University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Fitness for all – how do non-disabled people respond to inclusive fitness centres?

Nikolajsen, H., Richardson, Emma ORCID:, Fleng Sandal, L., Juul Kristensen, B. and Troelsen, J. (2021) Fitness for all – how do non-disabled people respond to inclusive fitness centres? BMC Sport Science, Medicine, and Rehabilitation, 13 (18). pp. 1-12. ISSN 2052-1847

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Background: Representation of people with disabilities in fitness centres is lacking, despite initiatives to promote inclusion mainly in the UK and USA. Success creating these inclusive spaces is mixed and few were crafted taking into account attitudes and biases of non-disabled co-members.
Inclusive fitness centres have not gained much attention in Denmark, and the campaign “Fitness for All - fitness for people with physical disabilities” was initiated. The aim of this study was shaped by two key questions; 1) what is the ideal fitness space from the perception of non-disabled fitness users? and 2) how might their dis/ableist attitudes negate inclusion in three future pilot inclusive fitness centres across Denmark? Method: Three focus groups involving 5-7 (total n=18) adult non-disabled participants were conducted. Aged ranged between 19-75 years, both men and women were involved, with fitness centre experiences ranging from 0 to 20+ years. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using Malterud’s four-step method of systematic text condensation. Results: Of most importance was a pleasant atmosphere which should make them feel welcome and comfortable. Good social relations within the space were also highly valued. Participants welcomed people with physical disabilities but predicted many challenges with an inclusive fitness centre and expressed unconscious ableist attitudes. Conclusion: The current study adds essential knowledge regarding how non-disabled people perceive the ideal inclusive fitness centre. A welcoming and inviting atmosphere is essential whereas social skills, ableism, ignorance, and preconceptions are important barriers that may hinder inclusion of participants with disabilities in inclusive fitness centres.

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© The Author(s). 2021 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
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Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: qualitative research, focus group interviews, fitness, fitness centre, gym, inclusive fitness centre, disabilities, inclusion
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > School of Sport and Exercise Science
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Copyright Info: Open Access article
Depositing User: Emma Richardson
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2021 08:29
Last Modified: 17 May 2022 08:42

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