Gym Stigma

Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2017

Document Type



Sociology & Anthropology


Uses Goffman’s theory of social stigma, this study sociologically examines whether or not there is a stigma at gyms based on bodily appearance or fitness level. The findings suggest there is a perceived “norm” for body type at the gym, and this does affect whether or not people feel judged at the gym. This research was conducted to better understand obesity, and more specifically why people are not getting enough physical activity. This study found that judgment is affecting gym attendance, as the majority of participants not only said they felt judged at the gym--and that the judgment was based solely on bodily appearance or fitness level--but also that the judgment actually affected their attendance. Through this, both males and females reported feelings of judgment; however the findings suggest that females’ attendance is more likely to be affected than that of their male counterparts. This contributes to our understanding of why females have a higher likelihood of being overweight or obese. Overall, this study provides evidence in support of better understanding and addressing body stigma as an essential piece in solving the obesity epidemic in the United States.

Included in

Sociology Commons