It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that six in 10 women have reported being harassed when working out in the gym. 

Whether it’s unsolicited advice from a brawny weightlifter, unwelcome stares or even a brazen chat-up line from the opposite sex, it’s no secret that many women feel uncomfortable stepping into the gym. 

The rise in the number of videos posted onto the internet of women working out, completely oblivious they have been recorded, is also indicative of a problem. 

For example, videos on TikTok under the #gymcreep have had more than 60m views. 

So, is it time for all gyms to introduce women only opening hours? 

Personal trainer Sarah Mawhinney has herself been at the centre of unwelcome attention in the gym and it is a frequent complaint she hears from her female clients. 

“Definitely when I was younger, I would have had people coming up to me and commenting on my form and now I’m a personal trainer, I notice older men staring at me,” she says. 

“I don’t know if it’s for a good reason or why they’re looking really but it makes you feel a bit paranoid. 

“I definitely think about what I wear to the gym because of it, like I would tie a jumper around my waist and things like that.” 

And while she acknowledges going to the gym is a social occasion for some, for others, it can be unnecessarily stressful. 

“Some of my clients have told me they feel judged, like they have to get ready and look good and even put on make-up to go to the gym,” she explains. 

“They are worried whether they’re doing things right, they worry they aren’t strong enough or good enough.” 

For Claire, she was a regular gym-goer and her ability to use the equipment wasn’t an issue, but she eventually cancelled her membership as a result of attention from another member. 

“I used to go to a class every Sunday morning and then I would spend time on the machines afterwards,” she explains. 

“One Sunday, I noticed a guy standing at the other side of the gym watching me. 

“He was being really blatant about it, he didn’t look away when I caught his eye. I would move to another machine and he would move too. 

“There was a sauna and steam room and when I went in there, he would turn up in them as well and stare at me. 

“This went on week after week, so I knew it wasn’t just a coincidence and I wasn’t imagining it.” 

Asked if she reported him to the gym management, Claire says: “No, I was just so embarrassed, it’s like you don’t want to make a fuss even though it was genuinely scary that he was being so blatant about what he was doing. 

“I’m sure he would have denied it anyway, it was just so mortifying, I still find it embarrassing now to be honest and I ended up cancelling my membership.” 

Claire’s experience may be more extreme than most, but it proves that gyms must be losing business, so perhaps designated time slots for women only would make sense. 

But then why should women be restricted over when they feel they can attend the gym? 

Surely it is down to tackling the attitude of men who feel their behaviour is acceptable? 

Sadly, Sarah believes it is “just the way some men are” – and she is right. 

It will take a complete shift in the way society views harassment, from the fact that women shouldn’t have to change the way they dress to feeling confident and empowered enough to report intimidating behaviour. 

In the meantime, personal trainers such as Sarah offer a solution for those who feel uncomfortable working out in a gym as she offers both online and mobile coaching sessions at clients’ homes. 

Donna Fullerton has taken it one step further. 

The owner of Curves Magherafelt, a women-only gym, she says there is significant demand for a space where women feel comfortable and safe to work out. 

“I was actually a member of Curves before owning it,” she says. 

“My mum died in May 2003 and afterwards I started swimming at the leisure centre but it took up so much time, I realised it was much quicker to go to the gym there instead. 

“But there was no-one there to keep me right and I didn’t know what I was doing, I had two friends who were members of Curves and they recommended it to me. 

“It was such a nice atmosphere, the majority of clients are between 35 and 70, although we even have a member who is 83 and everyone feels really welcome, there’s no judgement. 

“You don’t have to worry about what you look like or any unwelcome attention and you also know you’re surrounded by other women who feel the same way.” 

For personal trainer Daria Kopylova, working out with other women is more than just a matter of avoiding unwanted attention from the opposite sex. 

“There are definitely women who come to me because they don’t want to train with men because of the comments or looks they get and I actually set up my studio in response to feedback from women,” she says. 

“They are quite often going through different physical challenges to men and working with a trainer who specialises in these areas allows you to optimise your health and fitness. 

“This includes issues related to menopause, pregnancy, post-natal, all those uncomfortable things that you’d rather discuss in private after you’ve had a baby. 

“For example, I have women who do five jumping jacks and they need to go to the toilet. 

“I have two kids so I know exactly how it feels, but if you’re working with a trainer in a big gym space and you’re surrounded by men, you probably won’t feel comfortable discussing that. 

“For me, it’s so important that my clients feel comfortable and able to tell me what’s going on as it means they get better results.”