Feature Archive

Men, Keep Out!

Are female-only clubs good for women?

WebMD Feature

May 29, 2000 -- When she'd tried two different health clubs in Anchorage, Alaska, Joan Pirone never quite felt comfortable working out. She worried about wearing the right clothes and felt too intimidated to venture into the free-weight room. "I was afraid of making a fool of myself," says Pirone, 60. "All these guys are pumping 250 pounds, and there isn't even a 4-pound dumbbell for me to pick up. How are you supposed to feel?"

Three years later, Pirone feels so confident with free weights that she offers technique tips to her fellow club members. She uses 20-pound dumbbells for her bicep curls, and never worries whether her jog-bra is too tight or her shorts properly stylish. The difference: Pirone has switched to Women's Nautilus, one of two women-only health clubs in Anchorage.

"At coed clubs you feel like you're on TV, like the men are constantly looking at you," she says. "But our club is so supportive. I have achieved a lot more here than I ever would have at the other clubs."

Pirone isn't the only diehard fan of women's fitness clubs. Despite a handful of lawsuits claiming that these clubs illegally discriminate against men, the women-only health club industry appears to be thriving. Nationwide, there are about 1,250 clubs that cater solely to women or offer a women-only workout area. That number is on the rise, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).