Davina McCall has called for gyms to take inspiration from Narcotics Anonymous meetings to help newcomers feel more welcome in exercise classes.
Speaking yesterday at The Telegraph’s Stella Live event, the television presenter, 51, suggested “cliquey” atmospheres at fitness clubs is putting beginners off from taking part in group workouts.
McCall, who has openly discussed her own experience with substance abuse, said gyms should analyse the steps taken by drug support groups to help people feel more integrated.
“In Narcotics Anonymous meetings, they have a greeter to greet newcomers. When you first go to a meeting, you feel absolutely terrible and there’s someone there saying ‘hi, are you new, would you like a hug?’ You can imagine I loved greeting,” she told a sold-out audience at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
“I often think that gyms should employ regular members of the class and say ‘would you be this week’s greeter’?
“What I am trying to say is that I know classes can be really cliquey and really scary and that isn’t on you, you’ve got to be brave and go for it,” she added.
Her call follows a recent survey carried out by Nuffield Health, Britain’s largest not-for-profit healthcare provider, that revealed a third of 18 to 35-year-olds in the UK feel too self-conscious to join a gym.
They also found that, out of the 2,000 young people they asked in December, almost a quarter cited being worried that other people will look at them as a reason for holding back from exercising publicly.
McCall, who is imminently launching a new online fitness platform, entitled Own Your Goals, said she wanted to help those who feel anxious about spending time in gyms.
The 51-year-old, who started making fitness DVDs 15 years ago, said she would assume responsibility in her regular gym class to help settle in newcomers if it meant more people sign up for workouts.
She said: “It would be really nice for women the first time they come to a class to have someone saying, ‘this is how it works, don’t be embarrassed we’ve all been there once’.
“I would definitely put my hand up for that, I would love to do that. I’ve been there, I know what it feels like.”
McCall’s borrowed idea to create a better fitness community would add to initiatives already in place at most gyms and leisure centres to induct new members and help them get to grips with the equipment.
Bannatyne’s gym group said that their staff are welcoming to newcomers, who they encourage to take it easy.
A Nuffield Health spokesman added: “We try to make the experience of joining one of our fitness and wellbeing clubs a genuinely friendly and welcoming process to encourage people to make the most of their membership.
“For example, everyone who joins a Nuffield Gym benefits from a Health MOT, our free one-hour health check. They give you quality time with a highly-trained personal trainer to discuss your fitness. They also include key clinical tests, like blood glucose and blood pressure, to identify potential health risks and give you a full picture of your health and fitness.”