A new global survey of gym members by athletic apparel website, RunRepeat finds that 56.37% women experience harassment while training at the gym.
To understand how prevalent harassment is in gyms and how it impacts members, gyms, and the industry as a whole, RunRepeat surveyed 3,774 gym members (1107 female and 2667 male) in June of 2021 (40% from the US, 25% from Canada, UK, and Australia, and the rest are distributed through 100+ other countries).
Of the female gym members who experienced being harassed:
- 25.65% stopped using gyms completely or switched gyms
- 28.69% felt unsafe or uncomfortable at their gym
- 30.13% changed their gym routine, schedule, or avoided certain areas at the gym
- 20.19% changed their clothes or appearance when going to the gym
When female members were asked, 12.83% said they witnessed harassment occur and 14.54% heard of harassment at their gym from someone else.
The results revealed that less than a tenth of gym members (8.85%) that are harassed at the gym ever report it.
Female gym members are also less likely to report their harassment. Only 7.69% of harassed female respondents reported their harassment in comparison to the 10.00% of harassed male gym members.
With gym harassment going largely unreported, it only amplifies this issue as it means gyms are not actively addressing these instances that their members experience.
Members also responded with which of the three forms of harassment they experienced. The RunRepeat survey found that out of all female gym members:
- One out of four experienced unwanted attention
- Nearly one out of five receive unwanted comments
- One out of 10 experience unwanted physical contact
These issues disproportionately impact female gym members. In comparison to male gym members, female members are:
- 2.85x more likely to experience unwanted attention
- 2.51x more likely to experience unwanted comments
- 2.57x more likely to experience unwanted physical contact
Gym harassment is a major retention issue for the gym industry as a whole. 14.42% of females and 19.64% of males who experience harassment stopped using gyms completely.
As for individual gym retention, a tenth of members that are harassed switch to a different gym.
While males that are harassed are more likely to stop using gyms completely or switch gyms, females harassed at the gym are:
- 1.53x more likely to feel unsafe or uncomfortable
- 1.69x more likely to change gym routines and avoid certain areas of the gym
- 1.68x more likely to change their clothes or appearance when going to the gym
The impact of these incidents doesn’t stop with just those that are directly involved. More than 50% of members who have witnessed or heard of harassment at their gym say it negatively impacts them.
Respondents who have never experienced gym harassment but have witnessed or heard about it are 15.63% more likely to cancel their membership. Just knowing of harassment at their gym made 12.22% of members feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Leading to behavioural changes where many members alter their gym routine, avoid certain areas at the gym, change their clothes or appearance.
From their survey, RunRepeat conclude that harassment is a prevalent issue in gyms – one that disproportionately impacts female gym members. Being harassed leads to people feeling unsafe, uncomfortable, to alter their behaviour, and cancel memberships. All those who witness an incident or hears about it from someone else are also impacted.
Despite how many experienced this issue, less than tenth of members report their harassment.
It’s the responsibility of health and fitness centres to provide a safe environment for members to train and enjoy the benefits of exercise. They need to ensure they are working to raise awareness, lower the rate of harassment, increase the rate of those that report, and effectively handle these incidents in order to combat gym harassment.
10th September 2019 – Victorian hospitality venues pledge to halt workplace sexual harassment
8th January 2018 – MEAA looks to protect theatre workers from sexual harassment
17th December 2017 – Australian Major Performing Arts Group condemns harassment and bullying
12th December 2017 – AFL executive forced to resign over sexual harassment complaints
3rd November 2017 – Australia’s state theatre companies condemn sexual harassment
3rd February 2016 – Perth Fringe performers suffer abuse, threats and sexual harassment
7th October 2020 – One in five of the world’s gyms remain closed
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