In Australia, the fitness industry has continued to grow over the last decade, with reports warning the market may actually reach saturation in the next few years.
Leisure centres and sports facilities are popular with both males and females but it was only in late 80s that the first exclusive women only gym opened. Since then, this demographic has grown to be considered the largest consumer group in the industry.
The Women's Health Market
For some time, there has been an emphasis on women's mental and physical health and wellbeing in the media. Although the focus on what entails 'beauty' can be seen as detrimental, there is no doubt that the mental wellbeing message is an important one and is used effectively in marketing.
Why, though, is the focus mainly on women?
Put simply, there are a number of momentous physical and emotional changes that occur in a woman's lifetime that are very different from the changes experienced by males. These include differing changes during puberty, the process of pregnancy and childbirth and menopause.
Knowing this, it stands to reason that the advice and treatment provided would be, by necessity, vastly different for women and men. Plus, like it or not, some women do not feel comfortable in a mixed environment when it comes to exercising or a sports club. In fact, there can be a reluctance to join a fitness club because of the male presence.
A women only gym or health club, with female staff and personal trainers, will often provide the atmosphere and support a woman may need (but feels she doesn't get in co-ed gyms). The focus is on women's health, relaxation, targeted training and specialised classes (including pregnancy exercising) aimed at helping members achieve their goals.
Keep reading to discover more about the world of women's fitness, as well as where you can find single-sex gyms and the benefits they hold.
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Where Did the Concept of a Gym for Women Begin?
In the 1960s, Kenneth Cooper coined the term 'aerobics' to describe cardiovascular activity. Former dancer, Jackie Sorenson is credited with developing 'aerobic dance' in 1968.
By 1982, 'Aerobics Oz Style' made it to Australian television and this new form of physical workout really started to gain momentum.
Before long, aerobics had made its way into gyms, and the previously male-dominated environment of weights and workout machines began to see an increase in female clients and trainers.
Gyms and other training facilities rapidly increased in popularity. During this time, many women would join a club then 'drop out' as they didn't feel comfortable. However, it wasn't until 1989 that Diana Williams opened the first Fernwood—a women only gym. After the opening, Williams commented:
"The atmosphere was electric. Women were staying and getting results."
Fernwood quickly grew into a nationwide chain, followed by other similar gyms and an outpouring of so-called 'lady-specific classes' such as Body Sculpt, Step Aerobics and Zumba.
In itself, this may be responsible for the most recent statistics on gym membership which show that, of the number of Australians who are members of gyms, 53 per cent are women.
Interestingly, a 2017 study also showed that, on the whole, a greater proportion of Australian women than men state they exercise three times a week, and many engage a personal trainer to do so.
Five Potential Benefits When You Join a Women's Gym
Many women enjoy the challenge and atmosphere of a mixed exercise class, however, many others don't and this can deter them from continuing to access the facilities once they join.
An exclusive women's environment can, for many, effectively reduce the stress they feel, thus ensuring they maintain their participation.
Here are five more benefits you could gain if you join a women's gym.
1. Modified Equipment
This does not mean 'lighter weights'. Instead, modified equipment caters for the differences in the physiology of men and women, acknowledging that there is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to exercise equipment.
As well as equipment modifications, the way machines and free weights are used in classes is adapted to suit the female build.
2. No Unwanted Stares or Veiled Comments
Even though this situation has improved, unfortunately, unwanted and inappropriate behaviours and side-comments have not been entirely eradicated from society, and certainly not from the gym.
Not every woman experiences this type of behaviour, but for those who have, a female-only gym may provide the supportive and safe space they need.
3. Meet New Friends
If you join a fitness group, the odds are you will have similar goals to other people in your class. Exercising together affords the opportunity to chat and get to know more about each other.
Of course, your common interests may extend beyond your physical health and into your personal or professional interests.
4. Improve Together
Being in a mixed team can be difficult as men can progress physically at a different rate to women.
A women's team will still see differences in progress, but they won't be as confronting.
5. Support and Learn From Each Other
Groups of women with similar goals are more likely to share advice and hints on issues like weight loss and confidence building.
Finding a group you click with is the perfect way to ensure you have support and continue to strive for your goals.
Australian Fitness Centres Catering Exclusively for Women
Whether you want to join a Zumba or yoga class, or would really love to build you muscular endurance through weight lifting, these days you have greater access to women only gyms that will meet your every need.
As with other gyms, membership rates will differ, but here are a few options to get you started on your search.
Fernwood's motto is 'Empowering Women to Shine' with a goal of encouraging growth in confidence, leading to success.
The club offers something for everybody, with cardio machines, weight training, freestyle circuits, group and virtual classes and personal trainers. Wellness is also a huge focus with classes for pilates, yoga and meditation, along with mental health first aid trained staff in all centres.
Perks include creche, hair styling and shower products, free breakfast and access to their online platform with recipes, workout videos and nutrition coaching.
The joining fee is $199, with per month prices starting at around $88 for a 12-month fixed term contract.
Most famous for its 30-minute total-body circuit class with a qualified coach, you'll find Curves gyms throughout Australia. Their classes cater for all levels and range from high-intensity cardio, through to boxing and low-intensity balance sessions aimed at strengthening the core.
For people who don't have a Curves gym nearby, the club also offers 'MyCurves on Demand', an online program with unlimited access for at home workouts.
Joining fees are approximately $150 (depending on the franchise) with rates starting from $60 per month.
Included in the 12-month contracts is access to any Curves club around the world.
Even if your local gym is not ladies-only, there is a good chance they may offer a range of women's classes, to cater to member preferences and comfort.
The ultimate aim is to encourage women to continue using their membership and build confidence in a supportive setting.
In the past, there have been complaints about the moral ethics of excluding men from certain classes, however, there is a general understanding in the community that pro-women does not equate with anti-men.
With what you now know, is an exclusive female gym what you need?
Perhaps you would prefer the mixed environment, or don't care for a gym-style environment at all. Not to worry, as there are multiple options for exercise classes that are not centred around gyms. You could set up your own home fitness circuit, or perhaps you would like to explore the options for online personal trainers through Superprof?
Personal Trainers — Male or Female?
When you work out with a personal trainer, the most important factor is that you feel completely comfortable with whoever you choose. For some women, this means they prefer female trainers.
Owing to the nature of the relationship, your personal trainer will get to know you a lot better than a class instructor.
There is a good chance you will want or need to share somewhat intimate or private details with them, including menstruation, post-childbirth issues or other feminine health concerns. Qualified personal trainers, whether male or female, are trained to deal with these issues, but you personally may not feel relaxed and able to talk about them with a male.
Finding a Personal Trainer
Many personal trainers work in gyms and fitness centres, but a large number also work privately in a freelance situation, or even online. They may advertise online, or in gyms and community centres.
To make your search easier, why not check out the Superprof platform?
Easy to navigate, Superprof can connect you with personal trainers both in your local area or further away—there's absolutely no reason why you can't work with a PT online.
Each PT or coach on the Superprof platform has a profile. You can easily find information including:
- certification and qualifications
- testimonials from past clients
- hourly rates (and note that most trainers offer the first hour for free)
- types of services offered
- location and whether their sessions are delivered face-to-face or online
Hourly rates charged by personal trainers vary widely depending on their level of experience, whether or not they are affiliated with a gym and what type of training they offer.
On Superprof, the average cost for fitness class in Australia is $26 an hour. These classes may be anything from dance through to elite athlete training and everything in between.
With a personal trainer, you are paying for their full attention so the cost is understandably higher than if you were to enrol in a small group class.
Online Options for Fitness Training
As with most skills, online learning opportunities are countless and show no signs of slowing down. More and more people are turning to social media outlets, like YouTube and Instagram, to get workouts and tips regarding fitness.
Who is posting this content?
The people uploading these videos are known as 'influencers' and they are essentially building their own brand as they get more followers. Often key influencers, with thousands of followers, partner with large companies, and endorse their products for payment.
Note that an influencer with lots of followers does not necessarily mean they are trained, experienced or qualified to be passing out fitness advice, so if you want to proceed this way, do so with caution.
Many young people go straight to YouTube if they want to learn how to do something. Personal fitness is no different. All you need to do is plug in your goal and you'll be offered dozens of workout videos and tips to help you achieve it.
Instagram is another haven for fitness influencers and a very popular source of information.
Fitness influencers share information of a number of different areas, including:
- workout techniques and routines
- fitness equipment
- pregnancy and post-pregnancy workouts
- daily tips and affirmation
A number of influencers also run their own businesses and will sell clothing items and consultation sessions.
The key to reaching your fitness goals is to find a program, or a trainer, or a gym that works for you. You will know if the one you choose is a good fit if you find yourself staying motivated and developing a good rapport with the trainers and other people around you.