Thinner Living Through Cheap Gyms

Photo by Phil Dowsing via Flickr

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


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!”

Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

payment methods

Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

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