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If you’ve ever felt judged while you’re lifting weights or uncomfortable in your gym gear, you’ll know how game-changing it can be to find a class that actively promotes acceptance of everybody – and we mean every body. We’re talking different abilities, sizes, backgrounds, genders, races, ages, identities. Now, that’s what we call a healthy environment!
Whether online or in-person, workouts aimed at women and non-binary folks can help you you feel safe and supported by a friendly likeminded community. Then there are the body positive safe spaces that are all about what you can do, rather than what you could lose, through exercise.
And it’s not just about the vibe of a class, either. We’re here for the spaces that don’t just say they’re open to everyone, they truly go the extra mile to help you feel fully welcome. Studios like Hustle regularly show their support for the LGBTQ+ community with Pride events, while instructors at Barry’s UK have taken part in respect and dignity training to help them communicate effectively and sensitively to any person taking a class.
It can also be challenging to find disability-friendly fitness classes – like something for people with stomas – at your average, mainstream gym but now that there are so many online options, accessibility issues like toilets and ramps or lifts don’t even need to cross your mind. Even better, properly trained instructors are reaching the right people, wherever they are in the country.
Because we know that you don’t always know a fitness class is inclusive until you’ve walked into it, we’ve put in the legwork. These are twelve fitness classes where everybody is welcome.
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Price: £7.50 per class
Bring: A mat, towel and an exercise band
If you’ve got arthritis, don’t let anyone tell you: you can’t dance. It’s the reason former professional ballerina Stefania brought a specialised contemporary dance class online to dance2happy. Since being diagnosed at 19, she’s made it her life’s mission to empower others with arthritis to get stronger and more flexible.
All kinds of people join her online dance classes, from those living with rheumatoid arthritis, joint problems and injuries to people recovering from knee replacements. It’s designed to release joint stiffness and increase movement but more generally, to fuel your love of dance without limits.
Lift Studio London
Where: Clapham, south London
Price: From £17 per session
The mentality at Lift is you never lose, you only ever gain. Sticking a middle finger up to diet culture, the women who (run and) lift at Lift Studio London know that you don’t have to punish your body to improve your confidence. Here, you won’t find posers or judgment, just a like-minded community learning how to do what’s right for their bodies.
Price: Classes from £10
Bring: A yoga mat
Formed by a multi-skilled team of Black female practitioners, Mindwalk Yoga puts a focus on supporting Black women’s wellness, proving it doesn’t have to be exclusive or expensive. Memberships are offered on a sliding pay scale from £10 with bursaries for anyone in challenging circumstances. All ages, mobilities and levels of ability are welcome and practitioners use easy-to-follow language.
Price: £6 per session
Bring? Good vibes only
At Hustle, female-only boxing classes are not for the faint-hearted. Expect killer punch combos, bodyweight drills, and battles with the bag because this is how you build the strength and speed to go all 12 rounds. As well as HIIT, barre, strength and personal training sessions, Hustle also run annual classes for Norwich Pride because community mental health and wellbeing is at the heart of everything they do.
The Ostomy Studio
Price: £15 per class
Bring? A mat and a soft Pilates ball
This one’s for the ostomy warriors. Join fitness instructor Sarah Russell for online classes specifically designed for people living with a colostomy bag or those who’ve had stoma surgery, or abdominal surgery due to bowel or gynae cancer. From foundation to advanced, work your own way as you get stronger and fitter with The Ostomy Studio.
Where: Online or in-person at your home
Price: From £100 for a 4-week plan
Bring? A mat, although not always essential
Yoga is a practice with the capacity to support the healing of trauma, but according to teacher Taimour Ahmed (the founder of Our Yoga,) many current yoga classes aren’t accessible to those that might need it most.
Offering trauma-informed sessions one-on-one, Taimour works with people both virtually or in their homes or local parks to create an accessible space, both physically and financially, that helps communities heal from the oppression they may experience every day. With pricing on a scale system, Taimour also has a free 3-session programme available for those without the means to pay.
Price: £29 for a 6-week course
Personal trainer Hannah Lewin is the expert behind Mind+Motion, an online platform for those with a disordered relationship with food and exercise.
With an ever-growing waiting list of clients, Hannah decided to set up Mind+Motion so that more people could access her recovery-focused training, with three weekly on-demand workouts filmed in real time and written resources around topics such as how to set non-aesthetic goals or learning about anatomy and muscles.
Coaching By India
Price: £125 for three months
Bring? Gym kit
Deaf fitness influencer and coach India Morse believes that every personal trainer should be capable of finding ways to make their practices more accessible.
Offering classes with both sign language and captions, India wants to disrupt the inaccessibility of many gyms and classes. Her main goal is for her clients to feel more confident, fit and healthy regardless or body shape or size, boosting their mental wellbeing as well as physical health.
With gym, home or outdoor workouts for all levels and abilities, plus video demos too, India is ready to help you be your best self.
Hosting physio-led classes and one-to-one sessions, Complete Pilates have a range of offerings to suit many different situations. The gym have just launched their Next Steps course for people in the survivorship phase of cancer rehab. It can be scary to get back into an exercise routine after treatment, so trainers take things at each client’s own pace.
With 1:1, group and online sessions, the team have worked with people with neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and those who prefer or aren’t able to come into a studio, like those undergoing chemotherapy. There are also classes at just 10 minutes long for those struggling with fatigue.
Where: Online and Rotherham
Price: Online from free, in person from £2
Bring? Your right hook
Adaptive boxing coach Luiz Faye has used a wheelchair since 2017, and through Kronik Warrior serves those who might miss out on fitness due to accessibility issues.
With both online and in-person classes from less than the price of a coffee, Luiz also offers HIIT classes on top of her boxing schedule, with 1:1 tuition also available. Luiz and her team of trainers and mentors welcome people with Special Educational Needs, Learning Difficulties and Profound Multiple and Physical Disability.
Sessions are also available with GiftFit if you know someone’s who’s been itching to try out something new.
Where: Online and Colchester, Essex
Price: From £5 a session
Bring? Your best moves
Don’t feel at home in the gym? Missfits offer the classes for you. Focusing on dance-based exercise classes for those who might feel excluded from traditional fitness spaces, Missfits Workout don’t focus on diet culture or weight loss.
Their classes are open to those with bigger bodies and/or poor body image, low self confidence or disordered eating, as well as people with limited mobility, recovering from operations or long-term chronic illnesses.
Missfits Workout are also working on a wheelchair accessible offering, but current sessions don’t include floor work and the need to get up and down from the ground. Some sessions can also be made entirely low impact too.
South East Essex LGBTQIA+ Yoga Group
Where: Essex and Zoom
Bring? An open heart
The Essex-based Anahata Yoga Centre is also home to the South East Essex LGBTQIA+ Yoga Group. The group offers a free (although donations to Southend Pride and Transpire are welcome) and inclusive space for LGBTQIA+ people to get into a flow.
With over 80% of LGBTQI+ people reporting mental health concerns, the class aims to be a therapeutic environment, open to all, regardless of age, background or ability. Sessions can all be done on a chair or a mat, with reflection and a sharing of experiences following the practice.
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