Special Feature

Diversity and Inclusion

Comfort comes from understanding and feeling capable of doing exercise. Self-efficacy and feelings of mastery for exercise technique and form are essential to feeling comfortable at the gym, and no matter who you are or what your background is, everyone must start somewhere.

Strength, power and resilience are innate in everybody, and in every body. The benefits of exercise and resistance training are all scientifically proven to improve overall health. They strengthen the joints and muscles to provide a greater quality of life and can improve mental health and well-being.

With the need for inclusivity and diversity in fitness, one overlooked topic is the inclusivity of all body shapes and sizes. Negative attitudes towards “overweight or obese individuals based on assumed and/or false character traits,” also known as obesity bias, can have negative effects on a person’s overall well-being (Rukavina & Li, 2008). Individuals that feel judged because of their weight are more likely to suffer from depression or may choose to avoid the gym altogether (Cardinal, et al., 2014). Knowing the many benefits of exercise, how can we create spaces for every body?

  1. Know what it sounds like: Combating obesity bias isn’t just about omitting rude language. It’s also knowing and understanding obesity misconceptions such as, “obese individuals are unhealthy,” or “obese individuals don’t have the willpower to change.” This is often not the case! Take the time to learn about the factors that can influence weight fluctuation.
  2. Hold yourself and others accountable: If you see or hear someone expressing a negative attitude towards others, “call them in.” Bring awareness to why their bias is incorrect and how it can be problematic for those involved.
  3. Ensure accessibility: Help create a welcoming environment by sharing equipment with others or encouraging them to join your workout.
  4. Find your community: Work out with individuals you feel comfortable with, or join in events that encourage diversity and inclusive spaces, such as our upcoming Womxn and Ally Night!

Welcoming all body shapes and sizes on the fitness floor is important to creating an environment that promotes exercise as both an enjoyable and meaningful practice. Doing so, in turn, helps to encourage everyone to be physically active. It is important to remember that knowledge is power and we all have a part in making the spaces we’re in inclusive.

Join the Student Recreation and Wellness Center (SRWC) in promoting body positivity for all bodies at Womxn and Ally Night on Oct. 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. This event is open to all gender identities. Learn more at asirecreation.org/calendar today.


Rukavina, P. B., & Li, W. (2008). School physical activity interventions: Do not forget about obesity bias. Obesity Reviews, 9, 67–75. doi:10.111/j.1467-789X.2007.00403.x.

Cardinal, B. J., Whitney, A. R., Narimatsu, M., Hubert, N., & Souza, B. J. (2014). Obesity Bias in the Gym: An Under-recognized Social Justice, Diversity, and Inclusivity Issue. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 85(6), 3–6. https://doi.org/10.1080/07303084.2014.927668

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