They showed that 60% of respondents visited a fitness or leisure centre at least once a month in the past three years, but that 50% of women with experience of exercising in these settings in the past three years worry about being judged.
Of those with a fear of judgement, more were concerned about being judged by other women (27%) than by men (22%).
The results also showed 13% of respondents worry about the risk or threat of sexual harassment, intimidation or embarrassment. Furthermore 45% said a member of staff demonstrating exercises/activities and how to use equipment would encourage their participation.
Nearly a third of women surveyed identified cost as a barrier to participation, with 32% of those who’ve attended a fitness or leisure centre in the past three years saying it was too expensive.
Huw Edwards, the chief executive of ukactive, believes it’s vital that these results are taken on board by the sector.
“We have listened closely to the views of women and girls about how they feel using our nation’s gyms and leisure centres,” he said.
“We know how popular fitness activities can be among women and girls, but there is a huge opportunity for our sector’s facilities to engage more women, as part of our shared ambition with the government to reach five million new members this decade.
“Reducing the barriers to female participation is a fundamental challenge for our sector, with our research showing clear demand from more women and girls to be able to enjoy these facilities.
“We are proud to partner with Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign to produce this practical guide for our members, which we believe will be a crucial tool to help improve their services for women and girls.”
A separate survey in September this year, also conducted by Savanta ComRes, showed that despite lower numbers of women being active, 57% of women stated an intention to do more physical activity when coronavirus (Covid-19) is less of a factor, compared to just 44% of men.
This highlights a big opportunity for providers to cater to this demand and Rebecca Passmore, UK managing director at PureGym, is determined to act upon this latest research.
“I feel very strongly that we need all women to feel like gyms are places they can belong, feel safe and confident to get active,” she said.
“Through the work done by ukactive and Sport England we now have a clearer picture of women’s concerns about exercising at the gym, which is vital in our ability to start breaking down the barriers.
“At PureGym we are already working hard to address these challenges, but seeing as these are industry-wide issues, we need an industry-wide response to make a real difference.
“The launch of this guide will aid our collective efforts to make facilities more inclusive and welcoming environments, and to empower women to start their health and fitness journeys.”