Although a growing body of evidence emphasizes the benefits of physical activity and exercise participation, diverse cultural, social and religious factors prevent girls and women from participating in physical activity and exercise. Recently, women-only gyms have become an important factor in promoting women’s participation in exercise in nonwestern countries, such as Turkey. This study examines the factors that affect the experiences of women who participate in exercise in a women-only gym, in Turkey, by applying self-determination theory (SDT) with a gender perspective. Data were collected through in-depth semistructured interviews with seventeen women and three women instructors and analyzed with thematic analysis. Identified themes are a) regulation of daily life: time of one’s own, b) structured exercise, and c) comfort of being in women-only environments. Findings show that women-only gym satisfies the three basic needs identified by SDT, and reproduce the relationship between exercise and femininity for women. This means that satisfaction of three needs, autonomy, competence, and relatedness, involves gendered meanings for women who exercise in women-only gyms.
The authors are with the Department of Recreation, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey.