Gym Harassment: 56.37% women harassed while working out

Posted on 29 June, 2021 by Nicholas Rizzo

gym-harassment-study-facts-statistics

We wanted to understand how prevalent harassment is in gyms and how it impacts members, gyms, and the industry as a whole. To investigate this we surveyed 3,774 gym members (1107 female and 2667 male) in June of 2021. 

Key Findings

  • 56.37% of female gym members have experienced harassment at the gym - 2.68x more than male gym members (21.00%)
  • 92.31% of cases of harassment against females go unreported 
  • Of the female gym members who experienced being harassed:
    • 25.65% stopped using gyms completely or switched gyms 
    • 28.69% felt unsafe or uncomfortable at their gym 
    • 30.13% changed their gym routine, schedule, or avoided certain areas at the gym 
    • 20.19% changed their clothes or appearance when going to the gym

Gym harassment prevalence

More than half of female gym members have experienced harassment at the gym (56.37%). 

This issue is 2.68x as prevalent for female members as only 21.00% of male members were harassed at the gym. 

gym-harassment-prevalence

These instances of harassment at gyms are not isolated events - impacting only those directly involved. 

When female members were asked, 12.83% said they witnessed harassment occur and 14.54% heard of harassment at their gym from someone else. 

Gym harassment incidents go unreported

The results revealed that less than a tenth of gym members (8.85%) that are harassed at the gym ever report it.

how-often-is-gym-harassment-reported

Female gym members are also less likely to report their harassment. Only 7.69% of harassed female respondents reported their harassment in comparison to the 10.00% of harassed male gym members. 

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. 

Form of harassment members experience in gyms

Members also responded with which of the three forms of harassment they experienced. 

We found that out of all female gym members:

  • 1 out of 4 experienced unwanted attention
  • Nearly 1 out of 5 receive unwanted comments 
  • 1 out of 10 experience unwanted physical contact

forms-of-harassment-experienced-at-the-gym

These issues disproportionately impact female gym members. 

In comparison to male gym members, female members are:

  • 2.85x more likely to experience unwanted attention
  • 2.51x more likely to experience unwanted comments
  • 2.57x more likely to experience unwanted physical contact

Gym harassments impact on gym members

Gym harassment is a major retention issue for the gym industry as a whole.14.42% of females and 19.64% of males who experience harassment stopped using gyms completely.

As for individual gym retention, a tenth of members that are harassed switch to a different gym.

impact-of-experiencing-harassment-on-gym-members

While males that are harassed are more likely to stop using gyms completely or switch gyms, females harassed at the gym are:

  • 1.53x more likely to feel unsafe or uncomfortable
  • 1.69x more likely to change gym routines and avoid certain areas of the gym
  • 1.68x more likely to change their clothes or appearance when going to the gym

The impact of these incidents doesn’t stop with just those that are directly involved. More than 50% of members who have witnessed or heard of harassment at their gym say it negatively impacts them. 

impact-of-witness-or-hearing-about-harassment-at-their-gym

In fact, respondents who have never experienced gym harassment but have witnessed or heard about it are 15.63% more likely to to cancel their membership. 

Just knowing of harassment at their gym made 12.22% of members feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Leading to behavioral changes where many members alter their gym routine, avoid certain areas at the gym, change their clothes or appearance. 

Conclusion

Harassment is a prevalent issue in gyms - one that disproportionately impacts female gym members. 

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.

Despite how many experience this issue, less than tenth of members report their harassment. 

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

Use of Content

If you have any questions regarding the above findings, the following report, or are looking for interviews, please feel free to reach out to Nick Rizzo, the Fitness Research Director here at RunRepeat (nick@runrepeat.com). 

Feel free to use any of the findings, data, and graphs from this report. We just ask that you link back to this report when doing so. 

Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo

Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.