Trend Report: Plus-Size Friendly Gyms
The gym can be a scary place for anyone who isn’t already in perfect shape. As a result, specialty fitness centers geared toward overweight adults have begun to spring up around the country.
These gyms aim to lessen the self-consciousness and intimidation plus-size people may experience at traditional gyms by offering exercise classes modified for larger bodies, equipment built to bear heavier and wider loads, and even trainers who've had significant weight loss success themselves.
For example, at Downsize Fitness, located in Dallas, Chicago, and Las Vegas, you won’t find the wall-to-wall mirrors that flank most gyms. Instead, the health clubs are stocked with sturdy machines and supportive staff. "A lot of equipment supports only up to 350 pounds," Wiesniewksi told GlobalPost. "Ours [support] over 600. And our personal trainers are used to working with overweight people. Two of our head trainers lost over 100 pounds on their own."
Downsize Fitness health clubs welcome new members who have at least 50 pounds to lose and “graduate” those who meet their weight loss goals. Upon joining, members participate in a three-part program designed to help them meet their weight loss goals by a set date: a customized nutritional program built to maximize nutritional density and meal timing, a guided fitness program that incorporates resistance training, cardio and flexibility exercises, and support meetings with coaches and fellow members.
Similarly, Buddha Body Yoga in New York City advertises itself as a yoga studio for "physically large, overweight or rotund people, or people with injuries." Owner and instructor Michael Hayes shows his plus-size students how to adjust standard poses, sometimes with the aid of physical supports, so they can up their flexibility, posture, balance, range of motion, and skill over time.
"I started my practice because I was tired of being the biggest person in the classroom," Hayes told the New York Daily News. Hayes also offers private yoga sessions and training for yoga instructors who want to be more effective with plus-size students in their own classes.
In Omaha, two “Biggest Loser” alums turned certified personal trainers, Marty and Amy Wolff, are at the helm of Square One health club. There, they offer lifestyle training sessions and structured workout classes specially designed for people who need to lose more than 50 pounds. Square One's fitness classes feature a mix of kickboxing, fitness games and bootcamp techniques, with modifications for members who have limited mobility or flexibility.
Though these accommodating spaces may sound like a good idea, the plus-size-friendly gym trend generated some controversy last summer when Time ran an article about Body Exchange, a Vancouver-based gym that reportedly banned skinny people. None of the American gyms admitted to explicitly banning trim members when asked by the New York Daily News, but all clearly state that they are weight-friendly environments, rather than havens for the ultra-fit. They ultimately share the same objective as any other fitness center—to help members achieve their fitness goals.
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