Most people realize that regular exercise offers myriad health and wellbeing benefits, from weight management and a reduced risk for general …
Most people know that regular exercise offers myriad health and wellbeing benefits, from weight management and a reduced risk of common diseases to a reduced risk of falling.
Overall, exercise improves physical function. In addition, many people exercise for mental health benefits, including reduced anxiety and depression, and improved sleep and stress management. However, it is unlikely that someone would experience these mental health benefits if they feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or even unsafe in the place they are exercising.
For example, how can exercise reduce stress if you make your own list of stressors when you enter the gym?
[READ: Weightlifting for Power and Healing.]
Harassment in the gym
Consider the following rather disturbing statistic from a recent survey of nearly 4,000 gym members:
– More than 56% of female gym members have experienced harassment in the gym.
– Of the female gym members who experienced harassment, 29% felt unsafe or uncomfortable in their gym and 30% changed their fitness routine or schedule, or avoided certain areas of the gym; 20% changed their clothes or their looks when going to the gym; and 26% either switched to gym facilities or stopped using gyms altogether.
There has been a lot of discussion about Justice, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the past two years – and for good reason. Health and social inequalities disproportionately affect marginalized communities. In addition to gender and gender identity differences, this also includes race, ethnicity, sexual identity, age, disability, socio-economic status and geographic location.
[READ: Radically Inclusive Yoga.]
Justice, Diversity and Inclusion
Some definitions of EDI:
The practice of being fair and impartial. While equality means offering the same to all, justice means recognizing that we don’t all start in the same place and need to acknowledge and correct imbalances. The process is ongoing and requires individuals, companies, and organizations to identify and overcome intended and unintended barriers arising from bias or systemic policies and structures.
The practice or quality of inclusion or involvement of people of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations and more.
The practice or policy of equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as people with physical or mental disabilities or who belong to other marginalized groups.
Businesses and government agencies continue to investigate how EDI concerns can be addressed in all areas of society. But individual people can also make a difference.
[READ: Wheelchair Rugby Player Blazing a New Trail to the Paralympics.]
How to be an ally of the people
So what can you do to be an ally for people who seek justice, security, and a welcoming sense of community?
Here are some things you can do to better serve marginalized communities and individuals when choosing an instructor, group fitness class, or fitness facility.
Be Aware and Ask Questions:
– Does the facility welcome everyone with inclusive signage and marketing items?
– Do employees use everyone’s preferred names, pronouns and gender identities?
– Does the facility offer options for lower income members?
– Is the facility accessible for people with disabilities?
– Is it easily accessible by public transport?
The list of possible questions is endless, but the key here is to raise your awareness of these potential concerns, even if they don’t apply to you personally. Being a good ally requires the support of people whose needs and concerns do not necessarily coincide with your own.
Actively look for opportunities to work with trainers or group fitness instructors whose identities are different from yours.
Not only does this give you the opportunity to expand your own cultural awareness and competency, but it also provides an opportunity for a training professional who will likely be delighted to have you on board – especially if they’re new to the fitness industry or facility .
Look at the facility or physical education class through an empathic lens:
– When entering a room, think about how someone with a different background or identity might be affected.
– Is the group fitness room separated from the rest of the facility in such a way that security and privacy are guaranteed?
– How might someone wearing religious clothing feel when entering the facility or attending a class?
– Are the staff themselves, as well as the members of the facility, different in a way that represents the local community?
Do some research and be aware of your own behavior:
– Take some time, for example, to research the correct terminology for members of the LGBTQIA + community.
– Learn more about gender neutral and personal first language.
Changing your behavior and the way you speak can be difficult, but it’s a key element of showing others that you respect them, value their contribution to your gym experience, and welcome them with the dignity they deserve.
As a member of a fitness facility, you may not have the option to change the signage or the physical layout of the facility, but you can still play an important role in making everyone feel welcome when they walk through the door.
An integrative space welcomes, accepts and honors everyone. So work together to get to know the people in your community through open and honest dialogue. Open-mindedness and willingness to learn will go a long way towards building a stronger, more inclusive sense of community.
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How to be an Ally for Justice, Diversity and Inclusion originally appeared on usnews.com