Exploring a serious issue that is familiar to many within the run community itself, a recent study of gym memberships found a disturbingly high number of female gym members have been harassed in some way while working out.

In fact, the survey by RunRepeat.com found that 56 percent of  women report that they have been harassed while working out.

“We wanted to understand how prevalent harassment is in gyms and how it impacts members, gyms and the industry as a whole,” explains Nick Rizzo, fitness research director at RunRepeat ([email protected]). To investigate this RunRepeat surveyed 3774 gym members (1107 female and 2667 male) in June of 2021.

Among the other key findings:

  • 92 percent of cases of harassment against females go unreported.
  • Of the female gym members who experienced being harassed 26 percent stopped using gyms completely or switched gyms; 29 percent felt unsafe or uncomfortable at their gym; 30 percent changed their gym routine, schedule or avoided certain areas at the gym; and 20 percent changed their clothes or appearance when going to the gym.

These instances of harassment at gyms are not isolated events, according to RunRepeat, and do not only impact those directly involved. In fact, when female members were asked, 13 percent said they witnessed harassment occur and 15 percent heard of harassment at their gym from someone else.

The results also revealed that less than a tenth of gym members  that are harassed at the gym ever report it — female gym members are also less likely to report their harassment.

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. RunRepeat 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.

Gym harassment also becomes a factor in retention for the gym industry as a whole as 14 percent of females and 20 percent of males who experienced harassment stopped using gyms completely and one-tenth of members that are harassed switch to a different gym.

In addition, members who have never experienced gym harassment but have witnessed or heard about it are 16 percent more likely to cancel their membership and just knowing of harassment at their gym made 12 percent of members feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

“Harassment is a prevalent issue in gyms - one that disproportionately impacts female gym members,” RunRepeat concludes. “Being harassed leads to people feeling unsafe, uncomfortable, to alter their behavior and cancel memberships. Not only that, anyone that sees that incident or hears about it from someone else are impacted as well.

“It’s the responsibility of studios, health clubs and the likes to provide a safe environment for members to work out 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.

For the full report: runrepeat.com/gym-harassment