UWL fitness classes working towards more balanced participation

Julia Van Fleet, Sports Reporter

The UWL Recreational Eagle Center (REC) offers over 45 group fitness classes per week. This includes classes such as yoga, cycling, cardio, pilates and many others. However, these classes are overwhelmingly attended by women rather than men. 

According to fitness coordinator Nick Berg, a self-identifying survey completed by students in the fall of 2019 showed that females make up roughly 96 percent of fitness class participants while males make up 4 percent of participants.

“I don’t believe the absence of men in these spaces is an indication of a lack of awareness on their part but rather a testament to the fact that everyone seeks different ways to be active and we support that,” said Berg.  

Graduate student Emma Kefer, who has taught at the REC for five years, believes that part of the reason for the mostly female attendance has to do with a misconception about who fitness classes are intended for. 

“There is definitely a misconception that group fitness classes are for girls, but truly they are beneficial for everybody. People do not realize that even classes like Pilates and Zumba were founded by males, and they were meant to be done by everyone,” said Kefer.   

Kefer, who mostly teaches pilates and the strength and tone classes, does have some regular male attendees at her classes, but she does notice that her classes mostly contain women. She thinks that the REC tries to do its best to appeal to all fitness levels and genders but still falls short of a good balance.  

“We try to target everyone for group fitness classes and advertise to all students. The names of our classes are gender-neutral and attempt to appeal to everyone, and all of our classes are open to anyone who wants to join. We hire male and female instructors as well, in hopes to recruit a diverse group of participants,” said Kefer.  

This gender-neutral advertising and range of classes is appealing to some men, and one student, Jackson Firer, sees great benefit in the fitness classes he attends.  

“I wanted to find a workout that is not just physical, but also mental. I find the pilates classes to be very fun and relaxing,” said Firer.  

Firer has attended fitness classes for three years, and he sees many misconceptions about the classes offered at the REC.  

“Maybe guys just don’t see the mental benefit, and maybe they do not think it’s necessary to take care of their brains,” said Firer.  

Another misconception that Firer has noticed is that people might not think that you will get a good workout in a group setting, but he finds the Pilates and Cycling classes to be very challenging.   

“I just hope people do not assume that these classes are easy,” said Firer.   

According to Kefer, the fitness classes can provide a different experience and can make exercising more enjoyable, especially for students who may not like to exercise very much.

“Fitness classes are a great option for people who like working out with others, people who do not know how to create their own workout, or people who just want new ideas for workouts. We’ve had a lot of participants join because going to a weight room alone can be intimidating,” said Kefer. “In our group fitness classes, we create a fun, safe, judgment-free environment to get a great workout in. We accept everyone and try our best to make all of our members to feel comfortable and included. And, again, our classes are so much fun, so everyone should try them out.” 

While the REC feels that it is making great strides towards a more balanced level of participation, its main concern is working to accommodate other groups of people. According to Berg, there are events put in place to continue to include a wide range of people. 

“We can always cater to a more diverse audience and we are making efforts to do so. The diverse audience we are trying to reach are those of marginalized identities. It’s important that we work to establish more equitable services and programs at the REC,” said Berg. “The REC is currently partnering with the PRIDE center to host a recurring free event called Queer Night at the REC. This event is every Tuesday night from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm this semester. Each week the class type changes and the schedule is listed on our website under the fitness programs tab. The REC has a student committee, Student Inclusivity Networking Committee (SINC), and is interested in partnering with more clubs, orgs and departments that support marginalized identities.”

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