Shine On

Downsize Fitness: a gym that caters exclusively to the overweight

Would you work out at a gym catered to overweight people? (ThinkStock photo)

Most ideas that stem from reality television shows tend to fall into two categories: bad and worse (Bachelor-officiated weddings immediately spring to mind).

But a gym chain that has taken inspiration from the hit weight-loss show, The Biggest Loser, appears to be hitting all the right notes.

See more: What's the best workout ever?

At Downsize Fitness in the U.S., members are only accepted to the modern, state-of-the-art workout centre if they're at least 50 pounds above their goal weight.

The idea is to create an accepting, welcoming environment for overweight people who may feel intimidated by endless rows of fit folks running in time on endless rows of treadmills.

See more: Surprising things that make you fat

"Large clubs make you feel on display," owner Francis Wisniewski tells the Chicago Tribune (via Daily Mail). "I've been big my whole life, and small incidents probably make it seem worse than it really is… But at the gym, it's all out there for everyone to see. And I know if I'm feeling it, overweight women feel it worse."

Wisniewski says the low self-esteem he experienced at various gyms as he battled to lose weight led him to "spot a gap in the market."

His gyms, which now boast locations in Chicago, Dallas and Las Vegas, also block out mirrors and frost windows to keep prying outsider eyes from looking in, and offer equipment built for larger frames.

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Trainers are on hand to provide attainable programs, to "hold members accountable" for their diet, and work through routines that accommodate physical ailments like joint pain and respiratory problems.

So far, the method appears to be working.

Chicago member Tara Lawton tells the paper she lost 20 pounds in four months and the result has motivated her to keep going.

"I want to cry sometimes at how it changed my life," she says. "My body is responding positively to being pushed."

One issue that required a little forethought, however, is what to do with members who manage to attain their weight loss goals.

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For successful individuals who manage to whittle down their weight, they can "graduate" to mentor status and help inspire others to achieve their best through living example.

Do you think gyms that cater to specific populations are a good idea or do you prefer to work out in a mixed environment?


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