Universities look at women’s only gym times

Some universities have toyed with the idea of women's only gym times. (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)
Some universities have toyed with the idea of women’s only gym times. (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)

If you’ve stepped foot inside a gym recently, you may have noticed the rising trend of fitness centres  accommodating women’s only time slots and facilities.

Now, this feature is not only incorporated in corporate gym chains, but also on university campuses.

Ryerson University, for instance, is currently looking into creating specific gym hours for female users.

“Students came to us and said ‘this is a need that we have’ and we’ve been working with students to make it happen,” said Melissa Palermo, president of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).

“There are women on campus that weren’t able to use [the facilities] for religious reasons or for reasons to do with past experiences when they would have felt uncomfortable in those situations with men.”

Nothing has been finalized, however.

“Right now we’re just in the lobbying process,” she added.

When asked about any vocal opposition to segregated gym times Palermo could not point to any.

“We’ve collected over a thousand, I think close to two thousand, surveys and the response has actually been overwhelmingly positive. Most people of all genders actually have been quite accepting of the idea and have responded in really positive ways.”

However, a Facebook post by RSU from last month, which outlined the plan to create women’s only gym times, generated some online criticism.

One commentator wrote that men and women should not be segregated in any sort of university facility.

While it is still up for debate at Ryerson, other campuses have already accepted gendered gym times as the norm.

Larissa Sage, a master’s student at the University of Toronto already experiences segregated gym times at her school’s gym.

“I don’t see any reason not to have it,” she said. “It’s not like the entire gym goes into lockdown mode and only women are allowed in.”

Sage dismissed the argument that these policies cut down on men’s opportunities to access facilities. “If there are enough men saying ‘I would like that’ [segregated hours for men] then I’m sure any quality establishment would consider that as well.”

Wilfrid Laurier University is among other universities looking at creating women’s only gym hours.

Pat Kitchen, associate director of recreation and facilities at WLU explained that some women may feel more comfortable working out during segregated gym times.

“Ultimately our goal is to get as many students in the space being healthy and active,” she said.

“When we actually designed for the addition and renovation we knew that we wanted to have the ability to have women’s only [capabilities]” added Kitchen.

When asked about any concerns over the segregated facilities, Kitchen assured that Laurier has “designed it such that in the segregated space there is a range of equipment so you can go in there and have the same experience that you would have in the rest of the fitness center except for some of the high free weights.”

She added, “so males and other women that maybe don’t care to have a segregated system will have lots of room.”

Not only will there be plenty of equipment during the women’s only hours but segregated areas and programs will provide opportunities for new-comers of both genders.

As more fitness centres begin to provide exclusive hours or areas for female users, the debate of segregation continues to be a hot topic amongst campuses.

“It’s not just for women, but even for males that might be new to [gym] experiences,” Kitchen said.

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