How Can the Wellness Industry be More Inclusive?

Inclusivity and fitness

How Can the Wellness Industry be More Inclusive?

London. The UK’s second biggest city with a melting pot of 8.8million people accounting for 13% of the whole UK population. A positive smorgasbord of individuals, there are over 200 languages spoken on the streets, 44% identify as BAME and 1 in 5 people in England have an impairment. So why when I hit the gym for a sweat sesh, is it in a predominantly young, white, able-bodied environment. What gives

Fitness for all?

Health and fitness is big business and on the rise both nationally and globally. According to Allegra’s Project Fitness 2018 report, the UK fitness industry is worth £5.1bn alone with an annual growth of 7.1% However, a societal desire for inclusivity has meant this booming industry has been scrutinised of late. “Is your spin class too young, too thin and too white?”  asks The Washington Post. “Is wellness racist?” debates Balance. “Why do gyms make things so difficult for blind people?” debates The Guardian. Not going unrecognised by global wellness news platform Welltodo, it cites inclusivity as one the key trends in the consumer wellness industry for 2019.

How are the industry trailblazers tackling the challenge of inclusivity?

LGBTQ+ Friendly Fitness

The LGBTQ+ community is still underrepresented in many areas of life. Only recently has money been crowdfunded to create London’s first LGBTQ community centre following in the footsteps of places like New York and Berlin.

Within the fitness community, CrossFit came under fire for making competitors in their 2018 CrossFit Games compete as the gender they were assigned at birth. “Gymtimidation” is real and can be intensified by those who already feel marginalised by identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.

In recognition that fitness may be the mainstream, but you don’t have to be, several LGBTQ+ fitness offerings have sprung up throughout the capital. Boxing studio Kobox recently launched ‘Proud’, a campaign to break down the stereotypes surrounding boxing. South-west London nutrition group Hex launched HIIT Club, a new nightclub fitness class for the gay community, a full-on workout but most importantly a social environment. Founder Chris Timmins believes the act of face-to-face socialising is getting lost and after all, fitness is an effective way to bond and create a sense of community.

Create a collective

With over 96 million uses of the hashtag #fitfam, it is clear that people want to feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves but what if your identity is not being catered for?

With current fitness trends and gyms tending to focus on the young, white, affluent fitness-goers, diversity is clearly missing in the fitness world. Recognising those interested in health and fitness are not one-dimensional beings has led to frustrated consumers biting back with the micro-fitness community. London based Run Dem Crew is one example. They define themselves as a collective of ‘creative heads with a passion for running and the exchange of ideas’ as opposed to a running club.

Similarly, Run Dem Crew member Sanchia Legister created Yogahood classes in response to being frustrated at the lack of diversity in many yoga studios. With over 20,000 Instagram followers between them, they seem to be onto something.

Consider those with a disability

Disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive in comparison to the general population and are at an increased risk of developing long-term conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Physical activity is a proven method in treating and preventing these conditions, yet we are usually only exposed to disabled people being inactive or being Paralympians, one extreme or the other. Accessibility and inclusivity must go beyond an accessible toilet, ramp or lift. Flashing lights in a spin class might look great but consider those who may have an issue with lighting and contrasting colours or difficulty with signage and communicating with staff. Salford based Empower You, a pilot scheme breaking down barriers facing disabled people and making exercise more fun, is helping get more disabled people active. While Dublin based UFIT, a specialised gym to help people with neurological, developmental or physical challenges stay fit, is going from strength to strength. With a new gym seemingly opening every week in London, it is high time they considered the 11.5 million people living in the UK with an impairment.

Looking to the future

With a constant deluge of studies and shock headlines claiming horrifying truths such as ‘not exercising is worse for your health than smoking’, the media has done a fantastic job of telling us about the importance of physical activity. However, what is missing is an antidote to getting the masses moving. Inclusivity seems to be where the true opportunity lies. Going beyond providing just a service and attempting to make people feel part of something bigger no matter their age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, sex etc is key. Although change has begun, there is still a lot of work to be done. Watch this space.