Why now is the time for the fitness industry to get everyone on board

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  • Fewer women are working out, despite a big year for women in sports. As the Lionesses make it to the finals for the first time ever, we ask: what else needs to change to level the playing field?

    You will likely have caught the Lionesses’ 4-0 win against Sweden last night, with a superb goal from Alessia Russo, who managed to score with a back kick without even looking at the goal in the 68th minute.

    There is no doubt that sexism in sport is becoming less prominent – for the first time ever, the BBC 10 o’clock news was delayed to stream the Lionesses’ extra time and the first Tour de Femmes has been launched – there is still a long way to go.

    Why? Because despite all this, new statistics have shown that far fewer women exercise now than pre-pandemic.

    The newly released Healthier Nation Index from Nuffield Health, which surveyed over 8,000 women, reveals that just under 50% of women have not exercised vigorously each week in the past year. One in seven women say they have “stopped exercising completely”.

    Do you want to read how we solve the problem? Keep scrolling. Don’t miss our guides to mindful movement, fitness trends for 2022 and London’s best gym classes while you’re here.

    Inclusivity in the fitness industry: why fewer women are working out than ever before

    This is due to a number of factors – the study cites the lockdown as the catalyst. Another is the fact that the fitness industry is often not inclusive.

    Take the Euros as an example – many of the female footballers competing are juggling jobs alongside training just to get by (the men certainly don’t have to do this at this level). The UK is facing its worst cost of living crisis on record, with some gym memberships costing upwards of £250 a month. And that’s before you even look at the proportion of BAME individuals who are given the same opportunities within the industry as their white counterparts.

    Team sports, fitness and well-being can bring a wealth of positives – from providing a sense of community, boosting both confidence and endorphins, and helping mental health. But those things can’t be exclusive to those who can afford to pay for gym memberships or replace their kit every six months.

    It’s time to shake up the narrative around fitness and address the importance of inclusion in the industry head-on.

    So what is being done to change this? Speaks exclusively to Marie Claire UKchairman of American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant shares that in recent years equity, diversity and inclusion have become a more prominent focus in all areas of society. “As covid-19 makes existing health disparities more apparent and societal changes bring more attention to systemic issues related to race, gender and other types of diversity, the world seems poised to address previously invisible or ignored issues and move in a more positive direction, ” he explains.

    The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) – one of the largest trainers of personal trainers globally – is beginning to ensure that their Disability Act guidelines are actually incorporated into their training materials, while Bryant claims that ACE and other like-minded organizations are working hard to build a better industry “with recognition of seeing and defining a problem is the first step toward addressing it.”

    Next step? Teaching trainers and companies that small things, like using gender-neutral language and promoting inclusive signage in studios, can make a huge difference in the lives of the individuals who visit these gyms.

    Not only that, but further encouraging an open, honest dialogue is important, he continues.

    So yes, there is undoubtedly a long way to go – but by the same token, more steps are being taken than ever before. Every time you see a gym, studio, or company change their hiring practices or add gender-neutral signage to their locker rooms, every media outlet you see extols the benefits of exercise while featuring a plus-size model, and every time a fitness professional displays empathy or cultural competence is an important victory, shares Bryant.

    Next step? Encouraging everyone—both working and watching in the fitness industry—to continue to advocate for a more level playing field empowers everyone, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, body size or ability. Everyone should be able to enjoy the many benefits of working out in a welcoming space full of friendly and excited faces, and it’s our job to make that space happen.

    What are your thoughts?

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