It’s undeniable that regular exercise is vital to women’s health, wellbeing and overall happiness. It’s not all about weight loss, either – exercise is proven to strengthen bones and muscles, promote better sleeping patterns, make skin glow, boost immunity, and improve mental health.
When it comes to exercise, the number of options in Australia is expanding all the time. Depending on your preferences, you can exercise at home, outdoors, or in a gym, with the choice of joining a mixed-gender fitness centre or a women-only gym.
Australia’s fitness industry is pretty up-to-date with international trends, so it’s no surprise the way we want to work out has evolved. The definition of a ‘female-only gym’ has grown to include any workout facility, fitness centre or health club for women, from the classic weights space to group fitness, boot camps and functional training studios. Typically, these gyms also have an all-female workforce, from the personal trainers to the reception staff.
Ultimately, a female-focused gym aims to provide a comfortable and supportive environment for women to get active, with exercise equipment and workout plans designed for the female body.
Suppose you’re contemplating getting a gym membership or leaving your mixed-gender gym. In that case, the most important question isn’t necessarily, ‘Should I join an all-women gym?’
A better question to ask yourself is, ‘Will an all-female environment really help me get more out of my workouts?’
To give you some food for thought, this article will shine a light on the benefits and drawbacks of joining a women-only gym.
But, first things first.
Let’s Address the Question: Are Women-Only Gyms Sexist?
While all-female gyms continue to grow in popularity, the idea of a single-sex gym has copped some criticism in the media. After all, physical fitness plays a critical role in both men’s and women’s health, so why should there be a separate gym facility for the female population?
Of course, most women intuitively understand why women’s only gyms exist in the first place. Many of the reasons women don’t join a gym or choose to exercise in private are a direct result of sharing workout space with men.
Anxious gym-goers may feel embarrassed about how they look red-faced and sweating, nervous about wearing tight workout gear in public, or fear being laughed at if they use a piece of equipment wrong. Whatever the issues, many women feel more comfortable facing these hurdles when men are out of the equation.
And even if there was only a small chance of being cat-called, hit on or harassed at the gym – and let’s face it, it’s not all that small when most women have experienced it personally – the possibility is enough to put most people off working out.
The existence of ladies-only gyms has nothing to do with exclusion – it’s a solution to help more girls stick to a fitness routine long-term. Many women’s gyms are owned and run by young female trainers, motivated to find a solution to the problems they see in the industry.
Women-only gyms do not intend to alienate men. They only provide women with an alternative to mixed-gender gyms, and based on Australian fitness industry trends, it’s a formula that’s definitely working.
Rest assured, signing up for membership to a female-only gym does not mean you’re engaging in any form of discrimination. It’s a strategic choice to ensure you get the most out of your fitness routine.
Pros of Women Only Gyms
Setting the politics aside, it’s clear many women gravitate towards exercising in single-sex gyms, or women-only sections of a co-ed gym.
Here are some of the benefits of joining an all-girls gym.
Holistic approach to health and fitness.
Health is about more than just physical strength. Your fitness journey should focus on your holistic physical and mental health, equipping you to better handle day-to-day challenges.
If you’re a working mum, it’s easy to get so caught up juggling work and family demands that you rarely have time to look after your health. Or you may be struggling with low metabolism, hormonal issues or other medical conditions (like hypothyroidism and PCOS) that can cause unintentional weight gain. Dealing with these issues and a super busy lifestyle doesn’t just take a toll on your body, but also on your psychological and emotional wellbeing.
Here is where joining a women-only gym offers a huge advantage. In an all-female gym, you are surrounded by female personal trainers and instructors who are better equipped to understand your physical, mental, and emotional needs. Fitness programs usually consider psychological support and motivation, and you may even be able to get a complementing nutrition program to support your body’s overall needs (and not just ‘gains’).
Equipment, classes and facilities designed for women.
Let’s get one thing straight: this doesn’t mean women always need lighter weights or ‘easier’ workouts. What women’s gyms avoid is treating the male body as the default.
You may have struggled to work out effectively using the equipment in a co-ed gym, or found they just don’t prioritise the kind of gym equipment you prefer to use. In that case, you’ll see the advantage in avoiding assumptions. Female-focused gyms are more likely to have equipment to suit you and the capacity to modify workouts to fit your needs, minus the judgement.
Ladies gyms also tend to embrace the diverse fitness goals that women have, with classes and programs that strengthen every part of the body. Depending on the gym, they may specialise in certain exercises – such as Pilates, Zumba, yoga or barre – but full-body strength and wellbeing is usually front and centre.
By cutting out 50% of the population, all-women gyms tend to be smaller than their unisex counterparts, making them quieter and less intimidating for first-time gym-goers.
Workouts are designed for the female physique.
Again, it’s not that women cannot do the same exercises that men can. What is essential to understand is that the effectiveness of a workout plan or training program depends on many factors, such as a person’s endurance, muscle surface area, and hormonal balance.
Ultimately, these differences mean we can’t expect men and women to thrive using exactly the same training approach. By understanding some of the physical differences that can affect the outcomes, fitness programs are more individual and effective in achieving women’s fitness goals.
It’s all about having more understanding and more knowledge about what’s going on in women’s bodies. Plus, if you do want to tone down the intensity or make your daily workout more challenging, there’s zero judgement either way!
Options to suit the lifestyles of women at different life stages.
Depending on age, stage of life and family/career factors, a woman’s fitness goals are likely to change with time. Whether you’re after a toned, swimsuit-ready body or want to be in better shape to keep up with the demands of work and family, a girls-only gym is right there with you.
All-female gyms are also a lot more in touch with the unique barriers that are keeping women from being more active.
Unpredictable work hours? Book your fitness classes week to week or even day to day.
Don’t have childcare during the day or in the evenings? Bring your kids to the in-studio play area.
Super busy lifestyle? Short term HIIT or circuit classes are your new best friend.
Pregnant or postpartum? You need a gym that understands what’s best for your body.
Want to focus on a short-term fitness goal for now? Try a boot camp or summer fitness program.
Some gyms also offer pay per class or weekly fees, instead of lock-in memberships, so you can join in classes on your own schedule. It’s all about understanding what women need out of their gym experience and stepping up to meet those needs.
A place for networking with women just like you.
Like the classic male bonding experience during tee time or a game of basketball, going to an all-girls gym provides women with the opportunity to make social connections and build friendships.
Being surrounded by people who understand your challenge offers vital support for your fitness journey, and a ready-made source of advice when you run into obstacles. Having a friendly and supportive group of like-minded gals will also help you stay motivated, especially when you’re trying to get through a strenuous workout.
But it’s not all about the results, either – the friendships you form can strengthen and enrich your life outside of the gym. Especially when our schedules are so hectic, spending even a few classes a week with people we can really relate to is a great opportunity to connect and destress.
Secure, safe and less intimidating environment.
Based on a UK study, the most common reason women stop training is “gymtimidation” – the feeling of unease in sharing a training environment with men. A women’s gym can be a much less intimidating environment, especially for body-conscious women or beginners who may not be confident using gym equipment.
Other experiences that women often encounter in a unisex gym include being interrupted by men during a workout session to “correct” their form, being hit on when they’re trying to focus on their workout, or being uncomfortable hearing the grunts men make whilst working out.
That last one may be a matter of option, but ultimately, any of these reasons can make girls reluctant to keep showing up week after week. The more self-conscious a woman feels, the more difficult it is to really give your all in a workout, compromising the results you’ll get out of any fitness routine.
If you are in a women’s gym, the critical factor causing that discomfort is taken out of the equation. Let’s be honest, you may still feel awkward at first – but ultimately, you’re sharing that space with women who’ve experienced the same hang-ups, body issues and uncertainties.
Knowing that everyone in the room has been in your shoes makes a huge difference when it comes to feeling safe and comfortable.
All-female staff, instructors and personal trainers.
One of the most significant factors that can influence your fitness journey is your relationship with your personal trainer or instructor. Along the way, you’ll probably need to share some pretty intimate details about yourself – including topics like menstruation, childbirth or menopause.
Feeling self-conscious about bringing up these topics may keep you from getting the most out of your workout or even lead to injury.
In an all-female gym, you will be working with a female instructor, someone who understands the changes a woman’s body undergoes. You may also feel more comfortable being touched by a female personal trainer – for instance, to correct your form when completing an exercise.
Cons of Female Only Gyms
While working out in an all-female gym has many advantages, the reality is that fitness isn’t one-size-fits-all. Not everyone will thrive in the same environment, so here are a few common concerns around women-only gyms.
Workouts may be “too feminine” (depending on the gym)
Of course, not all women share the same fitness goals. Given that we’re a pretty diverse group of people, it’s natural that no gym environment will tick everyone’s boxes. One of the biggest complaints about female-focused gyms is that the workout style can err a little too much on the low-intensity side.
This is definitely something that’s changing in the modern fitness industry. Women-only gyms in Australia now offer a wide range of classes and sessions, including core strength training, weight lifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). But some all-female fitness studios do still focus on providing yoga and pilates classes – and if that’s your thing, by all means, go for it! However, if you are searching for a more challenging routine, these activities may not suit your needs.
That’s why it’s crucial to look for a gym that suits the way you want to work out, full stop. If the only compatible gyms in your area are co-ed, then you’re likely to get more out of it than compromising on your key fitness goals.
Some women prefer a co-ed gym atmosphere.
Some women like the challenge of performing the same exercises or level of training alongside the boys. If that’s what keeps your workouts fun and interesting, stick with it! The formula for everyone is different. What matters most is keeping that motivation to make fitness a part of your regular routine.
You might also have a male trainer, spotter, or friend you’re already comfortable working out with. You may have even met your partner at the gym and love your ‘couple time’ breaking a sweat. Again, knowing what keeps you motivated is the most important thing!
But if you’re finding that motivation lacking, or something about the status quo just isn’t working for you, then it might be the right time for a change. Even if you don’t want to commit to something different, trying a few classes at an all-female gym could be worth your while.
How Do I Choose Which Gym is Right for Me?
Choosing between a mixed-gender or women-only gym? If you’re still undecided, the following considerations may help you make a choice:
How comfortable you feel in the environment is one of the most essential considerations in choosing the right gym. Ask yourself these questions:
· Will I feel comfortable working out with men around?
· Will I be able to share sensitive information about myself to my personal trainer Mandurah?
· Do I have any injuries, pain or medical conditions to consider?
· What factors will hold me back from showing up regularly?
Everyone has off days, but you shouldn’t be dreading your workouts day in and day out – that’s a clear sign that something needs to change.
Before signing up for a membership, it’s a good idea to take a gym tour and meet some of the people you’ll spend your time with. You may even be able to take a free class or ‘pay as you go’ rather than being locked in. Whatever your options are, take full advantage of them and find out what a new environment can do to get you out of a slump.
Range of equipment and classes
Ultimately, you’ll be investing time and money in going to the gym, so you want to be sure you’ll get the results you’re after. Ensure the gym has the equipment that will help get where you want to be and the kinds of workout options that interest you.
You may also want to look into the fitness centre’s staff’s education and experience, especially if you’re planning to work with a personal trainer. You should also check the gym’s testimonials or reviews to find out what members’ experience has been like.
Location, location, location
Ideally, you should pick a gym that’s close to your office and/or home. If the gym is conveniently located, you’re a lot more likely to use it regularly and really get the most out of your membership.
If you are willing to travel for the right environment, you may want to choose a gym that allows you to easily book, change or cancel your classes in case of bad weather, traffic or any other unforeseen events.
Facility hours and class schedules
Not all gyms are open 24/7 or late at night. Before signing up for a gym membership, make sure that the gym is open, and your preferred classes are available at a time that suits you.
How social do you want to be?
Do you prefer attending group sessions, or will you feel more at ease working out solo? Do you plan to work with a personal trainer? Whilst most gyms offer a variety of workout options, it is important to check your options before signing up.
Cost and fee structure
All gyms will have a different payment arrangement. Most will require you to pay for membership fees before you can use their facilities. You should read the fine print before signing the contract and check for information about penalties, insurance, maintenance fees, or cancellation policies.
Some offer flexible payment options like pay per class, which may be a better option if you have an unpredictable or hectic schedule. A gym without lock-in contracts can be a huge bonus, letting you decide whether to stay based on whether it’s really working for you.
Discounts, promotions, and additional services
To encourage new sign-ups, gyms typically offer discounts and other incentives. Others give complimentary personal training sessions, equipment orientation or fitness consultations for free. Some gyms partner with local establishments to provide discounts and cross-promotions.
There are also gyms that offer diet and nutrition programs. These extra benefits can help you decide if a gym is right for you.
So, should you join a women-only gym?
The answer really depends on your preferences. Joining a women-only gym does have some significant advantages. It provides a secure, safe and more encouraging environment, so you can train and workout comfortably. An all-women’s gym also offers a range of activities and programs that may suit your needs better. The downsides are few, but they can be a dealbreaker if those factors are crucial in your decision-making process.
Hopefully we’ve given you some food for thought, and you’re one step closer to deciding if an all-girls gym is the fitness destination for you.
Is it better to join a gym or work out at home?
Joining a gym and working out at home both have pros and cons. If you join a gym, you will have access to a variety of exercise equipment, amenities and a fitness-focused community. However, membership does come at a cost, and it can be harder to fit into your daily routine.
One of the most significant benefits of home workouts is that you are in your comfort zone. You can work out at any time you want, without needing to drive, commute or arrange for a babysitter. You can also try a variety of activities and mix them up whenever you feel like it.
On the flip side, working out at home can be boring because you don’t have anyone to share the experience with. If you plan on getting your own gym equipment, it quickly gets expensive, and you also need the space to store it.
If you have the budget and prefer a more structured workout plan, joining a gym is a good option. However, if you are really self-motivated and you think you can follow an exercise plan by yourself, working out at home can be a viable option.
What should a beginner do at the gym?
Your first day at the gym can be both an exciting and nerve-racking experience. Still, everyone has been in the same scenario at one time or another. Here are a few tips to remember:
· Look around and see what your options are.
Gyms often provide an orientation and guided tour around the facility, helping you understand the equipment. It can also be a good idea to have a personal trainer create a gym program for you, especially if you’re brand new to fitness.
· Warm up & don’t overwork yourself
Before you begin your routine, perform warm-up exercises to get your blood flowing and avoid straining your muscles. On your first day, it is easy to get carried away. Allow time for your body to adjust to prevent injury or muscle soreness. Start with 3 to 4 exercises and then gradually increase your activities over the next sessions.
· Start measuring your progress.
In addition to your measurements and weight, jot down the exercises you do – including weights and repetitions. The key to any exercise program is to gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts, so you’ll want to keep track of what you’re doing and be able to adjust for the future.
This article is published for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your individual circumstances, medical conditions or abilities. Always consult a medical professional before beginning any program of exercise. A fitness industry professional can provide personalised advice to suit your needs.