Gendered experiences in the gym
Master of Arts
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Since the 1970s, women’s memberships in gyms have been on the rise, and co-ed gyms have become increasingly popular. However, much of the existing research on co-ed gyms suggests that traditional gender divisions – who does what and where in the gym – remain entrenched, as women still report discomfort in central areas of the gym, particularly in relation to activities such as weightlifting. My research utilizes a quantitative approach, and assesses the impact of gender, along with other independent variables (age, body image, and prior fitness experience), on the experience of member comfort at the gym. An online survey was distributed to the members of a co-ed gym, asking about their level of comfort with a number of different exercises and activities. While most respondents reported a high level of overall comfort at the gym, the levels reported in relation to specific activities/equipment were more varied. For example, a high variance of comfort was reported in traditionally gender-exclusive exercises such as weight-training, and aerobic activities like Zumba. More gender-neutral activities such as cardio machines, like overall comfort at the gym, did not show much variance in relation to gender. While gender was the main variable of interest, factors such as body image, age, and prior fitness experience were also found to be significant predictors of comfort at the gym. These findings add to the literature on gender and comfort in gyms, and provide information that can be used to increase member comfort, thereby improving the social environment of the gym.