Thinner Living Through Cheap Gyms

Photo by Phil Dowsing via Flickr

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


It’s no secret that in America’s obesity epidemic, low-income neighborhoods are the hardest hit. Scientists call them “obesogenic” zones—areas with lots of fast-food restaurants, few grocery stores to sell fresh produce, and higher crime rates that keep people indoors. Gyms are often sparse, overcrowded, and expensive. “In middle-income communities, there’s somehow an expectation that you’re going to have access to gyms,” Bill Walczak, a Boston-area activist, tells NPR. “When you’re in a low-income community, that stuff doesn’t exist.”

Solutions abound. There’s been talk of making food deserts bloom, of ramping up public schools’ phys ed programs, and of removing unhealthy foods from school snack machines. Each takes on a piece of the obesity puzzle. But public radio station WBUR’s Sacha Pfeiffer profiled Walczak’s Massachusetts non-profit, which is implementing a novel new solution—one that could have public health experts smacking their foreheads at the simplicity and practicality: Make gyms cheap.

Like, $30-a-month cheap, with a sliding scale for lower income or homeless women and children, who may pay as little as $10 each month. Members at the women-and-children-only Codman Square Health Center, located in a poorer Boston neighborhood, get all the amenities of more costly gyms—treadmills and weight machines, spinning and yoga and group dance classes—plus healthy food and nutrition programs. The costs of running the Codman facility are supplemented by donations and a small percentage of membership dues from other gyms in the Healthworks Fitness Center network.

More obese women may even receive “prescriptions” to work out for free. So, Pfeiffer reports, most of they women you’ll see at the Codman Square gym aren’t always skinny little things. Tamaica Toney was 252 pounds before joining Healthworks. She lost 80 pounds in a year just by going to the gym Monday through Friday. She and other women at the gym said they felt less embarrassed working out at a women-only facility—and safer indoors than jogging or walking through their neighborhood.

“I can’t wait to get this next 20 pounds off of me, get cut up, get them abs coming through,” Toney told Pfeiffer. “Then I’m going to shop until I can’t drop!”

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate