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Women in Fitness

Woman at the gym

Recognizing a need for women’s fitness

One thousand years ago, women began putting on long skirts to prepare for physical activity, which, at the time, was limited to stretching. Now, women’s gyms across Canada are filled with strong, motivated women.

Hannah Fletcher is one of the first personal trainers that recognize the need for all-women gyms. Fletcher noted that “men have more testosterone, so they tend to start off a little bit stronger with heavier weights and I think that can be really intimidating for a lot of women.” Testosterone plays a big role in the science behind fitness for men versus women. 

There are many reasons women would prefer exercising without men around. Women have different body types and some find unwanted interactions can occur when working out in an all-welcome gym. 


Activity barriers

Are women getting enough exercise? According to The Lancet Global Health, 57% of men aged 18 and over meet the recommended physical activity levels. On the other hand, women only reach 49%.

One of the reasons for the performance gap may be cost. Gym equipment is pricey, and women’s gear is more expensive. The average price of men’s weight gloves are $9.99, while women’s average $14.39. The only notable difference is the colour. A simple black kettlebell is $44.95. But, of course, the pink version marketed at women costs $55.95. Even women’s sports deodorant costs $1-$2 more than men’s!


Women-only gyms are thriving under a new message—

Strong is the new skinny.


More than size

Women’s gyms have not always been around. In 1969 motivational ads read, “IF you are a size 14, YOU CAN be a size 10! IF you are a size 18, YOU CAN be a size 14!” These were the ads produced for the opening of Elaine Powers’ first location in Milwaukee. After first arriving at an Elaine Powers’ gym, participants would have their figures analyzed and measurements were taken. To discourage overindulgence, members had to provide lists of the food they had ate daily. Actual gym equipment included wooden rollers to massage muscles and reduce belts that vibrated around mid-sections to quake away fat.

By the mid-70s, Elaine Powers had 300+ locations across the US with rates starting at $8 a month. Now, for a similar fee, women-only gyms are thriving under a new message—Strong is the new skinny. While Elaine Powers gyms closed during the 1980s, they created a chain reaction for women-focused fitness.


Growing representation and pushing boundaries

There are now countless examples of success for young women interested in fitness. Simone Biles, a popular gymnast, has won 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Iris Floyd Kyle, a professional bodybuilder, carries 17 titles with her. Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles and has been ranked No. 1 for her singles on eight occasions. These successes are great motivation for women of all ages looking for role models. 

Women’s fitness has progressed and there is a lot to be proud of. We finally have the opportunity to pursue physical health the way we want to, whether it’s through kickboxing or cardio.