go to the gym more often.

This Girl Can has revealed the top five things women want to see in gyms and pools to help them to go back in greater numbers. The campaign has published the results of a new survey which showed as many as 87% of the This Girl Can community feel safe to return with anti-coronavirus (Covid-19) measures in place. However, while gyms have clearly done an excellent job in supporting and helping people to feel safe, just 27% of women have told us they've visited a gym since they were allowed to reopen, with even fewer having visited a swimming pool (13%).

To help encourage more women to go back, especially important given how gym settings support women to be active, the This Girl Can community has set out a list of ideas that would further help to combat concerns around feeling intimidated or judged (51%) or feeling uncomfortable in their swimwear (73%).

The top five ideas were:

  • A discreet offer from staff to help with equipment (48%)
  • A code of conduct in the weights room like time limits and re-racking heavy weights after use (36%)
  • Hooks by the pool to hang towels to restrict time walking in swimming costume (44%)
  • Women’s only areas/dedicated swim time for women (36%)
  • Fewer full-length mirrors (21%).

As a result of these findings, the campaign is calling on organisations in the fitness industry to start making small changes like these to help women get back to exercise.

Kate Dale, Sport England's campaign lead for This Girl Can, said it was clear the pandemic was not the only obstacle to women getting active.

We’ve known for a while that many women feel intimidated or a sense of judgement when they are exercising in public spaces like gyms and pools, which is a major barrier to them getting active.

We’re hearing from women that a lot of the measures being introduced already in gyms and pools to help with the pandemic, such as advanced booking systems to limit numbers and social distancing, are already easing some of those fears of judgement because, for example, they can see how many people are going to be in the pool in advance of the session. Now we're asking to gyms to make further small changes that'll encourage more women to return, and also attract new customers who might have been put off previously.”

The findings in this story are from an online survey of 348 women conducted by This Girl Can earlier this month.

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