WHAT: As a professional at an exercise and fitness center, there is very little multicultural resources, training, or guidelines available to follow in the organization. As a corporate fitness center, it is important to promote health and well-being to the diverse group of individuals who hold a membership or are employed at the fitness center. The professionals working at the fitness center must utilize their own knowledge and resources in their community to provide an optimal exercise setting for all individuals. Important considerations include guidelines for staff members, program materials, and developing interpersonal relationships with members at the fitness center.
SO WHAT: Gill and Williams (2008) describe cultural competency as an ability of the professional or organization to provide valuable programs that reflect diverse physical activity settings and activities. The organization must assure to not exclude people by gender, sex, race, culture, etc. in their classes and fitness activities. Although not every single fitness class or program will appeal to all audiences equally, it is important to provide a diverse amount of classes that captures various audiences, ages, male/female, etc. Bias can be introduced in fitness centers because many individuals are regular exercisers and in good health and shape. It is important to openly promote all individuals to the fitness center, regardless of physical shape or limitations they may have due to disability or disease. This topic is thoroughly discussed by Gill and Williams (2008) and is termed as “physicality” which describes limiting participation based on one’s skill, fitness, ability, and appearance. They mention that the most excluded groups in exercise settings include obese individuals and diabetics. Since no established guidelines regarding cultural competence and acceptance of diversity existed previously, the fitness center professionals must create established guidelines and educational materials both for employees and fitness members. Employees must recognize not only their culturally values and beliefs, but biases as well. They must have respect for co-workers and clients differing values and beliefs that may not reflect their beliefs.
NOW WHAT: The most important way to promote cultural competency will be having a diverse group of individuals employed at the fitness center. Having a variety of employees encourages diversity and brings more knowledge to cultures and beliefs. For example, one employee may have received extensive training and experience working with individuals from Japan while another had experience working with Native Americans. Exercise instructors will come from various backgrounds, cultures, races, height, weight, and be accepting of each participant’s beliefs. Specific to gender, exercise has shown to positively associate with competence in women (Gill and Williams, 2008). When a member with a unique culture requests a personal trainer, they will be assigned to a trainer that has some knowledge of their cultural beliefs, but can also learn and appreciate their unique cultural background. Marketing materials used to promote new programs will model both men and women of varying shapes, races, cultures, etc. to promote cultural competency within the fitness center. Current and new hires will be required to complete a cultural competency, sexual harassment, and overall fitness center guideline modules; with a quiz following each section to assure they understand the educational material presented to them. Research by Fasting, Brackenridge, and Walseth (2006) on sexual harassment in female athletes concluded that based on frequent occurrences of harassment, there are existing educational needs and gaps within policy regarding sexual harassment. The exercise classes should be diverse and appeal to multiple groups of individuals. For example, to show cultural appreciation, an African dance class will be offered for individuals that hold unique cultural values and are more comfortable in group settings rather than individual ones. Water aerobics classes will be offered for low-impact exercises that may be required for individuals that are older, overweight, or have certain disabilities that limit their mobility in other settings.
CONCLUSION: The exercise and fitness center professionals were in need of developing a culturally competent environment that promoted the health and well-being of all individuals; however didn’t currently have internal resources or guidelines to follow regarding cultural awareness. Professionals recognize that diversity and cultural competence is an important aspect in a fitness center and needed to develop guidelines and materials appropriate for their fitness center population. Assuring that employees represented some forms of diversity through gender, age, culture, race, height/weight, etc. was the first established guideline they assured was present in their organization. Next, current employees as well as new hires are now required to complete an educational assessment online on cultural competency, sexual harassment, and overall guidelines established by the exercise and fitness center. Finally, group exercise class settings are the main target for providing diverse classes and settings that appeal to diverse groups of individuals. These basic approaches provide the structure for beginning to adopt cultural competency and diversity guidelines in an exercise and fitness center that previously had no resources or guidelines available to utilize.
Fasting, K., Brackenridge, C., & Walseth, K. (2007). Women athletes’ personal responses to sexual harassment in sport. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19, 419-433.
Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.