A new study revealed that 56% of female gym-goers have experienced harassment while working out.
The survey conducted by Run Repeat showed nearly one in five women have received unwanted comments at the gym, while one in ten have experienced unwanted physical contact.
Approximately one in four women experience have experienced unwanted attention.
However, 92% of cases of harassment against females go unreported.
Harassment takes many forms on the gym floor, including persistent attention, invasion of personal space, inappropriate comments and physical contact.
ukactive, the UK’s leading not-for-profit health body, facilitates gym partnerships, campaigns, research and more to ensure all gyms to provide a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.
A ukactive spokesperson said: “Many gyms offer training for staff in this area specifically, to ensure they are as well placed as possible to spot this behaviour.
“Anyone found to be harassing gym users should have their access cancelled, or their employment terminated if they’re a member of staff, and be reported to the police if required.”
When harassment forced Sarah* out of her gym, she did not file a complaint because the harasser was the gym’s founder, who took an over-familiar interest in Sarah during her independent training sessions.
She thought nothing of handing over her number for gym-related communication until the messages began to make her uncomfortable.
Sarah started only attending the gym when she knew the founder wouldn’t be there but eventually felt so uncomfortable that she stopped going altogether.
Sarah said: “I didn’t discover the gym until my 30s and after a lot of trial and error, I finally came across one where I felt part of a family. I loved it.
“The gym was very male dominated, but the men were super respectful and the women were supportive and strong.
“At first, it was nice to be singled out for help by the founder, and offered guidance on using the machines or nutritional advice to help me reach my goals.
“This was years ago and I have genuinely struggled to find a gym or exercise plan since where I had that same sense of community and family.
“I miss it and I resent him for taking it away from me.”
Harassment happens by other gym-goers too: women on TikTok are sharing videos captured in the gym when they are recording their workout and a man follows them throughout, takes non-consensual images of them or repeatedly approaches them despite being asked not to.
Gyms like Nuffield Health have implemented mandatory training for staff around harassment and reiterate a zero tolerance policy in the terms and conditions members agree to upon joining any of their centres.
The Run Repeat study also revealed that 50% of gym-goers who have witnessed or heard of harassment at their gym were negatively impacted.
The issue is one that all gym users must feel empowered to report through collective industry effort to raise awareness, extra staff training and the ability to disclose in confidence.
For more statistics on gym harassment, the Run Repeat study is available to read online.