Gym phobia keeping some Islanders from working out

Most Islanders aren't surprised to learn a poll has shown 47 per cent of Atlantic Canadians are too intimidated to go to the gym.

Ipsos poll reveals 47 per cent of Atlantic Canadians fearful of going to the gym

Forty-seven per cent of Atlantic Canadians have a gym phobia, according to an Ipsos poll. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

Most Islanders don't seem surprised a poll has shown 47 per cent of Atlantic Canadians are too intimidated to go to the gym.

The Ipsos poll, sponsored by GoodLife Fitness and ParticipACTION, found half the Canadian women surveyed had a fear of the gym and 28 per cent of the men.

"There's a lot of fear just walking in the door of a gym, and maybe not knowing what they're going to be able to do, if they're good enough," said Charlottetown Curves fitness instructor Janice McLaine. 

One of her clients drove past the women-only gym every day for a year, with her sneakers in the car, before she got up the nerve to come in, McLaine said. 

Charlottetown Curves fitness instructor Janice McLaine said one of her clients drove by for a year, with her sneakers in the car, before she got up the nerve to come in. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

"There's a fear of people judging them. And I think that's the biggest thing," McLaine adds. 

"We're all fearful of people judging us and I often feel that if we can get somebody in that door and somebody there is friendly to meet them, they can easily get over that fear."

Women-only gym helpful

McLaine wants women to be confident enough to walk into any gym, not just one for women only. But client Jane Fisher said Curves helped her shed the discomfort she felt at the mixed gym she was at before.

"The fact that it's all women makes it much less intimidating," said Fisher. "You don't have people watching you — a bunch of younger people." 

The women at Curves tend to all be about the same age and are in similar shape, said Fisher, which helps reduce intimidation.

Getting together regularly with the same group to work out has also built friendships and camaraderie, something else the poll said can help.

The challenge for gyms is to find a way to draw in reluctant clients, especially given the increasing amount of competition in the gym market in Charlottetown, with GoodLife Fitness opening in July.

Special introductory classes

Spa Total Fitness in Charlottetown has been offering special classes for people who want to lose weight, many of whom have never been to a gym before.

Spa fitness instructor Kurt McCormack says a lot of people don't know how to use the equipment in the gym, so don't come in. (CBC )

It's all about making people feel comfortable, said Lifestyle fitness coach Kurt McCormack, who also runs Protrim Fitness.

"So that person is ready, feeling good and wanting to come back."

Not knowing how to use the different machines properly is one stumbling block McCormack thinks keeps some people from coming to the gym. He's also seen a lot of first-timers take on too much too quickly and quit, thinking they're not cut out for this kind of exercise.

"Coming in to the gym and going 100 per cent rather than starting off slow and next thing you know it, the next day they have trouble getting off the bed or going down the stairs and that makes them feel that soreness and not want to come back, and that's where you want start off on a slow foot."

'Associated with buff people'

People on the streets of Charlottetown agree the lack of knowledge about the equipment is probably the biggest barrier, but also that gyms can be full of super-fit people, not regular folk.

"Why don't we know how to use the gym properly from a younger age?" asked Sarah Dada.

"And then why is it such that the gym is associated with buff people already? Like why wouldn't you have an area that's for starters?"

Others raise cost as a factor, and suggest more businesses offer discounts for memberships, or even a provincial subsidy to encourage more Islanders to try the gym. 

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