Working things out: Gender neutral BearFit classes

Originally posted on on Jan. 12, 2016. Illustration by Emily McTavish.

The BearFIT classes offered at the Foster Recreation Center offer a wide variety of training, toning and exercising different parts of the body. These classes have mostly been taken advantage of by female students, but apparently not for reasons most assumed.

When junior BearFIT instructor Allie Reichenberg started teaching this past semester, she wasn’t surprised at the ratio between girls and boys that joined one of her four classes.

“Even though I had just started working here, I had participated in BearFIT classes since my freshman year and I knew that it was predominantly girls because boys just come down to the first floor and lift weights,” Reichenberg said.

A similar trend has been shown in senior BearFIT instructor Adrienne Parnell’s two classes. She has been teaching for the past three semesters and has noticed the uneven ratio as well.

“There is definitely more girls than boys in barre average classes,” Parnell said. “Yoga is more evenly distributed, but still, more girls average the class size.”

According to kinesiology assistant professor Dr. Amanda Perkins, men and women are directed toward different activities when seeking physical exercise.

“In general, men tend to lift free weights more than women and women tend to attend group fitness classes more than men,” Perkins said. “Men traditionally do more strength and power activities and women do more cardio.”

Perkins said the difference of men and women pertaining to interest in fitness activities is the marketing factor.

“I think the BearFIT classes do a really good job of having gender neutral names in most cases,” Perkins said. “For example, Flexy and Fit Yoga is not something that will attract a lot of men but there are some classes that I think are more gender neutral, like the High Intensity Interval Training class.”

Another indicator could also be how the classes are presented toward women and men.

“So many of these classes are geared toward women, men think that it’s not going to be a good workout and it’s not going to be challenging enough,” Perkins said.

This correlates to one of the reasons why senior Vinny Losh ranks the classes as a lower priority. For him, he says that the classes are for people just starting to learn about health and get fit.

“They call it BearFIT classes, as in a class where you learn or need to take to get healthier or more fit and I don’t feel like I need to take it, but I still would like to,” Losh said.

However, just because he doesn’t feel a need for the classes doesn’t mean he has overlooked them entirely. Losh said he still has an interest in participating, having never done so before.

“I’ve always wanted to take one just for the fun of it,” Losh said. “I would like to take the spinning one, a lot actually.”

Another potential reason males frequent the classes less often is the extra cost and scheduling conflicts. Senior Dave Obernark said this was a prime reason why he has never joined a class.

“They don’t cost an obnoxious amount but on top of the fact that usually, the classes tend to be in the evening and other obligations, I wasn’t doing them,” Obernak said.

For Obernak, the exclusive female viewpoint was far from his mind when it came to the group fitness classes.

“That’s not something that would be holding me back,” Obernak said. “I’ve had male friends in the past that have done some of these classes and they’ve even said ‘oh, man, it kicked my butt.”


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