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28 Sep 2022

Research reveals the impact of gymtimidation on market growth
BY Liz Terry

Researchers found some consumers were put off joining a gym through fear of how they look when exercising

Researchers found some consumers were put off joining a gym through fear of how they look when exercising
photo: The Gym Group

A recent OnePoll survey on behalf of The Gym Group (TGG) has found one in three Brits (33 per cent) suffer from gymtimidation and fear feeling out of place in the gym, while over half of women (53 per cent) are put off joining up due to preceived pressure to wear lycra.

In addition, half of the women surveyed (52 per cent) said they go to the trouble of wearing make-up.

Intimidation in the gym is seen as the biggest barrier to joining for nearly a third of women (32 per cent), while nearly half of those surveyed (43 per cent) said would be self-conscious of their stomachs and more than 25 per cent felt too unfit to consider signing up.

The survey of 3,000 UK non-gym-going adults aged 18-60 highlighted that nearly a quarter of respondents said not knowing where to start in the gym put them off, with over 29 per cent saying not knowing how to use equipment had made them uncomfortable in the past.

The research has led The Gym Group to launch a new TV and social media ad campaign to counter gymtimidation centred around all of us having a 'gym face'.

Ads are running across prime-time networks with music by Will Hislop and the video celebrating all gym faces, from 'red-face' to 'sweaty face' to 'did I change my tampon? face'

TGG COO, Ann-Marie Murphy said: "We keep it real when it comes to discussing exercise with our members and believe your face should do whatever it wants when you’re working out. That’s why we’re playing our new gym face track and video on repeat to remind our members to embrace their gym face and get stuck into their workouts without fear.

"We know the evidence shows these humourous involuntary facial expressions are designed by the body to improve performance, so we say the sillier the better to maximise your workout.

“With one in three citing gymtimidation as a barrier, we're committed to tackling this issue to demonstrate that our gyms are safe spaces," said Murphy.

"We understand that some women, in particular, can have a real interest in fitness, but that confidence can sometimes be lacking and it’s about us breaking down these barriers to help people through the door.

"Our new 'gym face' campaign brings humour and wit into the gym and will help to reassure that we can all feel nervous from time to time.

"With mental health being the top reason our female members come to the gym, it’s vital we’re able to support members with their fitness journeys long-term to help them reap the benefits we know come from being part of a gym community”.

The campaign follows TGG’s involvement in UK Active’s consumer engagement groups, which examine the barriers to participation. UK Active, CIMSPA and Sport England have been working in partnership with operators to provide support for more health clubs, gyms and leisure centres to tackle intimidation. This included the publication of a new guide from UK Active and This Girl Can help operators improve services for women and girls, as well as new investment for training and further resources.

TGG master trainer Jenny Tardiff has also issued tips for consumers when it comes to overcoming gymtimidation:

1. Find a quiet area of the gym and get comfortable.

2. Take a deep breath, own your workout and get comfortable taking up space.

3. Work with your trainers and gym staff on a training plan which feels challenging but also realistic. Consistency is key when building a gym routine.

4. Join a group exercise class, consider a training buddy when working out and don’t be afraid to say hello to others on the floor. We’re in it together and fitness can unite us.

5. Listen to your favourite music to keep motivation high.




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