Global survey finds over 50% of women bullied while training at the gym

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A new global survey of gym members by sportswear website, RunRepeat, finds that 56.37% of women experience harassment while working out at the gym.

To understand the prevalence of harassment in gyms and its impact on members, gyms and the industry as a whole, RunRepeat surveyed 3,774 gym members (1,107 women and 2,667 men) in June 2021 (40% of United States, 25% of Canada, United Kingdom and Australia, and the rest is distributed to over 100 other countries).

Among the female gym members who were harassed:

  • 25.65% stopped using gyms altogether or changed gyms
  • 28.69% did not feel safe or uncomfortable in their gym
  • 30.13% changed their routine, their gym schedule or avoided certain areas of the gym
  • 20.19% changed clothes or appearance while going to the gym

When asked of female members, 12.83% said they had witnessed harassment and 14.54% had heard of harassment in their gym from someone else.

The results revealed that less than a tenth of gym members (8.85%) who are bullied at the gym report it.

Female gym members are also less likely to report their harassment. Only 7.69% of harassed female respondents reported their harassment, compared to 10.00% of harassed male gym members.

Since harassment in gyms is largely unreported, this only amplifies this problem as it means that gyms are not actively addressing cases that their members are going through.

Members also responded with which of the three forms of harassment they were subjected to. The RunRepeat survey found that among all female gym members:

  • One in four received unwanted attention
  • Almost one in five receives unwanted comments
  • One in 10 people experience unwanted physical contact

These issues have a disproportionate impact on female gym members. Compared to male gym members, female members are:

  • 2.85 times more likely to receive unwanted attention
  • 2.51 times more likely to receive unwanted comments
  • 2.57 times more likely to experience unwanted physical contact

Harassment in gyms is a major retention issue for the gym industry as a whole. 14.42% of women and 19.64% of men who were bullied completely stopped using the gyms.

As for individual detention in the room, a tenth of the harassed members change rooms.

While bullied men are more likely to stop using gyms altogether or change gyms, bullied women at the gym are:

  • 1.53 times more likely to feel unsafe or uncomfortable
  • 1.69 times more likely to change gym routines and avoid certain areas of the gym
  • 1.68 times more likely to change clothes or appearance when going to the gym

The impact of these incidents does not stop only with those directly involved. Over 50% of members who have witnessed or heard harassment in their gym say it affects them negatively.

Respondents who have never experienced harassment in a gym but have witnessed or heard about it are 15.63% more likely to cancel their membership. Just being aware of harassment in their gym made 12.22% of members feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Leading to behavioral changes where many members alter their gym routine, avoid certain areas of the gym, change clothes or appearance.

From its investigation, RunRepeat concludes that harassment is a prevalent problem in gyms – an issue that disproportionately impacts female gym members. Being harassed makes people feel unsafe, uncomfortable, change their behavior and cancel their membership. Anyone who witnesses an incident or hears about it from someone else is also affected.

Despite the number of people who have experienced this problem, less than a tenth of members report their harassment.

It is the responsibility of health and fitness centers to provide a safe environment for members to train and enjoy the benefits of exercise. They must ensure that they are working to raise awareness, reduce the rate of harassment, increase the rate of reporting and effectively manage these incidents in order to combat harassment in gyms.

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