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Apr 25

Fitness Is Growing More Inclusive Than Ever. Here’s Why That Matters – Forbes

For a gym-goer, a fitness space is inclusive when the environment is welcoming, nonjudgmental and supportive of someones freedom to be and feel like themselves, says Britt Behrns, a marketing associate in Brooklyn and client at The Ness, a trampoline fitness studio in New York.

I keep coming back because theres no worry or dread of going to the studio, she adds.

Inclusive fitness spaces are likely to display the following characteristics, according to industry professionals:

Personalized instruction or modifications. Fitness professionals can be inclusive of all individuals by customizing training sessions and modifying group fitness classes as much as possible. A transgender person who [recently] had surgery, a plus-size person and a mom who works 45 hours a week [each require] something very different based on their bodily needs, says Summers. That doesnt mean [individuals arent] doing the same exercises[the movements are] just adjusted personally.

In group fitness settings specifically, instructors should ask attendees about any injuries or other concerns and offer adjustments to accommodate different abilities, according to both Summers and Brandon Dawson, a certified personal trainer and manager of 9x Fitness in Malibu, California.

Affordable pricing. From boutique studios to large luxury fitness companies, high prices can be a barrier to entry for many people trying to exercise on a tighter budget. Summers points to Blink Fitness as an inclusive option with affordable membership and training fees.

Alternatively, some fitness spaces offer sliding scale payment plans, allowing some clients to pay a discounted fee based on their specific financial situation. Depending on the facility, sliding scale plans may have a minimum threshold, be limited to a certain number of clients or require proof of income or hardship for eligibility.

Personable staff. A warm introduction can make all the difference, says Dawson. For example, [a staff member] shaking [someones] hand, giving them a high five, saying, Hello, were happy to have you, smiling and being genuine [indicates a welcoming fitness environment], he adds.

Established relationships with clients. An important approach for helping people get the most out of their fitness facility experience is to understand the unique values underlying their motivations for joining the gym. The only way to do this is to have authentic and open communication with the members. Take the time to get to know your clients beyond their fitness experience, encourages Aly Giampolo, certified personal trainer and co-founder and instructor at The Ness. Doing so can give a trainer a deeper understanding of their clients physical space, which may affect their individual exercise program, she adds.

Kathleen, another Brooklyn-based FORM Fitness client, credits a communicative relationship with Summers for keeping her healthy in the early days of the pandemic and after undergoing extensive leg surgery. For the first time, I felt like somebody was actually looking at the way I moved and giving me really good cues about how to make my movements easier and better, she says.

Accessible facilities. Gyms can be inclusive to people of varying identities, abilities, needs and skill levels by providing accessible parking, entrances and restrooms, as well as equipment that is adaptable for people with disabilities, says Alyza Berman, LCSW, founder and clinical director of The Berman Center, a mental health treatment center in Atlanta. Inclusive facilities also include gender-neutral changing rooms and locker rooms, adds Bermans, providing a safe, physical space for people of all identities.

Set and enforced inclusive policies. An inclusive gym or fitness studio should have policies that support inclusion, such as a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment, says Berman. She adds that such policies should be on display in the facility, social media and new member contracts and staff contracts. She also recommends ongoing in-person training for staff in order to demonstrate the level of importance of inclusivity and acceptance.

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Fitness Is Growing More Inclusive Than Ever. Here's Why That Matters - Forbes

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